I found this story from a few years ago, which I wrote when we were in the midst of moving, yet again. I actually considered it for SciFiBuddha’s instafreebie – free story event… but it is, alas, too short… and though barely edited, I think it is tolerable, and I hope you will enjoy it.
THE SLUMLORD by T. Riggs Copyright© 2016
Drip. Drip… Drip. Damn faucet! Rachel got up from the kitchen table to pull the handle down and to the right, just enough to get it to stop. As she walked away, the ringing sound of the water hitting the stainless steel sink again made her cringe. Drip. Drip…
Tired, she dragged her feet as she walked through the kitchen and into the living room. Mother F..! She bit her lip and lifted her right foot up to survey the damage. The nails in the transition piece that separated the vinyl from the carpet had given away a long time ago. There was a small tear in her sock and a short scrape on the bottom of her big toe showed through, red, but not bleeding.
The sound of a techno dance mix ring tone broke the morning din of Rachel’s annoyance.
She opened her oversized Coach purse and, from a neat little sequined pouch, pulled out her series 7 Iphone. It was her new favorite and she announced whenever possible, in that sing-songy voice reserved for all acquisitions, “It. Is. AWEsome!”
Using the pad of an index finger to swipe the screen to answer, Rachel was careful not to scrape her perfectly manicured French tip on the glass. “Hey there… r’you on the way?” She paused to listen, the phone barely to her ear, avoiding the freshly sprayed curls she had yet to brush through. “Oh. Okay… well, I’ll be out in a few…” She shrugged, pressed the screen gingerly and, placing it back into the neat pouch, tossed the phone back into her purse.
Dressed in a dark grey dress suit with a crisp white dress shirt collar and sleeves peeking out at her neck and elbows, Rachel stepped out onto the porch and tugged the door closed roughly. As she turned to lock the deadbolt on the door, the heel of one of her Ralph Lauren sling-back pump got caught in one of the pits of the cratered concrete and she lost her balance for a second. She shook her head and turned around, navigating the holes and made her way to the grey sedan waiting out front.
“We’re gonna be late again, Rach!” Sue quipped as Rachel settled into the passenger seat.
“Sorry, Sue. The water heater blew and I had a hell of a time getting a shower this morning.”
“Last week it was the toilet, before that, hell, I don’t remember… that house is a falling apart, I honestly don’t know why you stay.” Sue shook her head, shifted into gear and pulled out onto the road. She glanced back in the rear-view at the badly mowed yard and shingled roof that had that dried out gray look that always preceded disaster.
“It’s all I can afford right now…” Rachel shrugged her shoulders as she smeared on engine red lipstick.
“There’s a house in my neighborhood for sale. It’s not big, but it’s well maintained. You should look at it.”
“Really?” Rachel looked around at the other houses with their neatly manicured lawns, wishing she lived in one that looked as nice. Maybe. “I’ll think about it… maybe call the realtor later.”
“Good, you can’t live like that anymore.”
After work, Rachel met the realtor. The realtor was waiting out front, looking like a cardboard cutout against the backdrop of the ill-kept home. She had long blond hair and was rail thin. Her midnight blue pencil skirt and heels matched. She was wearing a tailored dress shirt that was a few shades lighter. The red nametag with white lettering she wore had the Realty company logo and her name, “Cassandra”.
Forcing a smile, the woman took a few awkward steps forward on the pitted driveway and offered her hand to Rachel. “Hi! I’m Cassandra. You called about a house?”
“Yes, let me find my keys.”
Cassandra waited, clutching her purse and a red and white glossy folder under one arm as Rachel searched for the keys. “Here they are!” Rachel gave her a beaming smile. As she unlocked the door, she chatted.
“I’m so excited! Sue was telling me, that’s the lady that just dropped me off – we work together, anyway… Sue was telling me about the house for sale in her neighborhood.”
“Yes, that’s a nice house. I’ll be happy to set something up for you. Do you have a lender in mind?”
“Oh, no, I should make enough money off the sale of this house to cover it. See, I bought this house, what was it, 12 years ago? Yeah, it was a nice place then, paid a nice price, 15 year mortgage. I figure I got equity enough to buy this other one out-right.”
“Well, come on in… don’t be shy.”
Cassandra was hovering at the front door, hesitant to step in. She cleared her throat. “Ma’am, this is your house?”
Rachel dropped her purse on the coffee table, sending debris flying to the floor. “Um. Yeah? Is there a problem?”
Cassandra cautiously entered. “I thought, uh, this was a rental, it doesn’t… well, this house is not market ready. If you try to sell, like it is… you aren’t going to get much.”
“But all my money is in this house!”
“Well, miss, um, Rachel, it’s not been kept up. 12 years is a long time. Without regular maintenance, a house loses value pretty quickly.”
“I can’t buy another house until I sell this one?!”
“I know some inspectors and contractors. I’m sure they will work with you and give you fair prices.”
Rachel deflated, her excitement waning, she sighed. “By the time I do that, I may as well stay here.”
Cassandra smiled warmly and handed her a business card. “Call me when you decide your next move, I will be glad to help.”
The door shut, then shut again, as Cassandra managed to pull it closed completely, leaving Rachel alone in the center of her cluttered and trash strewn living room.