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Rated: 13+ · Non-fiction · Contest Entry · #1803428
A sobering thought of how some people manage to get through a day w/o a map and flashlight
Cover Art for contest entry of non-fictional, comedic flash fiction



Four score and seven wines ago, we brought forth a naive notion to sell our condo by owner… conceived in frugality and intoxicated by the supposition that all people are created stable. Not by a long shot, friend.

Lincoln may have hit a homerun with his version at Gettysburg, but the audience we addressed was more like a coterie of chuckleheaded cuckoos. Yes, they do exist, and there’s lots of them. They’re flightless, featherless, and brainless… walking willy-nilly among us as living proof that truth is stranger than fiction.

Our befuddled adventures began when my wife, Amy, and I decided it was time to move from our condo. Though it was a great building and we loved our unit, we looked forward to the change. No more waiting on elevators; a garden versus a balcony flower basket; more privacy without dozens of residents coming and going; no board meetings, association compliance or assessment squabbles, and so on.

All things considered, we thought listing in a suburban ‘For Sale by Owner’ flyer made the most economical sense. We were giddy as the ad was in and read delectable… an elegant three-bedroom penthouse atop a lone high-rise in the middle of a private golf course, and only a half-hour commute by train to Chicago’s Loop. Floor-to-ceiling windows in every room afforded panoramic views of tree-lined fairways, blazing sunsets, and a resplendent suburban skyline at night. Perfect!

It was late spring and with expectations of a quick sale given such amenities, we were upbeat for an early summer move to a little slice of horse-heaven we had found in the country.

The plan was simple. The wife would field calls, set appointments, and handle the bulk of showings while I was at work. A slam dunk— or so we thought.

Thence they came. Single or married, young or old, blue-collar or professional… it didn’t matter. One after another a steady parade of ninnyhammers invaded.

A single middle-aged man was first to call for an appointment. Our central foyer opened directly into a spacious living room and dining area, the entire width walled with glass, each twelve-foot segment framed by custom tapestry drapes. Without hesitation upon entering, he hastily brushed past the wife and with hands on hips, stopped short of a sliding glass panel and stood staring at the vista.

“Good lord, lady,” he blurted. “Will ya look at that? This ain’t good.”

“Look at what? Is there something wrong?” Panicky, the wife quickly scanned the panel but failed to see anything amiss. “Oh, hold on a sec… perhaps you’re confused,” she politely reasoned. “This one opens and has a sliding screen out to the balcony, see?”

“Maybe so, lady, but that ain’t the problem. Look out there— all that grass. I can’t mow all that,” he said, pointing to the golf course.

She giggled, thinking he was being clever as a prelude to bargaining.

“It’s not funny, lady; I’m serious. I work six days a week and there’s no way I can mow all that!”

“Yes, I see what you mean,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Um, maybe you’re right; maybe this condo isn’t for you. In fact, as big and tough as my husband is, it plum tuckers him out, too. And since he’s due home any minute, it’s probably best you leave now,” and firmly grasped the dim-witted rube by the elbow and walked him to the door.

I think I need a drink. While popping the cork from a fine Bordeaux, a second caller rang. Her hopes renewed, she gleefully answered. “Hello.”

“Hi, there. I’m calling about your condo. Says here it comes with two underground parking spaces?”

“Yes, that’s right, and they’re deeded to the unit, so there’s no added monthly fees. Plus there’s plenty of extra parking spaces for overnight guests as well. Very nice feature, don’t you think?”

“Hmm, that’s really strange,” he uttered, ignoring her enthusiasm. “I’ve been driving by that building for years, and I ain’t never seen ‘em.”

“Um, well, uh— yeah,” the wife stammered. “You see, the building management likes to keep them camouflaged. You know, from intruders, car thieves, stuff like that, ‘n all?”

“Oh, okay, that makes perfect—”

Click.

Within the hour, number three rang. This time, a young city worker arrived for a quick walk through on his lunch break.

“What a nice place you have here… and the view is magnificent,” he marveled upon entering. “I think my wife is really gonna love this.”

