Look!” my wife cried.
“Where?” I asked.
“Right there,” she said, jabbing at a cluster of mailboxes.
“I don’t see a thing.”
“Pull in the driveway.”
“Now, lean out the door and read the sign.”
“The one that reads OPEN HOUSE.”
“Let’s take a peek, it will be fun.”
The last thing I wanted to do was peek at an open house but like so many things I do not want to do, moments later I was doing it.
The realtor greeted us as we squeezed into the kitchen.
“The kitchen is small,” she conceded. “but if you were to take out this wall.” She waved her hand as if to magically make it disappear. “You would have an ‘open concept’ kitchen.”
Certain words affect people in strange ways. The words “open concept” work on my wife the same way ‘free beer’ works on a thirsty paving crew.
“YES!” she gushed, “we could…”
Holy Cow! How did we get from “take a peek’ to ‘we could’?
For the first time, I took a hard look at the place. It was an older two story farm house, located about six miles outside a small city – which in rural Minnesota means close to shopping.
It had a barn. A big plus for me though I did not like the way it flinched from the prevailing wind. The outbuildings were both plumb and square, and had remained so without the benefit of proper footings – but the house was what concerned me.
“The garage is attached, “ I noted, “but how do you get from the house to the garage? There is no connecting door.”
The realtor fielded the question and pitched it to my wife, “You could move the master bedroom to the other side of the house and make an entryway with a mud-room.”
“You need a mud-room,” my wife informed me.
With dollar signs whirling before my eyes, I fled downstairs to inspect the bones of the house. What I found mortified me.
The plumbing was a stunning piece of abstract art fashioned from odd bits of rusted iron, cobbled copper and pasted PVC. Hot and cold water lines chased each other recklessly in and out of joists, repeatedly crisscrossing paths in a madcap game of tag across the basement.
But that was the least of the issues.
The wiring really worried me. It is rare to find a fuse-box in use these days – but this place had three of them. All home wiring – and not one box bore an inspection sticker – but they made up for it with a lot of spare change used in lieu of fuses.
The furnace sulked in a dark corner. I tried to approach it – but quickly and wisely reversed course. Fleeing up the stairs, I found the ladies whirling through the house blasting away walls and tossing major appliances about with their imaginations.
It is when I got a weird sensation..
Imagine being at the top of a ski-jump. All around you is bright blue sky and glistening white snow – but when you look down, you see a ramp plummeting toward a place where there is no ramp – and then you feel an almost imperceptible movement – no more than a twitch – and you are on your way.
If I did not stop this, we would be buying a house.
The realtor sensed my fear.
“Why don’t you check out the water feature?” she suggested, pointing toward a line of cattails nodding in the wind beyond a low-slung building.
So I went out to explore the water feature. Whatever that was.
It was peaceful out there. A stiff breeze burnished the brackish water and a pair of geese glided over the windbreak. As they cleared the last pine, they set their wings to drop onto the water – but flared away instead. Perhaps I spooked them.
Soon the ladies joined me.
Approaching the water’s edge, my wife asked, “What’s that?”
“Oh, that’s the water feature,” the realtor said.
“Water feature?” my wife exclaimed, “I grew up on a farm and I know what a hog-manure lagoon is.”
“Really?” the realtor remarked, “oh well, let’s head back into the house and see what we can do with the upstairs.
“I don’t think so,” my wife said – then turning to me, she hissed, “I’ve seen all I want to see.”