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Yet Another Christmas Story; Karl Lukhaup

December 13th, 2010 · 3 Comments

It’s a Wanamaker Life

             For those of you who were not at the party last year, it was a rather interesting event.  You see, we almost lost Ron that night.  Some say it was the wine, some say it was the whiskey, and the rum definitely had something to do with it.  But what most of you don’t know, is that there was a more complicated back story involved as to what happened to Ron that night. 

            It was the day of the party and the shop was a buzz with excitement.  Amy was busy getting decorations together, and Peg was preparing all of the food.  We had been doing a lot of smaller projects that year, but the restoration of Champlain Colleges Perry Hall was the basket that we had been putting all of our eggs in to get us through winter.

            Now, there are many difficult tasks a Restoration Crew like ourselves must perform. Try to reproduce a rotten crown molding profile by doing multiple passes on a table saw and router.  Or scribing faux rafters onto a  multi-pitched hipped ceiling, and have it look like it’s supposed to be there.  How about just finishing a project on time and on budget!  But probably the most difficult thing a company like ours can accomplish is to be paid on time. 

            And by some miracle Ron and Amy had negotiated with Engelberth Construction to pay us ahead of time for all of our labor and materials to be used in the restoration of Perry Hall.  The sum total was well over $150,000 and all in cash.  In all of the confusion of getting ready for the party, Jack volunteered to deposit all this cash in the bank.  And this is where our story really begins. 

 What do you mean you can’t find it! Ron shouted at Jack in the industrial parking lot of our shop.

 I don’t know, it was in my coat pocket.  Jack said, rubbing his glasses.  Someone must have taken it.  I was just walking down the street and someone bumped into me. It was like they came out of nowhere.  Goddamn it.  Jack finally added as he stormed off. 

 Without much hope, and thoughts of having to lay off the whole crew at Christmas time,  being evicted from both his shop and house, and going to jail for embezzling money, Ron shouted at the top of his lungs what he normally only murmured under his breath. 


             And folks, that was the real reason Ron tried to drink himself to death that night. 

             Now, I left the party early that night.  but when I came back to my apartment on the first floor of Ron and Amy’s house, I could smell what recently had been the contents of Ron’s stomach.  And this is why I think it was the Rum that had done him in.  Amy, in a little bit of a panic, told me of how Josh and Eli had heroically carried Ron home that night, of how she was really worried about Ron, and that he needs to chew his food better.  Not thinking that it was that important to call an ambulance, I lay in bed that night thinking of how we were going to run the business with out Ron around, and realized that I would never want that nightmare.

            But there were higher forces at work looking after Ron that night.  And that person was Todd, a former employee of Wanamaker Restoration, who now was restoring the gates of heaven.  He had a lot of alone time except for occasional interruptions from his boss Saint Peter, who remarkably sounded a lot like Ron’s former boss Dead Bob, the stone mason.

             “I will restore, I will restore, I will restore!”  Todd muttered as he scraped the old paint off of a set of columns to reveal their natural mahogany wood grain. 

             “Tom, we got to help out your old friend Roy.  He’s in a lot of trouble tonight.”  Dead Bob, I mean Saint Peter, grunted.

 “It’s Todd, not Tom, and he’s Ron, not Roy.”  Todd responded.

 “Whatever!  I want you to meet Roy at his house on Willard Street.”  And with that the old Mason was gone, not allowing Todd to finish the conversation. 

             I never got the pleasure to meet Todd, because he left his position with the company about 2 months before I started to work here.  But I have lived in the space that he lived in for the past year and a half.  I have had him described to me on numerous occasions,  had stories told about him over and over again, had him haunt me in my dreams, and have learned many of his great sayings that I have memorized by heart like, Try being a fat alcoholic carpenter, it worked for me. 

 As the house lay sleeping, and Ron was in a comatose state, Todd wandered back home. 

 “Waky, waky, hands off snaky.”  Todd shouted in Ron’s ear.  Forcing Ron to sober up quickly due mainly to his embarrassment. 

 “Todd, but, I thought.”

 “I’ve come down to help you out Ron.”

 “But how could someone like you get into heaven Todd.”

 “Relax Ron, I am just a simple carpenter, much like Jesus.  Of course I got hired on.  I have come here to show you what Burlington would be like without you Ron.” 

 Now Todd had gained some supernatural abilities up in heaven, such as x-ray vision, but the one thing he had not yet gained was the ability to fly.  The primary reason for this was that he had not yet earned his wings.  Todd had his hopes up, for in Heaven it is said that every time the ice cubes clink into an empty martini glass as angel get its wings.  But still despite numerous attempts Todd had not succeeded in earning this merit. So Both Ron and Todd were resigned to walking.

            “Come on Ron, we’re going to Carvers.” 

            “Carvers?  But Carvers Restaurant and Bar has not been around for years?

            “Exactly Ron, you see you were never born.  What I am going to show you is a Burlington without Ron.  It might be a little bit different than you remember it” 

            Ron looked up from his bed, still very drunk and sick and said to Todd, “Can’t we do this tomorrow?”

