The professor had sent our landlord an email, something to the effect of: ‘the deckboards are rotten, they should probably be replaced.’ Next thing we knew, a guy named Cassidy showed up to jump on said deck; to see if we were overstating the matter.
He determined we weren’t – that the deck was a disaster-waiting-to-happen. And, a couple of days later, a man named Koslav showed up to rip out the deck and wonky back fence.
Seeing as he spent a lot of time here, we got to chatting. Extensively. As the professor said one morning, ‘well, I’ll see you in half an hour.’ ‘Where are you going?’ I asked because he hadn’t said anything about leaving. ‘Oh, I’m just going to talk to Koslav,’ he explained.
Because Koslav, whose name isn’t exactly Koslav – it’s just our version of his real name – was a bit of a chatter. A self-described Serb from Montenegro, the man had the ability to turn an innocent question – ‘how’s it going’ – into a very lengthy, almost entirely one-sided conversation. Much of it unintelligible due to his thick accent and tendency to mumble.
I came home one day after running errands with the boys. ‘I thought you were going to clean,’ I asked the professor, pointing to the stack of dishes covering the kitchen. ‘I was,’ he sighed, ‘but then Koslav got me.’
Over the course of our nearly two-weeks together, we learned (we think) that he was an engineer in Montenegro. But there was no work. So he came to Calgary. Where he works six or seven days a week, building decks and fences and probably other stuff too. This is what enabled him to save up $25000 to send his wife and four kids (one boy and three girls, we deduced from conversations like ‘he thinks he a princess’) back to Montenegro for the summer. This past summer or the one before, I’m not sure.
Koslav was very concerned for our boys’ safety, taping the door leading from the kitchen to the deck in bright green tape, in case we ‘forgot’ the deck was missing and fell into the temporarily deckless abyss. Every day before he left, he’d knock on the door and remind me not to let my boys play on the partial deck, or the yard laden with screws and pieces of splintery wood.
The boys liked him, too. They’d sit in the kitchen staring out the glass door for what seemed like hours every day, ‘watching the show’, as the Gort called it.
Koslav told the professor his son injured himself on the corner of a table once. ‘I hate corner,’ he declared. Fearing for the boy’s safety, he’d taken it upon himself to remove all corners in his house. He either refashioned the interior of his home to be completely round, or it’s his goal to do this someday. The professor wasn’t sure which.
On his last day with us, I made two zucchini loaves and dispatched the professor to give one to the Serb from Montenegro, who was genuinely puzzled by the gesture. Refusing, at first, to accept it, and finally offering to bring us shampoo in exchange for the bread.
‘I bring you shampoo,’ he offered, ‘I have lot of shampoo. I never buy.’ Apparently his father-in-law had worked in a shampoo factory (or so we think) and Koslav had a lifetime supply stored in his home. I chuckled at the image of homogeneous shampoo bottles filling every available nook and cranny in his dwelling.
The landlords were kind enough to dispose of the rotten deckboards…but frugal enough to retain the hunter-green railings. Sigh.