We signed the paperwork the following week and became the proud owners of an abandoned crack house. I’ve never seen someone so happy in all my life as Kenneth was that day. He skipped and jumped about as he cleaned. He whistled and danced to a silent tune as we carried out the debris and found a new home for my favorite bathroom fixture.
We ripped out the carpet while little Kenny played soccer in my womb. We scrubbed the walls and mopped the floors while little Kenny danced a jig on my ribs. And Kenneth peeled off the wallpaper and painted the walls while I swept the stoop and “stayed far away.” Little Kenny got in on the action though and set up shop on my bladder. It took us nearly two weeks to get it somewhere in the vicinity of clean, but when we did, even I was proud of it.
Once both the apartment upstairs and what would be our store below were spotless, we moved the last box, over my father’s objections, out of my parent’s house and into our new home. We had sold most of our things to follow this dream, but we had picked up a used bed for us and a small crib for Kenny at a garage sale. I’m not even going to mention where we got the mattresses. We had an ugly but sturdy dining room set from my Aunt and a few beat up dressers from Kenneth’s cousin. It wasn’t much, particularly compared with our former life, but dreams are things on a whole different scale of value. How far do you go to make it happen? As far as you can and then one step more.
Kenneth’s innate handyman skills made the renovation project smoother than I expected. He had me decorate and set the atmosphere, but he built that place with blood, sweat, tears, and love.
Kenneth hired some workmen to install that big picture window he’d envisioned. He danced around the dinner table when it was complete.
One week into our renovations and just after the workmen had installed the glass, a large stone flew through the pristine window and glanced off the Salvation Army jukebox. I was in the back and Kenneth was behind the counter installing the ice cream freezer.
He picked up the rock and pulled off a note that had been attached. “Compliments, The Duke,” it read.
Kenneth smiled. “They can’t wait for us to open,” he said.
“Why?” I asked. “So they can kill us?”
“Nonsense,” Kenneth said. This seemed to be his typical word for ignoring all forms of danger and imminent threat.
“Why would they throw a stone if they want to kill us?” he continued. “They obviously only want to scare us. If they wanted to kill us there wouldn’t have been a note, it would’ve been a Molotov cocktail.”
“Wow, that pep talk made me feel all better,” I said.
“Oh come on, Constance. It’s just the local drug dealer or crime boss trying to assert his power.”
“How is that not a problem?”
“Really? What is he going to do?”
“Send thugs to kill you, and me, and our unborn child.”
“Nonsense. That won’t happen.”
I walked over to the window and gestured toward the broken glass and general destruction.
“How are you okay with this?” I asked.
“I’m not okay,” he said. “But I expected this. Not everyone screams for ice cream, Constance.”
It was a really stupid joke, but I laughed and shoved him.
He grabbed me and kissed me long and hard. When we came up for air, we found a boy looking in through the broken glass. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open. Kenny did a few somersaults in my stomach as we turned to face him.
“You like ice cream?” Kenneth asked him.
The boy nodded. Kenneth picked up a pile of coupons and handed them to him. “We open in two weeks,” Kenneth said. “Tell your friends. Everyone gets a free scoop.” The boy took the coupons, nodded and hurried off. That’s how we met Oscar.