            “No Ron, there is no rest for the wicked.”  and with that Todd lifted Ron over his shoulders, and carried him out the door. 

             It was a rather humorous site on South Willard street that night.  Todd’s balloon framed body with the pencil frame of Ron dangling off his back.  Todd almost running, because it had been a long time since he had been able to have a drink, avoiding beer cans, free piles in the green belt, and used prophylactics. 

            “Hey where are we, Loomis Street?” 

            “No Ron.”

            “Then why are all these old Victorian Mansions clad in Vinyl siding and subdivided into 6 apartments.”

            “Because Ron, you were never there to protect them.  Without you in this community, people thought that all the unique trim elements common to the built environment of this city 100 years ago were elitist and too expensive to maintain.  Old house were not seen as valuable or beautiful, and a majority of the wealthy population fled the south end to go build McMansions on Spear Street.  In the void, the college students moved in, maximizing the amount of profit for the slum lords who were able to cram the most college students in.”

            “Oh, I see, are you saying that the whole movement of historic preservation had no impact on this traditionally liberal city?” 

            “Well Ron, without you to be its conscious, this city was swept up in other movements set in the guise of “liberal” but actually to the benefit of the wealthy land owners.”

            “What movement could that be?” Ron said, stroking his goatee. 

            “Can you hold on just a minute” Todd said as they had reached their first stop, the cities major grocery store.  Setting Ron down, Todd ran inside to get his first bottle of alcohol in 3 years. 

            Ron, sitting on the curb did his best to make out what the large neon sign in the parking lot said. 

            “C-E-D-O-ville IGA.  Cedoville?  Cedoville where’s that?  Wait CEDO?  Noooooooooo!”

            “That’s right Ron!  Without you to bicker and complain at zoning meetings, CEDO was able to take over the city.  The people of this city felt they were doing the right thing by supporting a liberal program that assisted lower income citizens.  However what ended up happening was rents stayed relatively the same, and the slum lords were given government money to do really ineffective and destructive “up-grades”  that ended up destroying the longevity of the houses, and ruining their aesthetic qualities.  As of last year 65% of all the houses in town fell under some jurisdiction of CEDO.  (The other 35% being slums for college kids).”

            Once again Ron shouted, “Noooooooo!”  As his vision cleared a bit he was able to see the town much better.  Vinyl one over one windows on the first congregational Church.  Pressure treated decks everywhere, Vinyl siding on almost every house except on the few that were being “up graded” to Hardiplank.  Some houses didn’t even have siding, instead being sheathed by weather Tyvec plastic.  On the corner of South Willard Street and Maple was a large parking lot. 

            “Wait, what happened to Perry Hall?  Ron said.

            “Mark Tighe didn’t want someone 100 years from now to have to deal with his head aches, so he tore it down.”

            Ron thought for a bit about all the paper work he had to do, and losses he had to take, the nightmares his crew had to go through on a daily basis working on such a disgusting commercial job site and was almost in agreement, but then remembered just how beautiful it was when it was done, and shouted again.   “Nooooooooo!”

            Ron felt sick seeing what Burlington, I mean Cedoville had become.  Looking for solace he pulled out his cell phone and stated calling the crew to meet him at the monkey house for drinks. 

            “Who are you calling Ron?”

            “I’m trying to get a hold of Karl. That jerk never picks up his phone.”

            “Ron, Karl doesn’t live here.  He never met you.  After living here for the summer he ended up going to graduate school in Oregon for Historic Preservation.  He did really well and is a project manager, middle management, pencil pushing type for a company that does a lot of work out west.  He is making a lot of money and does wood working for fun now in is shop.  He takes as long as he wants and does everything by hand.” 

            “Well, what about August?”

            “August never walked into your shop the day you fired Berte and Thomas.  Instead he ended up walking into a video game design shop and he’s an official video game tester.  He makes his own hours and lives alone out in Jericho.”

            “What about Eli?”

            “Eli became a policy guru for the Obama administration.  He meets with the president frequently, and is often complimented for his eye for detail.”

            “And Eric?”

            “Eric ended up just collecting unemployment over the winter.  He has a lot more time to do his hobbies and become a better circus performer and accordion player.”

            “I remember back when I had hobbies… How about Shawn?”

            “Well, Shawn had to get creative when he stopped working in the hospitality industry.  He now runs his own butler/ house cleaning business.   He makes a lot of money amongst his wealthy cliental. 

            “Lets at least see Jack, he’s still got to be around.”

            “Yes, Jack is definitely still here.” 

            Ron and Todd began walking outside of the city center to Riverside Ave. 

            “Why are you taking me here” Ron inquired.

            “This is where Jack now lives Ron.”  With that they were at the cemetery. 

            Here Lies Jack Mentes.  2009.  read the Tombstone.

            “Without Karl working at the Carriage house that summer, Jack stepped on that loose board cantilevered out over the joists, and the labor ready help he had hired was just not able to jump and put all of his weight on the other end of the board.  Jack fell through the floor that day, and no one was there to “get drunk at his wake”. 

