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Open House

A Short Story By:

Shirindokht Radi

With Many thanks to Ms. Radi  

            She got out of the car and stood in front of the house for a while.  The red brick pathway to the dark blue entrance door was surrounded by purple and white-blossomed flowers.  She started walking toward the house, took a glance at the big "Open House" sign, held in a sigh, and knocked on the door.  A shrieking voice from inside the house invited her to enter.  She pushed on the door and it opened with a high-pitched squeaky noise.  She paused for a moment in the doorframe and looked inside.  The shiny wooden floor caught her eyes and the smell of burnt coffee filled up her nostrils.  A little head, with curly brown hair, ending to a wide smile and a large chin popped from behind the wall and said: "Hi."

             "Hi," she replied. 
             "Come on in, please," the woman in brown business suit said.††
             "I saw the open house sign, I thought, Ö" she mumbled.

The realtor did not let her finish her sentence.  "This is such a beautiful house.  Iím glad you came in.  Youíll love it" Then ran to the table in the corner of the family room and while picking up a cup, she said: "Care for a cup of coffee?" 

            "No thank you," she said.

The woman in the suit handed her a beige business card and with her wide plastic smile extended her right hand and said, "Iím Rosie."

She took the card, shook the womanís hand and forced herself to smile.  She opened her mouth to say her name but she choked.  Rosie took a glance at her and raised her left eyebrow in surprise and said, "Well, I was showing the house to Derrick and Elizabeth.  Call me if you have any question," and left.

She stood in the middle of the room with Rosieís card in one hand, the band of her purse tight in her other hand, and with tears rounded up in her throat ready to suffocate her.  She was afraid to move.  She was afraid she might see him standing there in the corner of the room, smiling as usual, his big red hammer in his hand, and a can of beer next to his boot on the floor.  She breathed deeply and gathered all her force in her right leg and started moving, at first slowly, then with more ease.  She turned around and saw the fireplace.  Right where it always used to be, in the middle of the left wall, with that big white mantle he had made himself, his pride and joy, seventy two pieces of decorated wood to be exact, and the bright silver fancy door that opened to a little burning hole made out of red bricks.  The previous owners, she thought, had taken good care of it.  She got closer to the fireplace, put her fingers on the mantle and dusted off the top.  She felt a fiery sensation in the tips of her fingers, as if fire was blazing inside the fireplace, burning everything getting close to it.  A terrifying feeling came over her that forced her to suddenly jerk away from it and walk toward the hallway to the bedrooms. 

            She opened the first door to her left.  There was the guest bathroom all in blue tiles with white molding, at the top and the bottom.  There was the little round white stylish and old-fashioned sink she picked out herself.  She stepped inside and stood in front of the mirror.  She looked at herself, at her big brown eyes and recognized that familiar sadness that had been with her for the last two years, always in the mirror and in all the mirrors she have looked into.  She looked down at the sink and at the silver-plated soap dish, silvery toothbrush holder and silver towel rack.  She rose up her head and saw him in the mirror standing right behind her. 

He put his arms around her waist and gave a big heavy burp next to her ear, "Iím telling you I donít like this sink.  Sure itís nice but I donít like it.  Itís too small."

She turned around while sucking in the strong smell of Budweiser and Marlboro, "Youíre just being a baby.  First of all neither of us are going to use this bathroom.  Second, itís chic."

            "I donít give a fuck if itís chic or not.  I donít like it."

She took hold of his love handles and started cuddling him.  He smiled a little bit, pulled his head back, and looked straight into her eyes, "I guess itís ok."

            "See, honey," she said, "itís round and you know, nature is round.  You canít find anything in nature with sharp edges.  This way we get closer to mother nature."

            He let go of her, gave out another huge burp and said: 
            "Fuck mother nature. Whatís for dinner?"

She threw the towel at him. "Nothing."  She could hear him laughing loud from the garage, saying nothing is good; nothing is very good.  

            "After the dot-com crash, these people decided to go back to India, so thatís why theyíre selling the house." Rosie was talking to Derrick and Elizabeth while passing through the hallway and forcing a smile at her. 

            "So they did all of this remodeling themselves!" Elizabeth asked.

            She could hear Rosie answering from the master bedroom.  "Oh, no!"  She almost screamed.  "They didnít do it. The couple before them did all this."

            "Anybody die here"?  Derrickís cold, dry voice came through the wall.

            "No dear.  Nobody died.  A young couple bought this house and turned it into what you see right now.  Neighbors say a few bachelors rented this house before them and trashed it so bad that nothing was recognizable.  You canít just blame the guys.  After all, this is a thirty two year old house."

            "WOW, it looks brand new to me," Elizabeth claimed excitedly.

            "Iím telling you, those two did a great job.  The guy did almost everything himself."  Rosie said, "I think."

            "So, what was the problem?"  Derrick asked, in his dry tone of voice, suspicious.  "Why did they sell it to the Indian guy?"

