A Ghost of a Chance

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One of the really funny things about life is that when you’re up to your neck in shit, you get used to the smell.

The last six years had been exactly that, each day worse than the day before. And all during that time, I had done everything I needed to do and had functioned one day at a time. Now, it was all catching up with me.

* * * * * *

I had come to New York City as soon as I was 18, my head filled with dreams of overnight Broadway stardom. Within two weeks I had already discovered that I had maybe 10% of the talent I’d credited myself with and that I was a babe in the woods as far as city life goes. I was a gay red-dirt Georgia farm boy and not much else. In another two weeks, I’d be stony broke.

I’d gone to a bar that night to drown my sorrows. In Georgia, we didn’t have local gay bars so I didn’t know what I was getting into. But, when I saw a whole trail of good looking guys going into this particular bar, I decided to follow. That was how I met Casey.

There’s no other way to describe him than as a nerd. He even had on thick, heavy framed glasses when I met him. I thought he was attractive and even better; he was nice to me, a veritable first in that town. He was shy and so was I but somehow we ended up leaving together. As I’ve said, I was 18. He was 30.

I’m no Adonis but I was in pretty good shape from a life of farm work. I also have a pretty nice cock. Casey had begun spending time at a gym by then, so he was also in pretty good shape under his nerdy clothes. And, he also had a nice cock.

After that first night, we were together for twenty years. Seven years in, we discovered that Casey had a hereditary genetic illness that no one survives. It had a slow progression but it was 100% fatal. He tried to convince me to leave him and find someone else. I told him he’d die a lot sooner if he kept talking that way because I’d be forced to kill him.

We were as perfect for each other as two people can possibly be. I did everything for him that needed doing and when the time came, he died in my arms.

* * * * * *

Now, six months after his death, I was a veritable zombie. Grief was a weight that I couldn’t shift and I barely ate. I got out of bed to use the bathroom and rarely any other time.

Casey had made me his sole heir. He came from a wealthy family and I would never lack funds. He had also left me his apartment, a sleek modern condo in a 5 star building that cost more in condo fees than most people made back home per year.

I was so dumb that the morning after our first night together, I asked him what a room like his rented for. I thought we were in a hotel because he told me the maid would take care of the dirty linens. I never even realized that the condo had a kitchen, another bedroom, a media room and a storage room besides the living room and bedroom that I’d already seen. Casey, instead of laughing at my hayseed ways, delighted in them.

I hated the condo. Even when we were both living there, it was all to his taste. As I lay in bed entangled in dirty sheets, I realized that I had to get away or I’d die. Fear of death is a good motivator.

I got myself out of bed, showered and went to see our lawyer. I told him that I wanted to sell the condo and move away from the city to some place more like the town I grew up in. He, in turn, hooked me up with a real estate woman who was only too happy to have a luxury condo on her books. The bad thing was, she had absolutely no concept of what a small house in a small town was. Her idea of small town was The Hamptons.

That afternoon I bought myself a used Ford Focus. With it, I started driving myself out of the city and along the coast. If I arrived at a town and it looked promising, I’d find a motel and then talk to whatever local real estate agents I could find. After two months of that, I still hadn’t found what I was looking for.

I was on my way back to the city one afternoon when I took a wrong turn. I didn’t realize that I had until I was totally lost. Thinking that if I kept driving I’d have to wind up somewhere, I relaxed and followed the road.

Eventually, I came to a small town on the coast that didn’t even have a sign announcing its name. It looked like it had been dropped from a Norman Rockwell painting; only a lot more run down. I felt right at home.

Driving through the town I came upon the only real estate agent that there was. When I parked and entered her door, I think I woke her up.

She had a binder that contained available properties on each page and she and I sat side by side looking through them. Each property she showed me had an aspect I didn’t like. Some were too much in town, some too far from the ocean, some just downright too new and ugly. I was about to give up and leave when she said, “There is one property I haven’t shown you. I’ve given up on ever selling it; I just keep it listed as a courtesy.”