            “But Todd, that doesn’t make sense.  If I was never born, than I the carriage house project would never have been undertaken.   Therefore Jack wouldn’t have been able to fall through the floor.”

            “I don’t understand it either.  I guess it is just one of those strange flukes.” 

            “Then I guess it’s time to see Amy.”

            “Yes Ron, we can see Amy, but you’re not going to like it.”

            Ron and Todd walked back into town, past the vinyl clad houses, the empty lots, the big box retailers, and down to the Fletcher Free Library. 

            “No Todd, don’t tell me Amy’s an old maid working at the library.”

            “No, this is just on the way to Carvers.  Remember, that’s why we took this little walk in the first place.”

            As Ron and Todd entered Carvers, they felt a sense of familiarity as they looked at all the knick knacks on the wall.  Ron chuckled over the outlandish sayings on the menu. 

            “Vermont-ism #4, She was as pure as snow, but she drifted, Ha” (Hey this is my fantasy story, and I wanted to visit Carvers again, okay.)

            There at one of the tables was Amy, on a date with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. 

            “Amy, Amy! AMY, AAAMMYY!”

            Amy, obviously a freaked out, and ran out the door, with Ron chasing behind her.  Todd, not wanting to run, took a cab, knowing where this was going. 

            Ron stood in Amy’s yard shouting to her, while Amy safe inside began calling the police. 

            “Hello, I’m being chased by some strange pervert…”

            Ron began to calm down and absorb his surroundings.  It had a somewhat familiar feel to it, Yet everything looked so strange.  Amy’s house was a Dutch Colonial Revival house, yet it had a large 4 story tower jutting from its side.  Next door was a neon pink home with a geodesic dome on its roof.  All through this neighborhood of 5 streets, strange flukes of architecture stood.  The oddest was the colonial revival home that had been partially demolished and now had an addition of a Quonset hut.  

            “Catherine, Caroline, the five sisters?” Ron spoke allowed as he accidentally wandered onto someone’s lawn. 

            “Hey you, stay out of my yard.  This is my house and I won’t let the government tell me what to do with it.” Someone shouted from their house.

            Just then the squad car pulled up.  An African American man with dread locks got out. 

            “You’re under arrest for public drunkenness, lewd behavior, and just being a whiner”  said the police officer. 

            Ron got into the car without complaining, although his pride was a little hurt to be called a whiner by Marvin.   



            In the jail the next morning Ron was awaken by a shorter man in a suit pacing outside his cell. 

            “So I’ve been appointed by the court to defend you.  Were gonna have to build a pretty strong case, how about pleading insanity.”

            “Josh, what are you doing here?  What’s Josh doing here Todd?”

            “Josh never had anyone to tear down his ego.  After graduating college he went to law school and became a lawyer.  He wins every case and operates unchecked.”

             “Nooooooooooooo!”  I want to be alive again Todd.  I wish I had been born,  Take me back Todd, please, take me back to the old Burlington.”

            “Why is it Ron, because of all the awful development and building practices in Burlington?”

            “No, I’ve pretty much given up on that.  It’s because everyone seems so happy, and you know what my mother said, that Ron isn’t happy until everyone is miserable.” and with that Ron passed out in a coma of stress.


            The whole crew and family was gathered around Ron’s bed at Willard Street. 

            “Ron, wake up, wake up Ron.” Amy said as she tried to remove the vomit soaked pillow from under his head. 

            Ron began to stir and open his eyes. 

            “Ron, I found the money, it was in my other coat pocket.  Everything is going to be alright.” Said Jack, who for some reason had a pet squirrel on his shoulder. 

            The crew looked around a little bit, but mainly were sad, because they knew that they would have to be back at work on Monday. Everyone was generally relieved though that Ron was alive. Just then they heard from downstairs the sound of ice cubes hitting a glass.  Harry the 11 year old next door neighbor, jumped on Ron’s bed and said.

            “Toddie says, every time an ice cube clinks, an angel gets his wings.”

            Ron grabbed a hold of Harry and put him in a head lock. 

            “That’s right Hairy.  That’s right!”


The End!




Tags: Wanamaker Restoration

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dave // Dec 13, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    A beautiful story. (Really funny, too, and even though I only know Ron, the other characters were clearly drawn.) I really need to write the prequel, where Ron creates a dining room table out of used wall studs, a china cabinet from picture frames and piano hinges, and Escher-inspired overhead cabinetry in the bathroom out of old closet doors.

  • 2 Karl // Dec 14, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Feel free to right a prequel about Ron from the olden days, back when he had hobbies. Now if only Ron would take the time to get last years holiday story up. August and I are already planning next years story. Every day we get more and more new material as new drama’s unfold.

  • 3 Vicki Lukhaup // Dec 15, 2010 at 6:38 am

    Karl, You made me laugh – not an easy thing to do when it’s 15 degrees outside.

    Thank you,

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