No kidding, everybody knows the cost of living in Honolulu is outrageous. To own a home here is a dream that may never come true for many. If you have enough money, a place out on the Ewa Plain and beyond may be within your reach, but to find and then buy a home anywhere in the Honolulu area, from Hawai’i Kai out to, say, Moanalua, well, good luck with that now days.
This particular house was quite a bit outside their price range. Every time they drove past the place, they wondered about the people who lived there. Two things they could guess easily. First, that the owners were content to stay put until they sold the house, and second, they were sticking to their asking price come hell or high water.
They’d noticed the For Sale sign over a year ago. Every couple of weeks they would call the realtor whose name was posted on the sign. He’d not heard from the owners at all, and they’d not returned his calls about accepting a price drop or holding an open house.
It surprised the couple that no one who had the money had bought the house yet. It was a beautiful place. Charming, they thought. She called it a gingerbread house. He said it reminded him of the kind of house you might see in Switzerland, an alpine style, shingles all around. It was newly painted, undoubtedly to make the house more marketable. The owners had chosen a creamy lighter brown body color with a dark brown trim. It did look a little like gingerbread.
They never saw the owners outside, but the yard was immaculate, a miniature masterpiece of topiaries and flowers of all kinds and colors. The always neatly cut lawn was a brilliant green, accented around the borders by a dark green dense Mondo grass frame. There were mango and guava trees you could just see in the back, along with a much taller and abundantly fruiting avocado. The couple wondered sometimes, if perhaps, deep down, the owners really didn’t want to sell. Obviously, they didn’t need to, being in no apparent hurry.
The young couple could hardly stand their living situation any longer, renting at a monthly rate that, while it was not equivalent to what a monthly mortgage on the dream home would be, was still money being thrown away, as far as they were concerned.
They were sick of being crammed into the Salt Lake area they’d nicknamed the Valley of the Condos. They could stand no longer being able to see and be seen by their neighbors through windows that faced each other just a stone’s throw apart. It was unnerving when neighbors would actually wave at them in almost embarrassed recognition of the forced circumstance of tight accommodation that existed there.
When they were just about at the breaking point, were about ready to give it all up and try for a place way out on the West Side, she came home one day and told him she’d been surprised at work that morning with a huge promotion. The increase in salary, she figured, would give them just about enough to qualify for a mortgage on the Tantalus property.
So they called the realtor, confirmed, sadly, that the price still stood, then went to their bank, and barely qualified for a monstrous loan that would enslave them for somewhere just under eternity.
Armed with the backing of monetary confidence, the couple agreed to meet the realtor at the home in order to discuss the sale with the owners. Since the owners only let their phone go to voicemail, and never returned his calls, the realtor told them that it would be best if they simply hoped that the owners were home at the time.
At the agreed upon hour, the young couple met the realtor outside the beautiful home on Round Top. All three agreed that the yard was fantastically beautiful, that the whole scene was something out of a fairy tale. The realtor pointed to the closed garage door and mentioned that it could actually hold three cars should there ever be that need.
“You could even convert it into a rental unit, if you needed the income to help with the mortgage,” he said. The three walked up the long driveway. “As you can see, you’d have no problem parking along here if you did convert the garage.”
The couple nodded, agreed, but deep in their hearts, they did not want to have anyone living in the house besides them. And their children, of course, when the time arrived.
They arrived at the front door. “Ready?” the realtor asked.
Both nodded and smiled.
The realtor rang the doorbell. They waited. He rang the doorbell again. Then he knocked. Then knocked again, more loudly, calling out, “Mister Nishimura? Missus Nishimura?” He paused. “Connie? Jack? Anybody home?”
“Well,” the realtor said, “fortunately the Nishimuras have given me permission to show the house even if they’re out, so I have a key. Wait till you see the interior. It’s stunning.”
He put the key in the lock and turned it. He pushed on the door but was unable to budge it.
“The moisture up here,” he said, “you know, it’s sticky when the wood swells.”
He put his shoulder to the door and shoved hard. The door swung open.
