Sadie works as a framer, building houses. She lost her own home in a recent divorce and now lives with her two daughters in a rented bungalow. When her landlady says she needs to move out, Sadie finds there's a housing crisis in her community. She can't find a place to live and is forced to move her family into a travel trailer at a local campsite. When her ex-husband finds out, he insists that the girls come live with him in another city. Desperate to keep her daughters with her in their home community, Sadie is forced to rethink her dream of living in a full-sized house. In the short term, she moves her girls into a co-worker's apartment. Then, with the help of her friends and daughters, she builds a tiny house. In the process she finds living with less has its rewards and that living in a small space brings her family closer together.
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Copyright © 2019 Gail Anderson-Dargatz
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Anderson-Dargatz, Gail, 1963–, author Tiny house, big fix / Gail Anderson-Dargatz. (Rapid reads)
Issued in print and electronic formats.ISBN 978-1-4598-2118-7 (softcover).—ISBN 978-1-4598-2119-4 (PDF).—ISBN 978-1-4598-2120-0 (EPUB)
I. Title. II. Series: Rapid readsPS8551.N3574T56 2019 C813'.54C2018-904896-4C2018-904897-2
First published in the United States, 2019 Library of Congress Control Number: 2018954090
Summary: In this short novel, a single mother and her daughters have a hard time finding a home. (RL 3.3)
Orca Book Publishers is dedicated to preserving the environment and has printed this book on Forest Stewardship Council®certified paper.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover images by shutterstock.com/Gajus
ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERSorcabook.com
Printed and bound in Canada.
22 21 20 19 • 4 3 2 1
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For Hadarah, who inspires me daily
AN EXCERPT FROM “FROM SCRATCH”
AS LIAM AND I built the interior wall frame, it lay flat on the first floor of the unfinished house. I hammered in the last nail to hold a stud in place, then put down my nail gun and stretched my back. I’d spent a lot of my day bent over as I banged walls together, and my back was sore. The house had no roof yet, only framed-in exterior walls. We were both sweaty and grubby from working under the sun all day. I’d kept my mess of curls pulled back into a ponytail to keep the hair off my face. I wasn’t sure whether Liam had bothered to comb his hair. Now, toward the end of our shift, his dark mop stood up at all angles.
“Ready, Sadie?” he asked. I nodded. Together, we raised the interior wall frame we had just built and kicked it into place. We both knew what we needed to do, so we didn’t talk much. Liam and I had been on the job together for several months. I found him easy to work with.
Most people are surprised when I tell them I’m a carpenter, working as a framer in housing construction. Not many women work in the trade, even now that skilled carpenters and framers are in short supply. But building is in my blood. My dad owned a small construction company until he passed away. He taught me how to use power tools when I was just a kid. I built my own go-cart and tree fort when I was ten.
When I was a teen, I worked summers alongside Dad, framing houses. In fact, I worked part-time for my dad even after I married. I quit when I got pregnant with Zoe. Then I had Maggie not long after. I was a stay-at-home mom for nearly fifteen years. But when I divorced, I needed to make a decent living for the kids and me. A career in construction seemed like the natural choice.
As I worked with Liam to nail the wall into place, I felt my cell buzz in my jean pocket. I finished my task before checking my phone. There was a text from my youngest daughter. Mom, it read. You’ve got to come get me!
“Damn,” I said.
“Something wrong, Sadie?” Liam asked.
I scrolled through my messages as I spoke. “Maggie is still waiting outside the school. Zoe should have picked her up half an hour ago.” I read another panicked text from Maggie. “And she’s freaking out.”
My youngest daughter, Maggie, goes to the rural elementary school near our village. My oldest, Zoe, attends the junior high school in town. Maggie is nine, but I don’t feel she is ready to walk home alone. She would have to cross a busy highway to get there.
Instead, Maggie hangs out at the playground at her school with other kids until Zoe’s bus arrives. Then Zoe walks her home.
I replied to Maggie. Just hang on, sweetheart. I’ll find out what’s going on.
I quickly texted my oldest daughter. Where are you? Maggie is at school, waiting. She’s scared.
“Hey!” my crew boss yelled at me from the other side of the house. He was nailing together a short wall frame on what would be the bathroom. “Use that damn phone on your own time. When you’re on the clock, all I want to see are your elbows and butt.” It was something Bruce always said. He meant he wanted to see us working, bent over and swinging our hammers.
“Yeah, yeah,” I called back as I pocketed my phone.
Then Liam and I started laying out the studs for the next wall. Once that was done, I banged in the first stud on the new section of wall with a framing nailer. Liam worked on the other side of the frame, nailing in studs with his nail gun.
As I moved on to the next stud, I felt my phone buzz again. I glanced over to make sure Bruce wasn’t watching and checked my messages. There was another from Maggie, wondering if her sister was okay. But there was nothing from Zoe yet. I sent another text to my oldest daughter. Zoe, where are you?
