discovered how much I had been cutting into their sales. They lodged a complaint with Games Workshop, claiming that I had no storefront, and so therefore was in violation of some fine print in the retailers agreement. They wrote me a letter in which they refused to fill my last order until I had provided proof of a storefront. Technically I had a storefront in the entry to my apartment, but I doubted that this was going to impress the Games Workshop representatives. Ultimately, it came down to a battle of dollar power. The existing retailers had a history of large purchases from Games Workshop, and when push came to shove I was getting bumped out of the picture.
I continued to carve and sell terrain for the tactical miniature games; scale hills, rocky buttes, buildings, whatever a customer wanted. I was good at it, but it was a time consuming and laborious process- so I had to charge quite a bit for the completed pieces. Some customers were willing to fork out this kind of money, but the cost severely limited the amount of customers that could, or were willing, to buy terrain from me.
After prolonged and bitter brainstorming, I grudgingly admitted defeat, and decided that Iíd better explore other avenues to make a buck. This was a minor setback from which Iíd recover; but soon I was to receive a blow that signaled the coming of the end.
Christine and I began acquiring some computer equipment and software, which would allow us to do design and layout work. We lined up several projects for a timber company, owned by the same person who allowed us to use his home for our wedding. The company had no in-house public relations, and they had a lot of things that had been piling up. This was the perfect opportunity for us to get some work. Although, Christine and I were novices, they were willing work with us due to the fact that they knew and trusted us, and that we were willing to charge a fraction of what an established layout firm would charge.
As Fall began to set in we had unseasonably warm days, and the impending rains had, for the moment, held off. Each winter the rutted drive up to my grandparentís house became a muddy mire- which sometimes claimed unwary cars in itís mucky grasp. My grandfather had, throughout the years, spread gravel to control the muck, but the ground quickly sucked up the crushed stone, leaving no visible sign that it had ever existed. Before the ground became too soft, he decided that he would lay concrete tracks up to the slabs in front of the house.
The day that we started the project, gray clouds hovered ominously in the sky, threatening to dump torrents down upon our meager efforts. I helped lay out the forms; the small wooden frames that would contain the slabs, drove stakes into the ground and nailed the forms to them. It was late afternoon by the time we were finished and we began combining ingredients into a small cement barrel mixer. The wind was picking up, and it looked as though rain was imminent.
"Weíd better put some lime in the mix," said my grandfather, as the wind tugged at his silver beard and hair. "Itíll harden up the cement quick, before the rains hit."
Following my grandfatherís instructions as to the amount of lime to use, I cut open a bag and began dumping the fine powder into the mixer. It billowed back up, enveloping me in a chalky cloud of dust. I coughed and gagged the stuff out, but didnít think much about the incident until later.
We made several batches of concrete, and shoveled the hod into a wheelbarrow, making multiple trips down the driveway until the forms were filled. This was a kind of work that I was capable of only at the peak of my health, and even then I had severe limitations. My wheelbarrow loads were small, and my grandfather, a well-built man, but nearing seventy- easily took on loads that would have taxed my strength.
For some reason the job seemed to get more difficult as the day went on. It wasnít just fatigue, but my breathing became more difficult and labored, so that by the time we had finished it was all I could do to drag myself into our barn apartment and collapse into a chair. My lungs were revolting against me and each breath became a struggle.
Within several days I was back in the hospital. Lime was a hardening agent that worked equally well on lungs, as with cement, my doctor informed me. A man without cystic fibrosis would likely have been able to shrug off the amount of exposure that I had to the lime with no long term ill effects. For me, it was damage that I would never recover from.
The lime choked off my lungs, destroying what minimal capabilities that they once had. Infection pervaded my respiratory system. A constant stream of antibiotics stemmed the tide of the infection, but was not able to beat it off. While the antibiotics fought the infection, they ripped down my immune system- destroying what resistance I had left.