She rose, went to her filing cabinet and drew out a page. As soon as I saw the photo I was interested. It was canlı bahis an old home that sat in the photo so that you could see the ocean and the beach beyond a picket fence. The house had a broad front porch and a pointed roof. It looked like a drawing of a house that a child might have done.

“It’s in terrible shape, it hasn’t even been occupied in over ten years.” she told me. “It was an estate, the old fellow who owned it had lived there most of his life. His only kin is out of state and not even interested in it. They just want to be rid of it.”

“Could I see it?” I asked. For the first time in months, I felt excited about something.

The real estate lady opened her desk drawer and sorted through a ring of keys. When she found the one she was looking for, she turned to me and said, “I haven’t been out there in years so I can’t vouch for the state it will be in.”

“That’s fair warning.” I replied. “Shall I drive?”

She, of course, insisted on being the driver. As we wheeled through town she acquainted me with the local landmarks, the grocery store, the hardware store, the bakery. I told her that I wasn’t a churchgoer, so she thankfully skipped all of those.

We took a two lane road out of town that ran along the coast and didn’t see another car the whole time. After about a mile or so, I saw the house up ahead.

The late afternoon sunlight made the windows blaze and illuminated the bleached wood siding. It was a house that could have been built anywhere in the States at the end of the 19th century, Bungalow style with thin clapboard that was direly in need of paint and a wide front porch, it was exactly the type of house I’d envisioned. We pulled into a short drive and got out of the car.

The wind was blowing in from the sea, fresh and cool. The long beach grass rippled, sea birds called and I fell halfway in love.

We mounted the three concrete front steps to the wide front porch. From our vantage point there was an unobstructed view of the gray sea over the sand. The front door was exactly in the middle with wide windows on either side. The door itself was heavy oak that had been shellacked so many times that it was black behind an old wooden screen door. I immediately in my mind could hear the sound that screen would make slapping shut.

The real estate lady turned the key in the lock, turned the knob and stepped inside.

Growing up, we weren’t quite dirt poor. My mother always said that we at least one porch step above the dirt. Often, when I was younger, I would walk into town in the early evening so that I could gaze into the windows of the town folks’ houses. They all seemed to be rich to me, even though I now knew they were probably at the bottom of the middle class. But their homes were decorated and the furniture was polished and they all seemed so safe and secure. That was what I was looking for.

As soon as I stepped into the front hallway, I knew that I had found it. The house was still full of the previous tenant’s furniture and belongings. It wasn’t even dusty.

I looked around at the hallway, the stairs rising in front of me and the two rooms that opened off of the front hall. I knew that upstairs I’d find two bedrooms, one on each side of the hallway and that if I went straight ahead on the first floor, and the door that I could see would lead into a long kitchen at the back. It was the house I’d always wanted.

The furnishings were all from around the turn of the century up until the 1930’s. An old rose colored overstuffed mohair sofa and chairs on spindly legs, that I knew would prickle against your skin, skinny high tables that held glazed urn lamps with discolored silk shades and a carpet of faded roses furnished the living room. The walls were painted a mossy green and hung with pictures.

Across the entry hall was a dining room with a dark table and sideboard with bulbous legs. The table was surrounded by a suite of chairs that matched the other pieces and their slip seats were upholstered in faded rose colored striped brocade. In the center of the bare table stood a crystal epergne. This room was painted a shade of old rose that I knew would make the room glow by lamplight. There was a faded and threadbare oriental carpet covering the floor. A brass chandelier with four separate squared lanterns made of slag glass hung in the center of the room and on the heavy sideboard there stood a pair of electric lusters with hanging crystals. Old framed pictures and photos also decorated these walls.

On the back wall of the room was a swinging door that led to the kitchen. It was a large room, almost the width of the house. The walls were covered in glazed wallpaper from the 1920’s that was decorated with a small geometric design on a white background. The woodwork was white and there was a white beaded board dado the covered the bottom half of the walls. The refrigerator, electric stove and white porcelain sink were old and oversized and spotless. In the center of the room, on the black and white checkered bahis siteleri tiles and surrounded by chairs, was an oak table with a design in red and black stenciled along its edge.