Now that’s more like it, my little woman beamed, her faith restored in societal norms. “If you like that view, let me show you the huge kitchen with a sunny breakfast nook overlooking a Par 3 water hole with an island green.”

“Sure thing, lead the way, ma’am.” While following, he posed a question in afterthought. “Oh, by the way, I hear through the grapevine this building is sinking. Is that true, lady?”

“You heard what?” She turned to question. “Who on earth would think… um— never mind.” She thought better of challenging his IQ and responded with a straight face. “Ah, yeah. Forgot about that. Years ago, we used to be on the 22nd floor, now we’re on the 14th. But no worries, there’s plenty of time before it disappears. And who knows, might even stop by the time it gets to be the third floor. But look on the bright side,” she hinted, “your taxes would go down as the building does. You know, the higher the floor, the higher the tax value sort of thing,” she facetiously explained while matching understanding nods as she walked the dufus toward the door. “Bye.”

Oy ve, where do they all come from? sighed. Me thinks I need a bigger glass.

Calls were constant and time of day meant nothing to these dodos, either; like the night we were in bed watching the late show and about to announce ‘lights out’ when the phone rang.

“Now, who in hell could that be?” she grumbled, reaching for the phone.

“Dunno, but if it’s my deadbeat brother, tell him I’m passed out from partying.”

“Hello?” She answered, curiously.

“Yes, I’m calling about the condo for sale and would like to see it while I’m out and about.”

My wife again glanced at the clock thinking her eyes must have betrayed her. “Look, it’s late. Call back tomorrow for an appointment, okay?”

“It’s not that late, ma’am, and I won’t be long so why not now? I just left Taco Bell and can be there in five minutes. Do you want to sell it or not?”

“Ah, we did, but changed our minds. It’s off the market!” she snapped.

“Off the market… since when?”

“What time is it?”

“Uh, about 11:30.”

“Since 11:29, you taco wacko!” and slammed the phone down so hard, I was amazed it stayed in the cradle.

The following day was bright and sunny, perfect for putting the growing list of lunatics behind her, but it was not meant to be as the day morphed into one of disaster.

Several neighbors who knew Amy also lauded her culinary talents. To some, cooking may be a stressful chore, but for her it was a creative labor of love, sometimes akin to therapy... something she could use at the moment. On this day, a very nice neighbor across the hall who thinks ‘basil and rosemary’ were star-crossed lovers in a Shakespeare play, asked for help with hosting a bridal shower for their daughter.

Amy obliged and spent the morning preparing a variety of authentic hors d’oeuvres from a half dozen countries around the world. Oddly, but a welcome relief, the phone remained quiet all morning as she placed the last of the delicious appetizers on a multi-level serving carousel, covered the centerpiece with towels, and placed a congratulatory card on top entitled: ‘Carrie’s Bridal Shower’ when the phone rang.

What a pleasant change from the herd of nitwits, my wife smiled moments after greeting a cordial middle-aged couple who arrived promptly on time for their scheduled appointment. They were polite, asked all the right questions, and seemed truly interested as my wife enjoyed exchanging decorative ideas with ‘Mrs. Manners’ as they toured the unit.

“I just love these drapes and valances,” she commented. “Do they stay?”

“Yes, they do. I designed them myself but had the cornices custom made by a master cabinet maker.”

“I see. You’re very talented; they’re absolutely beautiful,” the woman said, admiring the fine French brocade. “Would you mind showing me the master bedroom again? Your taste and decorator skills have inspired some ideas that might match our bedroom set, and I’d like your input.”

“Of course,” my wife agreed as they sauntered to the opposite end of the unit, chattering away about color schemes and fabrics while paying little heed to the husband on a self-directed inspection of the laundry and mechanical rooms before venturing into the kitchen to admire its twenty-three birch cabinets above a tiled backsplash of travertine marble.

They say time flies when having fun, and that was the case by the time the two magpies emerged from their home decorating session to rejoin hubby in the kitchen.

