Copyright is held by the author.
MODERN BUILDINGS scare me. I understand that an engineer and his grunts slap it together with blueprints, safety codes and all sorts of stamps of approval. But there are no certificates hung on the wall like at the doctor’s office to prove they went to a renowned university. I’m supposed to trust complete strangers who may have failed the final exam and bribed the professors with sex that they’ve all done their job for the good of the general public and more importantly, me.
Old buildings have stood the test of time, literally. Yes, they may have mould, crooked walls and pipes that rattle, but panes of glass will not fall on your head from 30 feet up. Then there is the asbestos. Enter the trust factor again. It can be removed, by trained professionals that take an eight-hour day course and wear protective gear to look official. The training itself makes me ask the question, is the job done by a student with a lax underpaid teacher? But then, if the home was occupied by diligent owners, all the above mentioned issues would be addressed. Sadly, there is no certificate proudly hung on the wall that states “Home Maintained by Diligent Owners” that can be validated by a trustworthy authority.
For this reason, I’ve been 13 months and five days searching for a new home. I had resigned myself to slightly older homes.
Then, another angle was presented to me via a television documentary in the therapist waiting room. More people pass away in old houses than new. The actual percentage wasn’t given, but I supposed that would be later in the credits. It demonstrated how supernatural elements can be harmful to your psyche if you spook easily, or entertaining if you like the creepy other-worldly sort of thing. You could have parties based on the uninvited guest, the host of the show suggested. Since I fall into the first category I was almost determined to switch back to new homes. Then I had my Tuesday meeting with Dr. Tram who very honestly told me that the show is fictional and the ghosts are created with special effects purely for entertainment.
Every day when I rise from bed I say to myself “I am buying a house” — not that I forget things this monumental, but to reassure myself that this is my intention and it will happen, hopefully today. Most people use a realtor, and yes I do have one, but she isn’t very useful. More importantly, I need Dr. Tram. He was insistent that he would not help me buy a house. I currently have 30 days to vacate, I explained. It was all in the nasty letter I waved in the air. The city had bought my aunt’s old place for a ridiculous waste of tax dollars, but it was to make way for a new highway so, I had them by the acorns. Dr. Tram didn’t budge so I went to plan B.
I threw myself on his floor and began to cry, scream and pound the floor. In an old house with thin walls and wood floors I’m sure the patients in the waiting room were all concerned for my terrible state. Why the floor? Crying upright tends to cause me to hyperventilate and his sofa is brand new, replaced due to another patient, so out of respect for the furniture and my ability to breathe I choose the floor. Suddenly, Dr. Tram felt sorry for me, agreed to come along to address my fears but have nothing to do with actually choosing a house. I didn’t want to get snot on his carpet so I asked for a tissue before I could get up just in case the movement dislodged the gob dangling from my nostril. He agreed with that too. This is why I respect Dr. Tram. He is very reasonable, like me.
My realtor, Jody, had a rather simple task. Find a suitable home that was not modern, too old, met current code standards, reputable builder, security system, low population of families with children or old people, not a cyclist route, low crime rate, a few trees, and no water features.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t very good at her job and mentioned that my list was daunting. I found myself searching for houses online myself to assist her. To be helpful, I sent emails with my finds daily, well, and I hate to brag at how well I did in my searching compared to Jody, but hourly, there I said it. I’m sure she wished all her clients were so ready to lend a hand. Today I decided that perhaps we need to terminate our arrangement and find me a more appropriate agent since “my 30 days is fast approaching and you have not been of much use.” I attached my most recent home finds to soften the blow. Her reply went like this:
“Unfortunately, for both of us, there is a written legal document that binds us together for another 30 days. After this time you are free to choose whatever agent you desire. Signed, Jody Landon.”
Surprisingly, this is the first prompt email ever in reply to my suggestions, which I did note in my response. “In 30 days, I won’t need an agent as it will be too late and once again I feel you are not trying hard enough to understand my needs. I feel for your situation though. Your conscience will be burdened by the knowledge that I did all the legwork in the house search and you will have no choice but to take the credit in order to have any hope of keeping your job. For this reason, I will continue to assist you; I’m a good person that way. PS: The promptness of your most recent email shows signs of improvement in your customer service, congratulations on the progress.”