I felt that I had slipped back in time and finally been invited inside one of those houses that I used to spy into. The house even smelled the way I had imagined, faded scents of apples and furniture polish and dust.

The real estate lady said, “All of this old junk belonged to the man who died. I can help you arrange to have it hauled away. The place comes as is.”

I actually had a lump in my throat as I thought of this household being torn apart.

“May I look upstairs?” I asked.

Climbing the bare wooden stairs I knew that they would squeak, and they did. At the top of the stairs, directly ahead, a door opened into a white tiled bathroom with heavy old porcelain fixtures that were thicker than the modern ones. Silver taps and levers sparkled.

On the right side of the landing, I opened the bedroom door. It looked as if the occupant had just left; the bed made and turned down, clothing still visible hanging in the half open closet. A tall old dresser with a grayed mirror reflected my face back at me. An old patchwork quilt covered the bed and a spindly rocking chair stood near the front window.

Across the landing, a door opened into another bedroom. This one, in contrast, felt long unoccupied, the air cold and stale. The walls were made of beaded board, this time one on top of the other horizontally rather than side by side like the dado in the kitchen. My bedroom growing up had been paneled the exact same way and whereas that room had been shellacked so often that the walls were almost black, these were an old pine color. The bed was made with military precision, the dresser top bare. The room felt oddly sad and frozen. Even so, I felt like this was the room for me, just waiting for someone to give it life again.

As I walked back down the stairs I ran my hand along the banister. When I looked at my palm, there was no grime. Every part of the house was remarkably clean and dust free after standing vacant for so long.

The real estate woman was standing at the door and as I approached her she said, “We still have time to view some other houses, if you’d like.”

“That won’t be necessary.” I said and watched her face fall.

“If this house is reasonably priced, I’d like to make an offer on it.”

At first, she looked as if she couldn’t understand what I’d said, and then slowly a look of skepticism took its place.

“You want this old place?” she asked.

“I do.” I answered. “Shall we go back to your office and proceed?”

She chattered all of the way back to town, afraid I’d change my mind, I think. In her office she looked up the particulars and named a very low sum for the house.

“Of course, that’s what they originally asked. A lot of time has passed since then. I’d offer them…” and named an even lower sum.

“Fine.” I replied. “Just get me the house. If you can have the sale made and the papers signed before my bank closes today, I’ll give you a thousand dollar bonus.”

That lit a fire under her. She seemed to forget that I was even there, her fingers flying on the phone as she yammered into it while opening drawers and piling papers on her desk.

She came to an agreement with the person on the other end of the line and then turned to me.

“How are you planning on paying?” she asked.

“Tell me the amount and what bank to send it to and I’ll have the full amount in their account by morning.”

She took down details, passed them to me and I made my own call. The president of our bank had been a friend to Casey and me, so I called him directly.

We small talked for a moment or two and then I told him the purpose of the call.

“This seems rather rash.” he said. “And that is still a large withdrawal, even with your funds.”

“I’m moving out of the city.” I told him. “The condo is already up for sale and has some interest. As soon as it sells, the funds will be several times what I’m drawing today. Plus, I’m selling everything else except my clothing. And, just think, no more condo fees.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” he asked.

“For the first time in years, I’m sure that it’s exactly the right thing.”

“Then I’ll make the arrangements to send the cash overnight. It will be there at the start of business tomorrow. I hope you’ll be happy.”

We said our goodbyes and I turned to the real estate woman.

“What next?” I asked.

She already had signed contracts and other paperwork in her files that the sellers had signed years before. She added the date, I signed everything and she handed me a ring of keys.

“I just need to file all of this but for all intents and purposes, you now own a house.” she said.

“Would you like your bonus by check or cash?” I asked.

She was ecstatic to have made such a profitable sale so quickly and smoothly and I had bahis şirketleri a hard time getting away from her. I had already made my first friend in town it seemed.

As I was finally backing through the door with her still talking, something occurred to me. I interrupted her flow of words to ask, “Is there someone local who I can hire for some cleaning, that sort of thing?”

