The Simsville Inheritance
Copyright ©2006 Elizabeth G. Cox. All rights reserved.

Chapter 2 - First Day in Simsville

My first full day in Simsville went okay, I guess. I had no trouble whatsoever in finding the town or the house, seeing as how there's a big sign in front of each. Simsville. Merryman Sims House. How original.

Marcus Jones is the house manager, and he's a real peach of a guy. He's about seventy years old, he's says, not sure of his exact age, but he's a pretty spry fellow. About six feet tall, no fat anywhere, nice tan, a few wrinkles and neat hands. Fingernails trimmed short. Steel gray hair, trimmed short. Gray eyes. Gray mustache, trimmed short. Everyday slacks and dress shirt without tie, neat business-like appearance, I thought.

He had no problem getting all my luggage into the bedroom at the top of the staircase, so he has muscles that just don't show. I tried to do it myself but he absolutely refused to hear of it. He claims he keeps fit with the horses. What horses, I wanted to know. Your horses, he says with a hint of a smile. Seems there are a few things that grow on those twenty-five acres, two horses that belong to me and ten or so that don't. He rides mine, the owners ride theirs, and our stable hands board, feed, train, whatever else you do with horses, and I make money! Yippee! The only horse I know anything about is the charley kind you get when you do too much of anything, like ride a bicycle. But I'm sure I'll get to love them, whenever I get back to the stables to see them.

"Call me Jones," he says, "Everybody does." So Jones it is.

I showed him where to stow my stuff and we went back downstairs. It was two-thirty in the afternoon by that time and I wanted to take a look at my property before supper.

"Great," Jones said, "Come meet Smith. I'm afraid Brown has already gone home for the day, she's just here in the mornings." Huh? Brown is the maid. I'll meet her tomorrow.

Smith is the cook. She's the same age as Jones and they've known each other for "Nigh onto a coon's age." What on earth is a coon's age? "Long, long time." Actually, Smith seems a lot like Aunt Myrtle, eye twinkles and all. She's dressed in a print dress with low heel shoes, but she said that's because they knew I was coming and didn't know how formal I'd be. I told her to wear whatever she wanted, turns out that's slacks and oversize tees which suits me just fine. Medium height, more gray hair trimmed short, hazel brown eyes, long slender fingers and clean neat fingernails, trimmed short. They looked like a matching set to me, so I had to ask her. Yep. Married for fifteen years to each other after first spouses had died off. Several assorted children all living in other towns and states, several assorted grandchildren between them.

Smith's maiden name was Annie Smithwick, but she's been known as Smith all her adult life. "Folks that call me Annie don't know me," she explained.

She showed me her menu for the day. I had to sit down to read it. Then I asked who else was coming to dinner, and she got all apologetic "I didn't know you wanted company, I'm afraid I didn't ask anyone to come over this evening."

"All that food just for the three of us? Please cut everything way back to about a third of that!"

She laughed. "Oh, no, no, the extras go in the freezer." She only cooks once a week, everything will be packaged in nice single servings, appropriately labeled and frozen. All I'll have to do the rest of the time is pop something in the oven. Whew! For a minute there, I saw my waistline going in all directions!

When I asked if she and Jones would eat supper with me, she said, "Well, maybe this once," and then let me know in her twinkly way that she and Jones usually shared their evening meal in their own quarters. "If you get lonely, though, we'll be glad to sit down and eat with you some. If you're sure it's all right." All right! You better believe it would be all right. I don't know a soul in this place yet.

After a hearty snack of blueberry-pecan muffins and coffee, Jones and I set out to tour the house. He had a hardback notebook with pages of stuff listed, and one room at a time he showed me around.

First floor: Kitchen, of course. Central hallway with staircase. Front parlor. Formal dining room. Breakfast room. Library. Music room. Butler's pantry. Cook's pantry. Powder room. Several storerooms and closets. Back porch. Mud room. Milk room. Laundry room. All that was in the main part of the L, with a baize door separating it from Jones and Smith's living quarters: Bedroom, sitting room, bathroom, kitchenette, walk-in closet and laundry nook with modern washer and dryer. A separate entrance on the side of the house, and a separate staircase to the first floor completed their wing.

Second floor: Six bedrooms, four bathrooms, a large study, and a box room. Only four bedrooms were furnished but all the bathrooms had clean linens, new soaps and a fresh smell. The study was complete with a double size partners desk, three chairs, a color television, modern computer, bookcases, file cabinets, and lamps.

"This is really the estate office, Avery. This is where all the business records are kept. I've been using it since Myrtle died, but if you'd rather handle things yourself, let me know when you'd like to go over everything."

"Um, okay, let me think about it," I muttered. Handle things myself? Like what, I wondered.

"Ready to go up?" The third floor was a warren of smaller bedrooms, two bathrooms, and attic storage space. None of the bedrooms was furnished but the attic seemed crammed with crates, pasteboard boxes, old bed frames, paintings, lamps, and a multitude of other things. There was even a dressmaker's dummy.

"This stuff hasn't been touched in years. Your aunt said she'd go through it one day but she never really wanted to tackle it. We were afraid to throw things away, something valuable might be lurking in there." Jones shrugged, shut the door and led me down the hall to the back staircase. We wound up back in the kitchen.

"How about downstairs?" Jones opened yet another door, this time to the cellar, and down we went.

The cellar was very tidy and organized. Here were bulk supplies of stuff like detergent and bleach, plus tools, garden hoses, raincoats, galoshes, and jars of nails and screws on tall metal shelves. The place looked light, not dark as I'd always imaged cellars would be. Fluorescent lighting, Jones pointed out. He'd replaced the hanging bulbs years ago since Smith wouldn't go down those wooden stairs unless he did. Made sense anyway, he added. If people were going to use the stuff down there, they needed to see it to find it. I thoroughly agreed.

A heat pump had been installed in the back wall of the cellar. It was only twenty-five years old or so and still worked fine. The old coal furnace had been removed and sold as a collector's item and the coal shute from the side of the house had been converted into a door leading out into the garden.

It was close to five o'clock, so I begged off a trip outside, inquired as to supper time promptly at six thirty and went upstairs to unpack and change. What had I gotten myself into, I asked myself. This house! This estate! I couldn't wait until tomorrow morning to go take a gander at the horses.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 |