Achievements in job performance should always receive praise to encourage future ambitions. I was briefly proud of her.
Saturday is house showing day. Dr. Tram wanted an early start so he could squeeze in a round on the green afterwards. Jody had by sheer luck, I assume, found the gumption to make all the necessary house showing arrangements and contacted both of us within a timely manner.
At 9:15 Jody picked me up. Her pants were too tight to comfortably climb stairs and the heels she chose too high if the floors were shiny tiles. She’s an accident waiting to happen. Her position should have a standard uniform. I thought about this and decided it had to be said.
“Track pants, non-marking sneakers, sports bra, t-shirt and layers since the temperature of the house cannot be confirmed, make-up is okay since you seem to need it, and hand sanitizer, umbrella and a shoulder bag for the brochures and lastly disposable booties are always useful.”
“Uh-huh” said Jody.
“I’ll send it in my next email.”
“Do you require images? Pictures that is?”
“Nope, a list is fine.”
We pulled up to a suburban home and Jody vacated the vehicle at an alarming speed with a very forceful door slam. I commended her enthusiasm but I don’t think she heard me. Dr. Tram stepped out from behind the fat tree in the front yard.
”A nice solid tree, Larry, you see it? Red Oak, they live for up to 500 years,” said Dr. Tram.
“Yes, that’s impressive.”
“It’ll shade the roof and reduce the heating bills. Not that money is an issue for you,” said Dr Tram.
“Shall we head inside?” said Jody.
The front porch was safe as proved by my pocket sized level. So was the door jam, the railing on the porch and the light fixture on the wall. This was off to a good start.
“I hope you don’t have plans for today.” said Jody to Dr. Tram. He texted somebody on his phone quickly. I’ll have to address the personal phone use on my paid time slot in an email later today.
“The front foyer is only slightly off square with the floor tiles. A bad sign, first impression, house off kilter being masked by oversized granite tiles to distract buyer.” I drew an “X” in the air. Strike one.
“Larry, let’s move along to the kitchen, you’ll like the kitchen.” said Jody.
She couldn’t rush a response on a high-speed electronic device but a physical home inspection she expected momentum? She had so much to learn.
“I’m not done here.”
“The ductwork grate will not affect your survival,” said Dr. Tram.
“Air circulation is critical!”
“Yes, and it meets all current code standards,” said Jody.
Dr. Tram gave me a look with one raised eyebrow. It was the trust the professional look that has never led me astray. Begrudgingly, I walked into the kitchen.
It took six hours and 37 minutes to assess the remainder of the home. Thankfully, the bathroom was small as were the closets. Bigger closets can harbour murders and large bathrooms deadly germy areas.
“What’s the verdict Larry?” said Jody.
“Yes! Let’s write up an offer!” said Jody.
“Not yet. What are the features of the community?”
She pulled out cue cards and read. “No schools or old age homes, police station is 10 minutes away, and no we will not run a drill, no ponds or splash pads in the near vicinity, nearest nature trail-bike paths are 40 minutes away and house is not under a flight path. The builder constructed the entire neighbourhood, there are no complaints filed against them and it’s priced appropriately.”
“I need to feel the backyard first.”
“Yes, go right ahead,” said Jody. Dr. Tram frowned and gave Jody a quizzical look. I supposed he was considering that she might benefit from therapy meetings as well.
Completely naked, I spread myself out over the lawn horizontally and face up. If any skin reactions were going to occur I needed advance notice to procure the proper treatments. I breathed deeply and concentrated on skin sensations. As I rolled over to test the front side of my body I heard them laughing. I couldn’t concentrate. Why the hell were they laughing? I got up and went to the waist high wood fence to peer at them.
“He’s naked back there, checking for a reaction, seismic vibrations and God knows what else,” said Jody.
