Grace and the Earthquake (2000)

If you have seen out 1892 house, you know that sometime in the 1920s, a sleeping porch was added on the top and to the side of the front porch. It wasbuilt well, but is of-center and all wrong for the house.  Oddly, although it is level, the exterior trim was installed in such a way to make it look like it is falling off the house. (The boards are beveled so they start at about 14” and end at about 8.)  Consider it a handsome nose placed on the cheek, rather than between the cheeks.

Although it is well built, the years have taken their toll, and it has begun to sag and drag, and is actually pulling away from the house.It is time to remove it and restore the house to its 19th century splendor. A few blocks from here lives a building contractor, Jerry Poquette. Jerry recently did similar “forensic carpentry” on his own house, which is in the same “Queen Anne” style as ours.  He did a great job, so we called him up to come talk to us about what would be involved in replacing the porch.

Now, to set this scene, you need to know that next door to us is a bungalow inhabited by Grace and the Christians.  That is not a singing group. Instead, Grace is an 80-year old woman who drives around in a red Ford sedan.  Painted on the door, in scrawly 80-year old hand, is the phrase “Ha, ha, devil,you missed!”  She goes to prayer meetings every Wednesday and Sunday.

Grace speaks in tongues, and sings “praise songs.”  She also has a lot of health problems- at least she thinks she does, because every week or so she calls 9-1-1.  The local firemen and Emergency Medical Technicians pull up, and one will come up to the porch and knock on the door.  “Grace, are you there?  It’s me, Bob.”  She has gotten on a first name basis with most of them.

On the front of her house is a sign, made with those light-reflecting letters that you can buy at the hardware store.  It says “House of Paryer.”  (Grace can’t spell too good.) There is also a 5-foot cross on the front porch, covered in gold foil and surrounded by (mostly still working) Christmas lights. 

Grace overcharges her boarders for the rent, stiffs workmen, and remodels without getting permits.  And, given occasional shouts coming from her home, conducts occasional seminars to sailors on the nuances of the English language, especially those choice words delivered at moments of emotional excitement.

So back to the story. Mary, Jerry (the contractor) and I are standing in the street, looking at our house and discussing the upcoming remodeling, when there is a slam of a screen door, and out comes Grace, moving surprisingly well for an octogenarian.  “It’s the end time!” she shouts, her voice trembling.  “Prepare for the rapture!”  Followed by, “Lord come take me now!” as she fell to her knees.

We all looked at her with dumb stares, unsure what to say or do. Grace was going on at full volume, waiting to be taken into the arms of the savior, afraid that we would be left behind.  (Well, she may be right about that part.)  After a moment, she got up, looked at us, and said “The whole house was shakin’” We continued with the dumb looks.  “My Bible fell off the shelf.” More dumb looks.  Then, after a pause, she said, “I can’t believe the Lord didn’t take me” and she slowly plodded up the stairs to her house.

Hours later, after people started calling, we finally learned that there had been a moderately strong earthquake in the region, centered in the Seattle area.

We never felt a thing, but it was nice that people were concerned.  I hope that Grace is no longer worried about her place in the hereafter, although I’m still pretty sure of mine.

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