It was on a Saturday in May of 1982 when my grandmother related to me her encounter with the owner of the roofing company after some long drawn-out problems with roof repairs. Gram had refused to pay his workmen, insisting that he come and speak with her personally. She started out like this:
I had made an apple pie and it was still warm, sitting there on the counter. And the aroma of that pie was just blooming through the house. Well, he was sitting there with his back to the stove and we chatted about this and that. Presently, he turns around. He turns the whole chair around.
He says, “Are those apples any good for eating?”
“Of course they’re good, they’re darn good apples and I’ve just made a pie of some of ‘em.”
“Is that an apple pie there?”
“Yes it surely is, and just baked. Would you eat a slice?”
“Well, I suppose I would.”
So I cut him a slice of that pie. I cut the man a quarter of that pie, a big piece. And you know he sat there and ate the whole thing, crust and all, every crumb. And drank two glasses of water with it; he didn’t want any coffee. When he’d finished he said that was the best pie he’d eaten in a long time. Then we got down to talking about business.
“Why didn’t you pay my boys?”
“Well, because I wanted you to see the work first. The last time I paid the men and the work wasn’t done right and since then we’ve had this trouble.”
Then the details, about the soffit & fascia, nailed every 18 inches. About the roof, the leak, the cost of re-plastering to the dime and penny, the comparisons of the prices, the work done, the materials, the work re-done, the figures and percentages.
“Frances, what do you want from me? I only made $1800 on that last job!”
“That’s 1800 I don’t have, nor the value for it neither! I want you to mark this bill PAID IN FULL.”
“Well, do you intend to pay me for this job?”
“Yes I do, this job is done right. The other one wasn’t and you overcharged me for it.”
Then some discussion of Mark, the invoices, the bills, the books.
“I let that Mark go. Mark was trouble.”
“And I know every time you thought of me you thought there’s a crabby old tight-fisted woman sitting on bags full of money. I know you thought that and you surely did curse me a more than once.”
“Well what do you mean saying that?”
“Well, it’s true you muttered and mumbled about me in your office. I’m a sort of mental telepathist and I know it. Now I’m here to show you what kind of a person I am.”
And I did give him a bit of a sob story about being a widow and struggling along, having to borrow money and all. Anyway we did go back and forth and by the end of I had it in writing: PAID IN FULL.
And he said, “Frances, you’re a different kind of a person. And I can tell you were a contractor’s wife, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to express yourself so detailed and straightforward in facts and figures. And it’s true I thought you were a sour and crabby old lady, but you’re really a soft person. And I take back everything I said about you and everything I thought about you too (and I did curse you good a time or two).”
So I told him, “You’re the type of man that can give and take and I am too. I knew we could sort this all out if we sat down to talk together.”
When the man stood up to leave he shook my hand and embraced me too. The man’s got a lot of good in ‘im. You just have to bring it out.