“He can’t help it. He’s had a hell of a childhood,” said Dr. Tram.
“What happened to him? He’s so paranoid and particular.”
“He’s had a lot of loss and it’s all due to accidents. I shouldn’t tell you this, confidentiality and all, but might help you sell to him. While he was at camp his parents died in a sink hole that ate the entire house up. Then he moved in with his Uncle, who was murdered by a jealous lover hiding in the closet of the Uncle’s house, following that he was relocated to a Grandmother’s home whose brand new shiny tiles led to her demise. And it doesn’t end there — his only living relative, some distant Aunt, had the roof of a mall collapse on her, brand new building too. Don’t get me started on his luck with pets.”
“Holy shit! That’s horrible.”
“He blames faulty workmanship.”
“And how about his fortune?”
“That’s where he’s lucky. Inheritance times four plus the city’s offer to buy his old shack. He’s loaded.”
“Rich and nuts.”
“It’s getting late, can we wrap this up? How about we grab some dinner and I’ll tell you about the pets.”
Jody laughed and agreed to dinner, which was the last straw for me. Procuring a date while I was paying them, sharing personal information and disturbing my concentration on possible skin irritations! I marched out front with my hands on my hips, stood there and gave them the raised eyebrow to mock the trust signal.
“Larry, go put your clothes on before somebody calls the cops,” said Dr. Tram.
“I’ve got 10 minutes. You owe me an explanation, Dr. Tram. You told her all about me!”
“Larry, it’s okay, as professionals we’re sharing information to confirm the credentials of this neighbourhood as a suitable residence for you. It’s strictly between Jody and myself,” said Dr. Tram. He gave me the eyebrow and I realized it was much more convincing when he did it.
Dr. Tram was always reasonable, which is why I see him every Tuesday at 11:30 — unless it was a bad weather day, which naturally switches the appointment to Thursday and does not require an email confirmation. It’s the only day possible since Monday I visit the comic book store, Wednesday I see my banker and Thursday I keep open in case of Tuesday, which I already explained. Friday, he’s closed. “All right, I suppose that is acceptable.”
A cyclist slowed down and coasted past the property. “Put some clothes on, freak!”
I wasn’t done with Dr. Tram and Jody. Although his reasons were well intended he did skip over an important step. My 10 minutes were nearly done so I ran behind the red oak tree to be less obvious.
“What are you doing?” asked Jody.
“Reprimanding Dr. Tram, professionalism has gone to hell! Find a date online and leave my life out of it! Next time you want to share my life’s tragedies I require a release of information form, written consent and a detail description of what will be said. Just ponder for a moment on how this breach of information makes you appear to a client, such as myself!”
“Appearance is everything, especially coming from a naked man behind a tree!” said Jody.
“Ten minutes is up,” said Dr. Tram.
He was right, as usual. He entered the house and returned with my clothes from the backyard, which he tossed towards me but not close enough for me to remain behind the tree to retrieve them. Jody was giggling again. I don’t get that either, she’s seen me naked several times now.
It occurred to me as I was leaning one hand on the tree that there was something very comforting about the red oak. Its permanence and the ability to hide a skinny naked body like mine made me somehow feel connected to it. I stared upwards and not bothering to use my pen level could surmise that it most certainly was very straight.
“I’ll buy this tree” I said. Striding towards Jody with my hand extended. She looked befuddled. Sigh, poor Jody.
“The house comes with the tree.”
“Fine, if I must. But I see my banker on Tuesday so I can’t withdraw the money till then.”
“I’ll put in your offer and email you if they accept it.”
“Offer them extra, for the tree.”
“Sure. You’ll need to sign papers first.”
“Fine, I’ll sign on Monday when we shop again for my house?”
“Larry, this is going to be your house,” said Dr. Tram.
“No, I only want the tree. I still need a house.”
Jody sank her head into her hands and I thought she was crying, but it might have been laughing as I couldn’t see her face. The tree was that impressive I agree. I looked to Dr. Tram to clarify. He had his hand on her shoulder comforting her.
“Welcome to my world” he said.
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