(Written as a daily write for a writing class February 2020.)
I thought it would seem bigger when it was empty. It didn't. It felt small and crooked and way past its expiration date. We shut down reservations on old Cabin #4 last Labor Day weekend and moved furniture out. Then 'Lil Chris (one of our maintenance workers) started deconstructing the cabin. I had made up a plan and taped it in the shop for the boys. Week 1: remove furniture, wall hangings, hooks, plumbing fixtures, light fixtures. Week 2: Tear down interior paneling, cupboards, counters, doors. Salvage what we can recycle - dump trip what we can't. Week 3: Save as much exterior half-log siding as possible, trash the un-usable. Week 4: use skidsteer to demolish the last bits and take to landfill.
I thought it would take several weeks to do the tear down, picking at the cabin here and there as other resort tasks cropped up in priority (as they typically do.) 'Lil Chris did it in a week and a half. I guess we’d assigned the right guy to the job. He seemed to really enjoy ripping into it.
I caught him still working in the dark with a flashlight shining as his only light source. I was walking back from the T-dock with some guests in Cabin #2 (we had just finished a little ceremony by the lake honoring their husband/father, who had passed away six months before. Otherwise, I wasn't typically walking around the grounds that time of night in September.) We were casually talking and processing on our stroll back from the lakeshore when we all heard the hammering. I bid the guests a good night. They teased me about going to 'crack the whip.' I was feeling a bit like an ogre, knowing one of our crew was working so late (even though they choose their own hours.) It was past twilight and solar lights had twinkled on. A few lights along the front driveway were missing. (By that time of season, kids or cars had usually kicked or run over most and I hadn't replaced them. I would put fresh ones out the following year.) Even without my own flashlight, I only had to follow the "rat-rat-rat," "bam!" "ke-clunk," "screeeech" sounds. I'd walked the path to Cabin #4 a million times in the daylight, so I knew roughly where the deck step was in the dark. I clomped across the deck to announce my presence. There was no longer a front door, just an open doorway. We had shut off the electric and water the week before. I stepped inside and saw a weak beam of light in the bedroom to the right. A dozen layers of paneling and drywall were stacked upright and leaning against the back wall. The far wall only had studs remaining, the rest was open to the evening air. 'Lil Chris was pulling trim off the ceiling, trim that had likely been installed back in the 1920's when the cabin was built, judging by the enormously long nails sticking out of the pieces he'd already removed.
I said, "Dude, whatcha doing in the dark?"
He replied, "Eh, just workin'."
I laughed, "I can see that. I'm just wondering if maybe we should call it a night and get back to it in the daylight when you can see a little better?"
"I'm almost done with this section." He sounded a little terse. Or maybe just tired. He was an early bird type person. I suspected some of the reason he was still there so late (very unusually for him) had to do with not wanting to go home. (With five kids and a wife, all sharing a small mobile home together, there was likely always something going on. I reckon being in the cabin alone could have seemed somewhat restful. Well, except for the work part.)
"Good to hear you're almost done for the day. Guests are relaxing in their cabins and I imagine they'd appreciate a break from the pounding. Thank you for all your hard work. I can’t believe you’ve gotten this far so quickly."
"Yah, okay." I could hear him starting to pack some things up. I took my time exiting. My footsteps echoed in the living room. Eerie. I had scrubbed and cleaned that cabin dozens of times each summer for 19 years. I associated it with mouse stories, an acorn barrage, one unfortunate skunk event and a ghost story relayed to me by a guest. I wondered how many other memories had been created in the cabin over the decades, before my time.
In the dark as I contemplated the emptiness of the space, no longer ready to welcome guests, I felt poignant, sure. Then I imagined the new cabin being built, with countertops that weren't peeling, a refrigerator that self- defrosted, a shower without duct tape patches, a bedroom floor which didn't slant, and doorways I wouldn't have to duck my head to enter. This was the last cabin I had desperately wanted to remodel or replace since we first bought the resort in 2001. Finally, we were in process. Yah . . . I couldn't wait.