            "Sweetheart, there was probably some good reason for them to sell it," Elizabeth said.  "They probably needed the money."

            "I just want to make sure nobody had died here," Derrick said.

            "I promise you nobody died in this house," Rosie said agitated.  "They got divorced.  At least thatís what the neighbors say."

            She stepped out of the bathroom and while turning into the first room to her right, she took a fast curious glance at Derrick.  His short and heavy mass of body was standing in the middle of the master bedroom, fingers clinched into each other on his back, legs wide apart, moving the tip of his small nose frantically as if he was trying to sniff the smell of a dead body in the room.  She could hear Elizabeth and Rosie breathlessly discussing the double sinks of the master bathroom.   

            She settled in the middle of the empty room, paused for a short while and then slowly started turning in a circle to her left, gazing at gray walls.  Her pride and joy.  Her Pentium III Gateway computer on a Scandinavian design contemporary desk.  Her black Remington 5 typewriter she had bought from an antique shop, on the other end of the desk.  Her very own scanner and her HP laser-jet 1100 printer.  Her books rested next to each other on the shelves.  Allende.  Faulkner.  Bulkagov.  Saiíd.  Things Fall Apart.  Gordimer.  Khayyam.  The Blind Owl.  Chomsky.  Hegel.  Feminism.  Writerís Workshop.  Morrison.  The Setting Sun.  Being and Nothingness.  Rushdie.  Photoshop 4 for Windows.  Kundera.  The Art of the Tale.  Woolf.  Her place.  Her sanctuary.  Her study, a haven.  Hers.  Ö A room of her own.

            Rosie and Elizabeth passed the room in a rush toward the front door and disappeared to the front yard.  Derrick went after them with his eyebrows tangled, ignoring her.  She followed their steps, avoiding the master bedroom.  From the corner of her eye, she saw herself on the bed, wrapped in a white sheet laughing hard at his nude muscular body, childishly jumping up and down in front of her singing in his awful voice. 

            She passed the fireplace room and stepped into the kitchen.  She could hear him crawling through the crawl space, banging on the pipes, pulling the cords, and swearing at all the creatures, their mothers as well as their sisters and their whole family, looking for his flash light, not finding it and swearing again and again and again.  She stood in front of the KitchenAid refrigerator, tempted to open its door and empty all the beer cans into the sink.  The thought of it gave her a rush.  Her heart started pumping fast, causing her chest to move up and down rapidly.  All of a sudden she heard Rosie from behind.

            "Maíam, are you ok?" 
            "Oh, yes," turning around, she said desperately. 
            "For a moment I thought you had problem breathing." 
            "Iím fine," she paused. "Really. Iím fine."

            "Good.  Great," Rosie said and grasped a folder from the top of the counter, and stepped back toward the front door, "I think we have a winner." 

            "I want the house," she yelled almost at the top of her lungs.  Then suddenly she regretted what she had just said. 

Rosie half way through the door, turned around and with wide-open eyes and a chin that looked much larger than it was a few seconds ago, said, "Beg your pardon?"

She stood there in the middle of the kitchen, behind the tiled counter, her knees touching the cold of the maple cabinets, uncertain what to answer.  Rosie, not knowing what to do, paused for a few seconds and hesitantly asked, "Would you like to have a cup of coffee?  It seems you need one."

            "No," she said.  "No."  She swallowed her own saliva and tried to clear her throat with an exaggerated dry cough.  "I said I want the house.  Iíll buy it."

             "Yes," she said firmly.

            "Well, this is so sudden.  I wonder if you always decide fast like this," Rosie burst into a laugh.  She also tried to laugh in return.  "Iíll give this to Derrick and be back soon," Rosie said, pointing at the folder she had in hand.

            She was left alone again.  She saw all their friends dancing to an upbeat music, having the best time.  Christopher, giving her a big hug, kissed her on her lips, "This is a really good party, sweetie, and I think Iím falling in love with your husband."

"Well donít if you want to keep your head on your shoulders."

She heard him say, "Are you sure this Chris guyís a fag?  Otherwise, Iím not gonna have any man kiss my wife on her lips."

            She was standing in the middle of the dance floor when she realized she was singing a tune that he had loved.  She stopped for a moment and listened.  Noises were coming from the front yard.  She could recognize Rosieís shrieking voice inviting a man to see the inside of the house, someone who did not sound like Derrick, someone who was making some kind of joke and was laughing out loud.  Rosie started laughing so hard that she could imagine her needing to use the restroom.  She took a few steps toward the door and just gazed at it, expecting Rosie to come in. 

A hand pushed on the door and it opened with a high-pitched squeaky noise.  The shiny wooden floor reflected the light into her eyes and the soft spring breeze pushed the smell of coffee up her nostrils.  Rosieís little head, with curly brown hair, ending in a wide smile and her large chin popped from behind the door.  He was standing there, behind Rosie, in the doorframe, gazing at her in silence.


 © Shirindokht Radi 2001