Hey, so remember how I blogged about the fact that I had sold a story to the online magazine The Intergalactic Medicine Show? (If not, you can find the post here, including the description of how I came to write the story.) Now that it’s been up on IGMS (here) for over a year, I thought I’d post the actual story on my website, too, for those non-IGMS-subscribers curious how the story ended up looking.
Real Estate Listing
By Ari B. Goelman
I’m not going to tell you your business, but I’m thinking it’s pretty clear we shouldn’t mention the deaths in the listing.
It’s a nice house. Plenty of other things to say about it. The location, for one thing. You’ll probably want to call it the ‘red hot south Main area.’ The roof is only two years old. Great light in almost every room. We had the original fir floor sanded and restained less than a year ago. Just to make the place look nicer. There were no blood stains to remove. The people who’ve killed themselves in the house have all hung themselves, so why would there be blood stains?
It’s not like anyone has ever been murdered there. Not to my knowledge. The incidents that did take place in the house have been greatly exaggerated.
Anyway, we aren’t going to mention any of that in the listing, right? That would be crazy. And I’m sure no one has ever called you crazy, not with your silver BMW, and those big smiling pictures of you on the real estate signs. That’s how I found you, by the way. I liked your smile and the way that most of your signs said ‘SOLD’ beneath your picture and phone number. I wanted to go with a winner. Doesn’t everyone?
The only problem with winners is, sometimes when you’re looking at winners, or even pictures of winners, it can make you feel a little bit like a loser. I’m not talking about your picture. Your picture is great. I was thinking of some pictures I found in the house, pictures of people who were obviously winners. ‘People’ might be the wrong word.
Have I mentioned that I’m ready to sell the house below market value? Whatever it takes to move it as quick as possible. The listing can call me a ‘motivated seller’ if you think that would help. Easy money for you, right? A few showings and you walk away with your twenty grand commission. I pay off the mortgage, and send the rest to my mother to help with the kids.
None of this has to do with ghosts. The place doesn’t have ghosts. I mean, sure, I caught the odd glimpse of a fancy gown. And, I won’t lie – even now, sometimes I find I have this amazing taste in my mouth as though I’ve just eaten something delicious, though I haven’t actually eaten anything all day. But ghosts? Never.
I could have used some ghosts, let me tell you. Better than getting home from work to find my wife sitting at the dining room table, sobbing, the kids squalling on the floor, hungry.
‘I had no time to cook,’ my wife would tell me, tears streaming down her face, the photo albums open in the center of the table. I’d get the kids something to eat, get them to bed and come downstairs to find my wife washing her hands with heated milk. Looking back, I don’t know why that got me so mad. Because, really, who hasn’t had the urge to wash their hands with something warm and nourishing? In those pictures I mentioned – the ones of the winners – there was this one photo where the people were laughing and washing their hands with a dark red liquid they’d been drinking a moment before. ‘People’ might be the wrong word.
Looking back, I think my wife had just spent a little more time with the pictures than I had. At that point. I’ve caught up since then. Oh man, have I caught up. Once you start – I mean seriously start – looking at the pictures it’s hard to stop. Even though it can make you feel bad, looking at pictures of beings who are that great. It can make you feel weak, looking at pictures of people who so beautifully, wonderfully, strong. People might be the wrong word.
Speaking of pictures, you’ll want to take some pics of the house, right? Feel free to do whatever you need to. Walk through the house — take a home inspector with you, check that everything’s in tip-top shape. Whatever you have to do. Make sure the inspector looks in the attic. Both attics. The one in the house and the one in the garage. They get lazy sometimes, home inspectors, so busy going through their checklist they barely have their eyes open.
Our inspector definitely missed the garage attic. I didn’t even notice the garage had an attic, not until after we closed on the place. I was moving our bikes into the garage (what a thought! — We used to own bikes! I used to be the dutiful father, organizing the garage. Ha! You gotta laugh or you’d cry, am I right?)
Anyway, I saw the little panel in the ceiling, put up my ladder and found a few feet of storage space between the garage ceiling and the roof. There was a big wooden chest there – the kind of thing my mother would have stored linen in. Made of an expensive-looking dark wood, elaborately carved. Probably worth something to some collector somewhere.
You can check it out yourself if you’re interested. I put the chest back up there a few days ago, after my wife… After she did what she did, and I started clearing out the house. I put the photo albums back inside the chest. By then, I’d looked at them so much I couldn’t forget them if I wanted to. Not that I want to forget them. No way.
I put them back, exactly the way I had found them. Two old-fashioned photo albums stacked together in the chest – each one the size of a big laptop computer, heavy, with their covers embossed with real silver. They were both filled with hundreds of pictures, all of a fancy dress ball. There were all these people dressed up and having a party. People might be the wrong word. These … entities being bigger and taller and stronger than any human could ever be, that’s for sure.
There might have been some cooking oil up there, too. I get this funny taste in my mouth thinking about the chest, a taste which makes me think of eating delicious crispy things that maybe screamed a little when they were fried. It sort of gives me a headache thinking about the attic and the chest and the albums. Thinking about the things in the pictures. Their eyes especially.
I’d lie awake at night, looking at the pictures, and their eyes would stare right back at me. I’d find myself thinking about what would happen if the things in the pictures came back to get their photo album. Thinking about how, if they came back, they’d be horribly – not so much angry, as disappointed – to find me there. Holding their photo albums, looking at them having a party, even though I was so little and insignificant they’d never have noticed me, not if I wasn’t holding their photo albums.
I’d never have been invited to their party, not even as the food, not as pasty and soft as I am. They’d like you better, I’m sure. You must work out every day, am I right? Your arms are amazing. I’m positive they’d have invited you to the party, though you might not have liked the role they wanted you to play.
Anyway… The point is that I’m a motivated seller. The point is that this place is beautiful.
Did I mention the chandelier in the master bedroom? Make sure you check out the chandelier when you take the walk through. You’ll probably want to include it in the listing. Something like: “Wrought iron, beautifully crafted chandelier…”
No one’s ever hung themselves from that chandelier, but man they totally could. That chandelier would be like, ‘wham, I barely notice the weight of this puny little human hanging from me!’ That’s how strong it is. How sturdy the whole place is.
Not like us — humans, I mean — who are weak, weak, weak.