“Well, did you two manage to get things figured out?” he said, licking his fingers. “Got any pop or a beer, lady?”

“Oh my god!” Amy froze. “What have you done!” She screamed, staring at a severely decimated bridal buffet sitting on the kitchen table. “You’ve ruined it!”

“Huh? What d’you mean? Didn’t you leave these out here for us? They’re delicious.”

“Are you that stupid? It was covered up and had a Bridal Shower card addressed to Carrie on it!”

“No need to get so riled up, for Christ’s sake. All I asked for was a beer.”

“I’ll for crissake you… you ignorant moron. Now get the hell out, both of you!”

“Now hold on there,” his wife interrupted with a ‘not-his-fault’ tone in defense of her husband. “He was just hungry; he had no lunch today.”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass if he’s been on a forty-day fast. Can’t he read? He’s a bloody idiot! I’m not here to feed him or anyone else, now get him out of here before he has no teeth left to eat anything with,” she growled, and pushed them through the door.

“But what about selling the con—” Slam! “—do?”

The next day was a multiple un-corker as a pompous engineer was first to enter, and within minutes, demanded to see the building’s original construction plans. Now why in hell would I have those, she thought, of a hundred-unit tower built twenty-odd years ago? Her visibly skewed expression invited an answer from him before she could even respond to the inane request.

“That's right, lady. How do I know this wall isn’t a quarter inch off?”

“Out!”

Or the young couple who asked: “Can we spend the weekend? You know, stay a couple nights as a trial run to see if we like it?”

“Out!”

Or the flaky floozy, after being advised the front rooms were freshly painted, suddenly flattened herself against the living room wall and with outstretched arms, she began smelling it, caressing it— all the while writhing with orgasmic moans when she abruptly snapped to, straightened her jacket in a dignified manner, and marched out with her nose in the air citing she couldn't live anywhere but for a certain brand of paint.

“O-o-o-kay… enjoy your flings with Sherwin, girl. Out!”

By Friday, another trip to the liquor store was needed as the flock of featherheads kept on coming— like the loony couple who upon entering, sat down at the kitchen table and announced they weren’t really interested in the unit, but rather petitioned Amy to act as an impartial sounding board, sort of a personal Dr. Laura to adjudge their indiscretions of a failing marriage.

Same day, a feeble old lady arrived who expressed her abject fear of elevators and demanded my wife meet her in the lobby to physically carry her up fourteen flights of stairs.

It took nearly the entire weekend for me to console my frazzled bride. “What were the odds that so many nutjobs would show up one after the other?” I tried mollifying matters by suggesting the past two weeks had to be a fluke. “You’ve seen things like this happen before, of how new listings seem to induce a bunch of nosy busy-bodies with nothing better to do than spy on what people have or how they live.”

“Like the wench who helped herself to my Chanel No. 5 at $300 bucks an ounce, you mean? Remember that one?”

Ugh! I cringed when recalling that brazen Jezebel, along with the s.o.b. she caught pouring himself a jigger of a very fine and expensive scotch from my office liquor cabinet.

“Well, they’re history now, hon, and showings will surely get back to the norm, I expect. You’ll see.” I proposed that logic and the law of averages supported such reasoning that any more mindless yahoos running loose were highly unlikely. She became more chipper and eventually conceded to resume her role as our private realtor.

The following week tended to confirm my contentions when the first two prospects appeared rather promising. Her first appointment was a newlywed couple in their mid-twenties who were looking to buy their first dream home.

Yes! She flashed a thumbs up. Finally, maybe this time it’ll be the real deal for a change, especially after learning the Mrs. was gainfully employed as a registered nurse, and that her husband would be joining her directly from his union job in construction.

“Oh, my,” the Mrs. cooed. “What a lovely unit, and so big with gorgeous views,” she said upon passing my wife tending the door. “Come see this, honey,” she beckoned to hubby about three strides behind her in the hall. The moment he appeared, Amy’s eyes widened in total disgust at his dirt-encrusted coveralls, a deeply soiled jacket, and mud-caked work boots that marked his steps from the elevator.

