By Bob Kaster
With Thanks to Edgar Allan Poe
It’s a beautiful house. It doesn’t look like much from the street. But once you step inside the front door, wow! The entire western side of the house is floor-to-ceiling glass with a drop-dead view of the Pacific Ocean, far below. Central Oregon’s Pacific Coast isn’t like Southern California. It is rugged and craggy, and the weather can be treacherous. Twenty-three miles to the north is Cape Foulweather, now a look-out, observatory, and gift shop. Cape Foulweather was discovered in 1778 by Captain James Cook during his search for a passage to the Atlantic Ocean, and was the first promontory that he named on his journey along the Oregon coast. “The land formed a point,” he wrote, “which I called Cape Foulweather, from the bad weather that we, soon after, met with.”
But the house isn’t perfect. It is flawed. It sags in spots. The floor is uneven and cracks are developing on some walls and ceilings. We hired a foundation repair contractor to do an inspection and give us a repair proposal. The contractor sent a “foundation specialist” who spent three hours examining the house, using an instrument called a pressurized hydrostatic altimeter that can measure the floor elevations of a house with an accuracy of one-tenth of an inch. Eight weeks ago, the inspection was completed, and tomorrow is the day the contractor will begin the repair work, which is the reason I came up from California. We wanted someone to be at the house when the work started, a $60,000 project. The foundation specialist had measured an incredible four inches of difference between the high points and the low points of the floor throughout the house. No wonder the walls and ceilings have major cracks! The solution involves driving thirty-eight steel heavy-duty helical piles into the ground under the house deep enough to support and secure the foundation. We are finally going to get it done. None too soon, in my mind. I often picture our house breaking loose from the ground underneath and plunging a half-mile down into the raging Pacific Ocean.
We have owned the house for nearly fifteen years. We endured the sloping floors, ever-widening cracks, and doors that won’t open or close, until we finally decided to bite the bullet and fix it before it is too late. Tomorrow is the day the contractor will begin. The house has always creaked and groaned, sometimes loud enough to overcome the roar of the ocean below. The creaking noise is at its worst in the middle of the night, when changing air temperatures cause timbers to expand and contract.
I fall asleep in the master bedroom around ten-thirty in good spirits, looking forward to tomorrow’s beginning of the repair work.
At midnight, I am wide awake! It is stormy outside, the sound of the wind and rain pounding against the windows, almost drowning out the creaking, groaning, and popping noises of the house and the roar of the sea.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary … suddenly there came a tapping … rapping at my chamber door.
Things always look worse in the middle of the night, at least for me. That is when my demons come out of the woodwork. All I can see is the bad; the negative side of everything. I am on edge, fearing the worst. Suddenly, there is a blinding lightening flash, followed almost instantaneously with an explosion of thunder. Then, another noise, loud as the thunder, but this time created by the house itself. What was that? Did the house move? No, it’s just my imagination.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing …
I am up on my feet now. I feel the floor moving. Or do I? I’m no stranger to earthquakes, having barely escaped from a deadly one in New Zealand nine years ago. I know what it feels like for the floor, and the entire building, to be shaking violently. But that was in the middle of the day, when my brain was clear. This is the middle of the night. Am I imagining it? My mind can play tricks on me at midnight.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before …
There it is again! Crunching and popping noises. The floor is definitely moving. I’m not imagining it! I’ve got to get out of this house! Suddenly, it’s very dark. Usually the house is fairly well-lit at night, even when the lights are turned off. Illumination comes from several sources; back-lighting from the clock-radio, the TV set, the stove, microwave, and other appliances. But the house is now pitch black. What the hell did I do with the flashlight?
Is everything moving? I am sure it’s not my imagination, my midnight demons. It’s the real thing. The house is going to crash into the sea! I’m in a panic now, trying to find my way to the front door, bumping into things along the way. For every forward step, I am thrown two steps back. I finally get to the door, but it won’t open. Of course, it won’t open. That’s one of the reasons we are having the work done tomorrow. I desperately pull and pull, and finally it gives, and I’m outside.
There is nothing quite like being drenched with freezing rain pounding horizontally into your face to get your head to clear. What am I doing out here? Two minutes is all it takes, and I’m now thinking clearly. This house isn’t going anywhere, except maybe subsiding another eighth of an inch. What the hell was I thinking? I go back in the house, water pooling under me wherever I go. All the appliance lights are on again, and the visibility is fine. I go into the bathroom, strip down, and dry off with a towel. I put on a dry pair of undershorts and a tee-shirt, and climb back into bed, still shaking. The storm seems to be subsiding. I gradually relax, and, in time, drift off.
The next morning, I look through the huge expanse of glass out at the peaceful sea, draped by clear, deep-blue sky. It’s like last night never happened. The house is still here, and soon will be better than ever with strong steel piles holding it firmly in place. It will never go anywhere. Never.
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”