I live in an old building. Jose is our handyman whenever there’s a problem. This time it was termites. Last summer they were a problem too, but my landlord, Jorges, patched it up. That’s all he ever does is patch things up. The termites were back again this summer in mass droppings near one of the windows in the living room.
Jose walked in with his mask, long gloves, and boots like he was ready to submerge into a swamp.
“Jorges tell me you got termites again.”
“Same window as last time, huh?”
“I keep telling Jorges, he gotta replace the whole frame but he don’t want to! Maybe because it’ll cost him about six grand each window and if he does all of them, let’s see — he looking at one, two, three, four — about twenty or thirty grand.”
“It’s his building — whatever he wants to do with it.”
“I keep telling Jorges — why you want this stress man? It’s too much for you — just sell the building and enjoy the rest of your life!”
“How old is Jorges?”
“Jorges? He about seventy-four, something like that. I’ve known him for a long time now, he don’t need this building no more.”
“It’s an old building.”
“It is an old building.”
“How long has Jorges had this building for?”
“I’d say about fifty years now or more.”
“Damn is right.”
Jose knelt into the termite droppings and started to pry off the baseboards. I went back to my sit-ups.
“I do planks — it’s better for your back than sit-ups.”
“Oh yea, I do planks sometimes.”
“Planks are the best. After about fifteen, twenty seconds you’ll feel it, your whole body starts shaking.”
I got back to my feet.
“Look here.” I went and leaned over him. “See? They’re nesting in this wall right here. I’ll call Jorges and tell him I gonna take off the baseboards and spray.”
He took off the baseboards and carried them out. When he came back in with the spray kit I was finishing my workout.
“Man, when I was your age, about thirty-three or thirty-four, I used to get off work and go run around the track. That was right before I met my wife. Now I barely have time to exercise anymore. I tell her, you made me fat. I enjoy your cooking too much!”
We both laughed.
“You have kids Jose?”
“Yeah, as a matter a fact, two-year-old twin girls.”
“Oh great! That’s what me and my wife are hoping for — one shot and done.”
“Exactly. That’s what I tell my wife — we got lucky.”
“When they get a little bit older, you can take them to the track with you.”
“My wife is getting a little worried. She’s getting older so she’s worried about complications.”
“Don’t worry man. You guys will be fine. To be honest, me and my wife started trying in our late thirties and she had three miscarriages.”
His eyes lowered to a place of hurtful memories. I studied Jose’s depth. Each one of us carries such depth — we’re all small history books writing a larger one.
“…But you know, God’s gonna do what he gonna do. He got a plan for all of us. I look back on that time when me and my wife were trying, and it wasn’t the best of times. Me and my brother had a small business and at first, the business was really good. But then my brother took things from me, from our business, and we had to close it down. There were days where I barely got back up from that, so who knows if me and my wife could’ve survived with kids? Thankfully, I was able to start my own business again, but you never know man — God has a funny way of giving you things at the right time.”
“That’s a great viewpoint, Jose.”
“So you and your wife gonna be fine, whatever God decides.”
He picked up his spray kit and moved towards the door.
“I’ll let Jorges know what he should do, but I don’t know what he gonna do.”
We both laughed.
About an hour later, I wasn’t laughing. It was 107 degrees and there was a herd of termites on the window sill. We all need something to feed off — termites need wood the same way humans need energy from other people.
I told my wife about my talk with Jose when she got home and we cried together. It had been a long three years with three miscarriages, but we were starting to feel hopeful again.
Ken Kakareka is the author of Late to Bed, Late to Rise (Black Rose Writing, 2013). He has work coming forth in DoveTales Journal and Gargoyle Magazine. His work has been published in Lost Lake Folk Opera Magazine, Ink & Voices, Conceit Magazine, Spontaneous Spirits Magazine, DoveTales Journal, Amulet Magazine, HASH Journal, Route 7 Review, and The Vital Sparks Journal. Ken grew up in Pennsylvania and now lives in California with his wife-to-be.