The construction foreman stood and stared at the plans. “Are you sure this is what you want?”
“Of course it is!” said Mary. “Why, what’s wrong with it?”
“Well — I’m not sure we can build this exactly as described,” he said.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, describe it again.”
Mary cleared her throat. “Look, so these are the plans for the house. They’re simple and as plain as day. Two floors, three or four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and maybe a third, and a living room, and a kitchen. The kitchen definitely needs all stainless-steel appliances, and it should be painted blue.”
The construction foreman wrinkled his brow. “What about the roof?”
“What do you mean?”
“You want a roof, right? There’s no roof in any of the plans.”
“Well, of course we want a roof,” said Mary. “I don’t want it to rain in the living room.”
“But the living room is only one storey tall.”
“What?” said Mary irritably.
“Nevermind. What kind of style and slope do you want the roof to have?”
“We don’t need to bother with those details now,” said Mary. “Just get to building. We need the house built soon.”
The construction foreman grimaced again and looked over at the architect, who had been quiet up until now. “Have you got a slope for the roof?”
“Well, they’d like it to have dormers,” he said sheepishly.
“Oh, yes, dormers!” said Mary brightly. “I forgot about those. Definitely dormers. And a chimney. The roof should have a nice line when viewed from a distance.”
“All right,” said the foreman. “I suppose we’re getting somewhere. There seem to be some erased lines here at, oh, about — I’d call that thirty degrees. Is thirty degrees what you want?”
“What does that mean?” said Mary.
“The angle of the roof.”
“I don’t care, you’re the construction expert. Don’t bother me with little details. Just build whatever you need to build, but make sure the kitchen is gray.”
“Gray? I thought you said blue.”
“Oh, well, we focus-grouped it among the family, and I forgot that gray was more popular. I rather liked the blue myself. But definitely gray. Also we need space for three refrigerators.”
The foreman blinked and looked up from the plans. “You need three refrigerators?”
“I sometimes throw parties,” said Mary, “and I need enough room to store a tray of vegetables and ranch dip.”
The foreman swallowed hard and turned back to the plans, letting the subject drop.
“What’s this?” he said, pointing at a box in the middle of the paper.
“Oh, that’s the guest house,” said Mary.
“A guest house? Inside your regular house?”
“Well, you don’t want the guests to have to go outside to visit us, now, do you?”
The foreman shook his head.
He took a deep breath. “So you want this house, as drawn, with a thirty-degree roof, three bedrooms — “
” — or four,” chimed in Mary.
” — or four,” repeated the foreman, “three bathrooms — “
” — unless they’re expensive, and then we only want two,” said Mary.
” — and a gray kitchen with three stainless steel refrigerators in it,” he finished.
“Exactly,” said Mary. “How long do you think it will take?”
“Well, it usually takes my team three to six months to build a house, depending on size and configuration and how long it takes to get the permits — “
“Oh, that won’t do!” said Mary. “We need it in six weeks for the start of spring! We’ve already invited everyone over!”
“Uh, I suppose I could hire more people, but — “
“And I need you to do it for half the cost you quoted,” said Mary. “We just had our budget cut yesterday. Something about Bill partying in the Maldives. Seems he bought a few too many drinks for some of his clients, and we’re now a few hundred thousand dollars short. But if this project goes well and comes in on time, we’ll buy all your workers pizza.”
The foreman looked down at his phone. “Sure. Six weeks for half the money, probably a roof, some rooms of uncertain number but not too many or two few, and definitely three stainless steel refrigerators.”
“Exactly!” said Mary brightly. “And if you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail. I can’t always answer, but I promise I’ll at least think about reading your messages. When do you think you can start work?”
The foreman skimmed through his calendar. “It looks like I have an opening — yes. How does the thirty-second of Octember sound?”