“And where do you think you’re going?” she glared, squaring off should-to-shoulder with the thoughtless slob before he could cross the threshold.

“Huh, what d’ya mean? I wanna see the place, too; the views.”

“Over my dead body, you bloody will.”

“Are you crazy, lady. It’s only for a quick look and my wife can check out the rest.” He flashed a flippant smile and got a half step in the air when my ninety-five-pound British bride delivered a gridiron stiff-arm that would have knocked Walter Payton back ten yards.

“Why are you being so rude, ma’am?” Mrs. ‘Ditchdigger’ railed, quickly joining them. “Let him in. Don’t you wanna sell the place? We’re ready to buy, y’know.”

“Rude? I’ll give you rude… look at the state of him and the trail of mud he left in the hall! You must live in a pigsty if you let him in like that every night. Well, you can keep your precious little dirtbag, sister, ‘cuz I ain’t cleaning up after him. Now scoot.”

Amy hooked the insolent woman’s waist and moved her through the door as well. “Goodbye, good luck, and good riddance.”

With one prospect down, and after decanting a fresh Merlot before calling me at work, she took the better part of the afternoon to ponder the chances of ever selling our unit. During our chat, she felt more hopeful about the second caller, a retired CPA and wife who were looking to downsize to condo living since their children were grown with families of their own.

“They had just sold their home and seemed really interested,” my wife related, “but he wanted to know more about taxes, association fees, special assessments and stuff like that. I’d feel much better if you were here to handle those things when they arrive. Can you make it here in time to help?”

“No problem, sweetie. I’ll leave right after the markets close and catch an early train. I should be there by about four.”

“Oh good, luv. I could sure use a pick-me-up. Had another crazy goofball today and the building’s super pitched a holy fit after seeing the hallway carpet. I’ll explain later when you get here.”

My wife and I were into antiques, focused mostly on smaller accent pieces she felt would complement our overall motif and color patterns. One particular find she had fallen in love with years ago was a late 19th century Tiffany floor lamp worth several grand. The wide, convex shades consisted of six semi-translucent stained-glass panels, each shaped like large amaryllis petals. Very delicate strands of tiny colored beads were strung with fine silken threads that hung from the bottom of each petal. Combined, the dainty fringe formed a lovely floating mosaic of flowers.

Soon after they arrived, I too anticipated success since they planned on moving soon, could pay cash, and showed genuine interest in the unit’s features as well as confirming financial details when touring our spacious penthouse. While the husband and I were busy reviewing building bylaws and association fees at the dining table, I had sent Amy to my office to retrieve tax receipts and utility bills when our focus was suddenly shattered upon her return.

“What in hell are you doing!” my wife screamed. “Take your bloody hands off my lamp and get out!”

Her shouts startled me and the husband, and just as we looked up, a handful of papers went fluttering across the room.

“Look at what that Neanderthal did to my lamp!” Amy charged and grabbed the dingbat by her arm and swiftly marched her to the door.

While the three of us had been preoccupied with sharing details, none of us noticed the CPA’s wife amble over to the rare antique, and for some ungodly reason, decided to braid over half the fragile beaded strands into a mess of tangled knots.

“I– I don’t know what to say,” the man said.

“Well I do— go! Now!”

“I’m terribly sorry, sir. I can’t believe my Emily did that. It’s not like her.” He continued to apologize as I picked up his pen and shoved it into his breast pocket, spun him around, and walked him to the door. “But we’d really love to know more about this…”

“I said you’d best get your Emily out of here before my wife twists her into a gazillion knots. Now, go. Please.”

As my wife remained sitting on the adjacent sofa, weeping with face in hands, I took my time and ever so gently managed to meticulously untangle each strand with only a minimal amount of repair needed.

The poor girl, I sighed. By now, I was truly sensitive to what she must have been going through, regretting I once teased about what we saved on realtor fees, we had probably spent on booze.

Until now, I hadn’t realized just how many screwballs she had to contend with in only three weeks. But on and on they came— eighty-seven of them who mystified me as to how so many clueless imbeciles manage to get through a normal day without a map and flashlight.