“Ida White.” she replied. “She’s the only person in town for you. She has been doing for folks her whole life. I’ll call her right now.”

With a new mission to occupy her, I was finally able to get away.

I drove the short distance back out to the house. The sun had started going down and an even stronger ocean breeze had kicked up. I stood and looked at the solid little house and felt happy for the first time in years. Climbing the porch steps I knew that I would be happy here.

When I got inside, the silent house welcomed me like a warm bath. The power had been shut off so there were no lights but I found an old oil lamp that still contained oil and lit it. The soft glow bathed the living room as it must have in the years before electricity and I sat on the plush sofa and relaxed.

I awoke hours later, the oil lamp guttering as the last of the oil burned. I had just enough light to make it up the stairs. At the top, I immediately went to what I already thought of as “my room”. Lying down on the bed with the curtains still open I could hear the low murmur of the sea and the wind sliding over the house as it must have done for at least the last hundred years. Fully dressed, I was asleep in less than a minute and didn’t reawaken all night.

The next morning I was awakened by someone calling, “Yoohoo, are you awake?”

I jumped up and looked at my watch. I had slept like a stone for over 12 hours. Stepping through the doorway, I looked down the stairs.

At the bottom stood an older lady with tightly curled white hair. She was dressed in a house dress type garment with boots on and a man’s heavy coat over the top.

“I’m Ida White.” she said, peering up at me. “I noticed your car last night after I got a call about you needing help, so I figured you were staying the night. I brought you some breakfast, come and eat before it gets cold.”

I went into the bathroom and washed my face in cold water and then descended to the first floor. I could hear movement in the kitchen and when I looked around the edge of the hall door, Ida White was setting the table for two.

“Don’t just stand there.” she said, looking up. “I don’t bite, at least not when I first meet somebody.”

I walked in and sat down at the place she motioned to. She began to pile eggs and bacon onto a plate and even still warm buttered toast. From a large thermos she poured steaming coffee into a mug.

“This is very kind of you.” I said, picking up a fork.

“We need to check each other out if I might be working here.” she said. She had a very focused way of looking at one. I’m sure she could spot a phony through concrete.

She took her place at the table and we both began to eat, her side eying me occasionally.

When I had almost finished she said, “So, what are you going to do with this place? Tear it down and build one of those new glass and steel houses?”

“God, no.” I replied. “That’s what I’m coming from.”

“So you’re just going to gut it? Put in new windows, paint everything white and bring in modern furniture?”

“Actually, all I want to do is give the place a good spring type cleaning. Do you know what I mean by that?”

“I ought to.” she said. “I’ve been cleaning all of my life. Spring, summer, fall and winter. Even though nobody does spring cleaning anymore.”

She sat drinking her coffee and finally asked, “You’re going to live in the midst of all of this old stuff.”

“When I was a child, this old stuff was the summit of my aspirations. All of my life, I’ve thought that if I could live like this I’d be rich.”

“Well, I’ve already heard that money doesn’t seem to be a problem for you.” she said.

“That’s a relatively new development.” I replied. “Where I grew up, the rich folks didn’t even live this nice.”

She sat contemplating what I’d told her and then she said, “So what kind of cleaning are we talking about?”

“The old fashioned kind.” I replied. “Walls washed down, floors and windows scrubbed, woodwork cleaned, linens laundered, rugs beaten. If you’re up to it, I’d like to go whole hog and carry all of the furniture outside and give it a washing down, too. I want it done right.”

“I have some girls who help me when I need it.” she said, rising and pulling the dishes together. “We’ll need lights and hot water so you’ll need to arrange all of that. How soon are we talking?”

“I’ll go into town and make the power arrangements as soon as we leave.” I said. “Could you start tomorrow?”

“I’m looking forward to it. I love this old house.” she said.

I watched her as she piled the dishes in the sink. The well water was cold but better than nothing for soaking the dirty china, she said.

As I sat watching, something occurred to me.

“I could swear I locked the front door last night.” I said. “How did you get in?”

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