He took a wife, and his hard life began to change. Borrowed to the Bone. Chapter 17
February 22, 2013
Ben Tom and Penny were married less than six months later. It was a small affair in the family’s church. The wedding seemed more like a baptism to Ben Tom. He felt liberated, cleansed, as he began his new life with Penny in their new home filled with old things.
After a weekend honeymoon at the Statler-Hilton in downtown Dallas, Ben Tom was anxious to carry Penny over the threshold of their new home. As he left on Monday morning, the world seemed washed and clean and he was anxious to get started providing for his new wife as a man of the world. Deacon wanted him to follow his creative spirit, but Purcell told him he could build an empire in construction. Ben Tom didn’t understand what Deacon meant, but he thought he understood the construction business and was pretty confident that he was good at it.
His only weakness in construction was his inability to delegate. Purcell recognized that weakness, but Ben Tom refused to acknowledge it. He tried to do almost all of the jobs himself because few could equal his skills. He was a perfectionist and refused to accept anything less—even for work that would be hidden behind walls or covered in concrete. Both brothers and his father were soon working under his supervision.
He fired Trez and Willy more than once for being late or absent, or for showing up on the job site drunk or stoned. Both were excellent and talented workers, however, and he always hired them back. They were always in need of funds and Ben Tom was an easy mark.
Purcell, however, still had many things to teach his son about the business. Ben Tom soaked up his father’s skills and experience and improved on each trick of the trade his father passed on.
In two years, he and Penny had two children, a boy and a girl. He celebrated each birth by buying the child a rent house, deducing that the child would receive rental income for a lifetime. Each of them had a detached garage, shop or apartment that Ben Tom did not rent. He used them to store his growing collection of antiques.
Ben Tom now had the family life he had been denied as a child—a near perfect family and a home, not just a house. But something was missing. All his houses were in his old neighborhood. He felt the urge to live somewhere else, but could not seem to venture away from the familiar—his physical surroundings or his family.
Construction and being a husband and father kept him away from Deacon’s blacksmith shop and he had to satisfy his creative urges by taking on more and bigger construction projects and doing the most difficult jobs himself. With a positive persona that Ben Tom scarcely realized he possessed and skill he was just discovering, he soon had a network of building managers who worked in some of the largest and most prestigious commercial buildings in and around Dallas. With these contacts, he brought millions of construction dollars to the firms he worked for.
Ben Tom was making a good living for himself and his little family and was still able to dole out small loans to his brothers. He helped them buy cars of their own. The Lawless family, father, and three sons, began taking on small repairs and remodels on weekends. They called their little firm Lawless and Sons.
Still, it wasn’t enough to satisfy some inner craving he could not identify. He needed to build his own buildings, not just remodel or repair a building someone else had built. And the buildings he dreamed of were different than any he had ever seen.
When Scott, one of his building manager contacts, told him he and his wife were going to build a custom home, Ben Tom volunteered to design the home of their dreams free of charge. The couple was thrilled with his ideas and almost begged him to build the home himself. Ben Tom agreed, provided that he and his family could do most of the work at night and on weekends.
They used few subcontractors, electing to do all of the carpentry work, most of the plumbing and electrical, the flooring, painting and wallpapering, even the roof. He had friends who “loaned” him their appropriate licenses for permits as needed.
The house was almost complete when a check he wrote for carpet bounced. Scott had not transferred a draw had had requested weeks ago into his account. He went to the building Scott managed and was told that he had been fired. He called Scott’s wife. She told him that Scott had been fired for drinking on the job and that she had filed for divorce.
Ben Tom, Purcell, Willy and Trez stood in the street facing the home that looked complete from the outside. Purcell shook his head. “All she needs is carpet, a little paint touch-up, wallpaper in one room, and landscaping.”
Ben Tom remained committed to finishing the job. “Still have to do the flatwork. Shouldn’t take more than a week.”
Purcell lit a cigarette and blew a plume of smoke toward the house. “What the hell you talking about? You don’t seriously plan on finishing it, do you?”
“I finish what I start. We can’t get the reputation for leaving a construction job before it’s finished.”
“What are you gonna do with it then? The savings and loan will tie it up in court till hell freezes over.”
“Old Scott will come through. He’s a good guy.”
Purcell stood directly in front of his eldest son as if he did not have his full attention. “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you see what’s happened? Good guy Scott has screwed you over big time. He ain’t even had the decency to call you.”
Ben Tom did not waiver. “He will.”
Purcell looked at Willy and Trez, incredulity all over his face. They shook their heads. “How come you didn’t check to see if the draw hit the bank before you started writing checks? How much of your own money you got tied up in this thing?”
“Haven’t added it up, but I expect about twenty thousand. Don’t you think the bank will make it good? Scott had an approved interim construction loan.”
Purcell looked at his son as he dropped the cigarette to the ground and crushed it. “When you gonna get it through your head that this guy is out of the picture? And the bank damn sure ain’t gonna pay you what you’re owed.”
Willy made a growling sound in his throat and spat in the yard. “Let’s go find the bastard. I’ll make him pay.”
Purcell’s face still showed incredulity as he stared as Ben Tom. “When are you gonna learn that people will cheat you? You have to look out for number one.”
Trez stood with his hands in his pockets, wishing for a cold one. “Yeah, big brother, when you gonna learn?”
They were about to walk away when Willy’s pickup horn honked. Ben Tom turned to look. “Who’s in your car?”
His question was answered when Colleen, not quite sixteen, stepped out of the pickup on the passenger side. She was pregnant, probably about four or five months along. Willy put his arm around her when she stopped by them. “Boys, I want you to meet my new wife.”
Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.
You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.