The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

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Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Meet the Zombies, Part 1

Now that certain things have come to pass, certain insurance policies (in fact companies too) have been eliminated, and a mortgage has been signed and dated in blood, I may speak freely about our dread horde of zombies.

Not that it was too much of a secret but we didn’t paint the Devil Queen’s whole exterior ourselves. We hired it out to two different guys, Zombie 1, Danny, and Zombie 2, Larry, and neither of them really worked out too well. In the final weeks before the appraisal, we fell back on our family, friends, and our own hands to “finish” the exterior paint.

We hired Zombie 1, Danny, in October 2006. He wasn’t our first choice. Our first choices were excellent painters on all counts, but we couldn’t afford them and they were booked for the foreseeable future. We asked Kenny if he could recommend anyone. At that point, he’d steered us to some top-notch folks for our tile, wiring, and drywall. We called Danny and he came out to look at the house. Danny definitely knew what he was talking about. He knew how to do the prep, priming, and painting correctly on all counts. His bid was reasonable and he gave us a definite timeline. We hired him.

Things started off well enough. He came to work everyday with “his woman,” and they scraped paint. After the first week or two, his attendance became sporadic. They’d leave early, show up late, or not show up at all. Then, he vanished for a couple weeks. Normally, we’d have fired him then, but we gave him another chance since Kenny recommended him. We probably shouldn’t have. Actually, I should say that I probably shouldn’t have. At this point, I was starting to take over all our contracting duties since Scarlet was burned-out by this point.

One of the big warning signs that you have a shit contractor on your hands is when you start getting lame excuses for their time MIA. You start getting stories about how they lost their wallet with $700 cash in it while deer hunting (who the fuck needs $700 to go deer hunting?), their pissed off ex-wife is after them, and what not. Now, it is possible that what they are telling you is actually true, but they key the story in such a way that you can hear this undercurrent of please-feel-sorry-for-me-you-stupid-chump-so-I-can-continue-to-dick-you-around. And, unlike someone like Kenny who calls when a disaster befalls him and tells you that he won’t be at work, they never call and only give you their sob stories after the fact. Anyhow, you probably get the idea.

Another thing that he started doing was trying to get us to buy expensive equipment like pressure washers, scaffolds, and ladders for him to use. Every couple of days I’d get the same line of bull-shit, “I’m still trying to find a pressure washer to borrow, but, if you could get one, I could be ready to paint much sooner.” The first time or two, I didn’t think too much of it and just dismissed it. After that it really started irritating me a lot. What kind of building professional shows up to work and then tells you to buy him the tools of the trade?

Eventually scaffolding and pressure washer show up. Progress crawled. Fall was preparing to change into a rainy winter. The time for exterior painting was rapidly coming to an end.

Finally, I had to have a chat with Danny. Since I’m passive aggressive to a fault and hate overt conflict, I said, “Look, the Bank is not happy with the progress on the house, and they want me to hire someone else so we can finish and close out the construction loan. I need to see some primer up on the house by Friday.” Really, this was basically true, but, at this point, it didn’t really matter to me whether it was or not. I get assurances from Danny that there will primer on such-and-such section of the house and I can see a wormy-fear in his eyes. Oddly, he seems genuinely worried about loosing the job. Weird. I certainly couldn’t tell from his work ethic.

I mention this to Scarlet later, and she says that she thinks he may have a problem: drugs, alcohol, or something that is interfering with his ability to work. “I don’t know what it is, but he’s not quite right. I’ll be glad when he’s gone, he makes me nervous.”

Friday comes and there is primer on the Devil Queen when I get home from work. Four pieces of siding have been primed. Four. No fucking way, you have to be shitting me. Four boards?!

So, I call Danny and get his voice mail. “Danny, this isn’t going to work, let me know what you final bill is and come get your stuff.”

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Anonymous marye said...

truly told.
I do my own painting. SOmetimes I only get 4 boards primed in a day and I wish I could fire myself. Then I could go collect unemployment and hire someone else to screw up for awhile. :)
COngrats on finishing out the construction loan!

7:19 AM  
Blogger Circa Bellum said...

any trade that starts with a "P" are drunks. Painters, plumbers, plasterers, printers...

8:38 AM  
Blogger John said...

Marye, thanks!

Circa Bellum, why stop there? Our second contract (carpenter) was a total drunk.

[This was an actual conversation we had with him]

"Mike, why weren't you out working on the house yesterday?"

"A buddy of mine came to visit so we stayed up all night drinking."

2:24 PM  

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