The couple couldn’t believe what they saw. They were definitely stunned. There were cobwebs everywhere. The dust on the floor, as they stepped in, seemed to be an inch thick.
The realtor flipped on the great entrance hall light switch. “Well,” he said, “they seem to be paying the electricity bill, at least.”
The furniture looked like it had been attacked by the rats and mongooses of Round Top. Paintings and pictures were askew on the walls. Some had fallen to floor. Broken glass and china, together with broken furniture, were strewn across the floor. There was graffiti on the walls, banister posts were missing. It was unbelievable.
A further inspection of the house revealed that it was in ghastly condition all the way around. Definitely, no one had lived here for a long time.
“But the outside,” the husband said, “everything looks so perfect. Are they living somewhere else? Hiring a gardener?”
“Not that I know of,” said the realtor. “Jack and Connie both love yardwork. They’ve always done it themselves. They both have very green thumbs. Two each.”
They walked into the dining room.
“Oh my God,” the wife said. The dining table was set for a party. There was food, old, desiccated, vermin and insect ravaged meats and vegetables. Cobwebs laced the scene like mosquito netting.
“It like something out of Bleak House,” the husband said.
“I think you mean Great Expectations,” said the wife.
“Oh, yes, right,” he said. “I’m thinking Miss Havisham is going to come through the door any instant.”
“No wedding cake,” the wife said.
The husband nodded. “Oh, right, right.”
Hold on,” the realtor said, as they walked into the kitchen.
He went to the phone. “Well, the machine’s lit up,” he said. He picked up the receiver and listened. “It’s working,” he said. “There are a few messages on the machine.” He hit the play button. Amazingly, all the messages were the ones from him. He went through each one. Yes, no messages from anyone but him.
“What on earth is this?” the husband said. “This is pretty damn creepy, man.”
“This is horrible,” said the wife. “This whole thing is absolutely horrible.”
The realtor said, “I think I’d better call the police. Something’s not right here.”
“That’s the understatement of the year,” the husband said.
“This is horrible,” the wife said again.
“But the house?” the realtor asked. “You’re still interested in the house, aren’t you?”
The young couple looked at each other, grimmaced, then looked back at the realtor.
“Ah,” said the wife, “there’s a lot more work that needs to be put in than we can afford, you know, on top of the mortgage.”
“Yeah,” the husband said, “what all needs to be done to restore the interior and all, we can’t afford to do that right now.”
“But it’s just cleaning, painting, some woodwork and floor repair,” said the realtor. “Surely it would be worth the additional cost to own your dream home.”
“Well no, not really,” the husband said.
“No,” the wife said, “I wouldn’t want to live here. This is all a little bit too scary for me.”
“Okay,” the realtor said, “if you say so. But if you change your minds, please get in touch with me.”
“I’m afraid,” said the wife, “we won’t be changing our minds.”
The couple left while the realtor was dialing 911. They took one last look at the home, got into their car shaking their heads, and then drove back to Salt Lake, to their stuffy little condominium.
Once they’d gone, the realtor hung up his phone.
“Do you think they’ll call back?” Mrs. Nishimura asked, coming to his side.
No,” the realtor said, “they’re definitely not interested anymore.”
“I’m kinda glad,” said Mr. Nishimura, joining them. “They obviously weren’t the right people to buy our home.”
“Can we take down the sign now?” the realtor asked.
“Oh no,” said Mrs. Nishimura. “I still want to wait to see if we can find a couple that’s a good fit for our home.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Nishimura, “someone perfect will come along eventually.”
“All right,” the realtor said, “but I think you have to lower the price a bit.”
“Never,” said the Nishimuras together.
“The prefect person,” said Mrs. Nishimura, “the ideal couple or family. Whoever it is, they’ll meet the price.”
“Aren’t you getting a little tired of living in the garage?” the realtor asked.
“Oh, no, not at all,” said Mr. Nishimura. “Now that we’re retired, we need very little of anything, including space.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Nishimura said, “we need almost nothing, nothing at all.”
* * * * *
Today’s writing prompt is
Use it to inspire a piece of writing, and then post that piece as a comment below. I’d love to read it : )