Liam straightened up with his nail gun in hand. “Maggie still freaking out?” he asked. Liam had kids too. We often talked about parenting during our lunch breaks. He knew all about the problems I was dealing with.
“I’m starting to worry too,” I said.
“Oh, I wouldn’t fret,” said Liam. “When my boys stay with me, they’re always running off with the local kids. I don’t know where they are half the time. That’s a good thing too. Kids need to explore the world on their own.”
He fixed another stud in place with the nail gun. Zap. Zap. “I’m sure Zoe is just hanging out with friends after school,” he said.
“I hope so,” I said.
I messaged Zoe yet again. Answer me!
Bruce yelled, “Sadie, get to work!”
I rolled my eyes at Liam. “Bruce is such a slave driver,” I said. I didn’t know whether to love my crew boss or hate him. Liam only grinned.
I set my phone in front of me as I bent to nail in the studs. As I worked, I kept peeking at my cell to see if Zoe had replied. I was relieved when she finally texted back. Chill, Mom. I’m fine. I met up with Jason and lost track of time. But I missed my bus. Pick me up?
I swore under my breath.
“What now?” asked Liam.
“Zoe,” I said, throwing up a hand. “I have to drive all the way into town to pick her up.”
“She missed her bus again? That’s the second time this week.”
“And it’s only the first week of school,” I said. “I have to put an end to this before it becomes a habit.”
Stay at school, I texted Zoe. I’ll get Maggie and meet you there.
Then I sent another message to my youngest daughter. I’ll pick you up soon, honey. Just wait outside the school. Zoe is fine.
Bruce called out, “Sadie, what did I just tell you about using that phone on my time?”
“Okay, okay,” I said.
But just then my phone rang. With Bruce watching, I answered without checking who was calling. “What is it now?” I asked, thinking Zoe was on the line.
“Sadie?” the caller asked. It was a woman’s voice.
“Sorry. Yes, this is Sadie.” I laughed a little in embarrassment as I glanced over at my boss. “I thought my daughter was calling.”
“This is Ruby,” the caller said.
Ruby? It took me a moment to realize who it was. My landlady. I hardly ever saw her. I mailed my rent checks to her each month. The only times I talked to her were when the dryer stopped working and there was a leak in the roof. Even then it was only to get her okay to fix the problems myself.
“Sorry, yes, Ruby,” I said. “What can I do for you?”
“I’m hoping to swing by your place this evening.” She paused. “We need to talk.”
“Is something wrong?” I asked. I lowered my voice. “You received this month’s rent payment, didn’t you? I know I mailed it.”
“Yes, yes,” said Ruby. “You’re always on time with your rent. And whenever I drive by, the place looks tidy. I don’t feel I have to check in on you. You’re the best renter I’ve ever had.”
“Then what is it? Should I be worried?”
She cleared her throat. “I think we better talk face-to-face.”
“I’m just leaving work to pick up my daughters,” I said. “I have to run into town. But we should be back home by six.”
“I’ll stop in just after supper then.”
“Sure,” I said. “See you later.”
After we’d hung up I stared at the phone a moment. Ruby had been pleasant enough. But a sick feeling was creeping into my stomach, like something was about to go terribly wrong.
LIAM PUT DOWN his nailer and stepped around the wall frame to talk to me. “Everything okay?” he asked. “You look like you just got some bad news.”
“I’m not sure.” I pocketed my phone. “My landlady wants to see me. I guess I’ll find out why this evening. But right now I’ve got to pick up my kids.”
“You’re not leaving work early again, are you?” my crew boss asked.
Bruce was a big meaty guy with a shaved head. Even his scalp turned red when he was angry. Or maybe he was just sunburned. Even though I was wearing sunscreen, I could feel the sunburn on my own cheeks. As a redhead, I burn easily. Zoe keeps bugging me to wear a hat at work.
“Sorry, Bruce,” I said. “I’ve got one scared kid crying at her school and another stranded in town.”
“Zoe missed her bus again?” he asked. “Are you kidding me?”
“I don’t know what to do with her,” I said. “She’s been acting out for months now. Talking back, slamming doors, and now she’s missing the bus on purpose.”
“She’s what, fourteen?” Bruce asked. “Kids are all drama queens at that age. Sometimes it seems like they’re only able to think about themselves.”
I imagined he spoke from experience. He’d raised a couple of teenage daughters himself.
“It’s just a stage,” Liam added. “Zoe will outgrow it.”
“I hope so.” I wiped the sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand. “It seems like teens take more work than toddlers. At least, my Zoe does. And that’s energy I don’t have right now, working this much. I think she may be missing the bus just to get my attention.”
Bruce shook his head, dismissing my comment. “The girl’s got to learn you can’t keep running off to pick her up. I say make her wait until your shift is over. Teach her a lesson. In any case, I need you here.”
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