The coup de grâce came when without a single offer, our thirty-day listing was about to expire. Still optimistic, I caught more early trains home to help with inquiries or appointments. As usual, I arrived home at about four, and upon entering, stood in the archway of the kitchen making idle chit-chat as the little woman finished placing the last peeled potato in a pan on the countertop.

“So, how’d your day go, baby?”

“Don’t ask… the bloody twits.” She definitely wasn’t sharing my cheerful mood. “Two more called today and I’ve had it! I quit, I tell ya! I quit! You try dealing with the bloody bozos! I’m done! Fini!”

Given such finality, I thought it best to remain mum and let her vent as I reached for the phone ringing next to me on the kitchen wall. “Hello?”

While listening to the caller, I could faintly hear my wife grumbling about something from midway in the kitchen, sounding like: “They can’t come. Hang up.” But I ignored her, figuring she was still in a sour mood as I tried to focus on the call.

“Yes, I’m the owner of the condo for sale, how can I…”

“They can’t come,” Amy grizzled a little louder.

“And you say you’re just around the corner and want to come look at it now?”

“I said they can’t come, goddamn it. I know who it is, so hang up!”

“Sure. When you get here, we’re PH Unit 4 on the security panel. See you in a few minutes.” Click. “Now, what was it you were saying, dear?” I innocently smiled at my bride.

Suddenly, the kitchen seemed to darken in sync with her transformation into a demonic five-foot gargoyle, all hunched up with stiffened arms and clenched fists just glaring at me with bloodshot eyes.

“Are you deaf and dumb as well! I – said – they – can’t – come!” She growled, enunciating each word before launching into a tirade that would have rivaled Hitler.

“Ad says by appointment only! They tried pulling the same ‘we’re-in-the-hood’ crap on me just before you got here! First one, then the other dufus. But I knew it was the same bloody boneheads and told them— NO! That I was in the middle of making dinner! To call back later for a goddam appointment. But no-o-o-o— you had to go and say: su-u-u-re, see you in a few minutes,” she added sarcastically. “I swear, you’ve turned into one of them— them’s that walk among us!”

I froze by the phone, wondering what the hell was so wrong. But there were no more words, only gurgles, grunts, and grinding of teeth as she huffed and puffed like a little steam engine when suddenly, in one swift and fluid motion, she grabbed the pan handle and like a Roman catapult, whipped two pounds of potato chunks straight at me.

It seemed like I was in the Kuiper Belt dodging asteroids. In twenty-five years, she had never exploded like this, let alone threw anything more than a kiss at me. Even so, with potatoes strewn about the kitchen and more down the hall, the battle was afoot. I became furious as well. No more Mr. nice guy as I charged to face the satanic blonde in the kitchen.

“That’s it!” I yelled and pounded the countertop. “No more! I’m taking the damned place off the market and you’ll just have to get used to living here. No new house in the country; no garden; no nothin’ but these same ol’ digs! Ya got it? It’s over with!”

“Wrong again, bucko!” she immediately retaliated. “I’m done living here; and I’m done living with you!” She bellowed, and drove the message home with a stiff finger to my chest.

At that instant as if saved by the bell, the security buzzer rang. I snatched the phone from its hook only to hear this phony, cutesy female voice say: “Hi there, we’re here.”

“Yeah, well you’re too damned late. The place is sold!” Click.

I don’t know if too steamed or too afraid of Mini Mt. Vesuvius, but beat a hasty retreat to my office to cool off, kicking a potato wedge through the open bedroom door for a perfect field goal at the end of the hall.

Once in my office I noticed the ‘For Sale by Owner’ booklet on my desk. I hastily thumbed through it, wondering how many other owners had seen their share of such dim-witted pinheads. A minute later, Amy followed and looking over my shoulder, spotted a decent yet much smaller condo I happened to have opened the page to in another suburb.

“That one looks interesting. Shall we go look at it?” she said, ever so casual, as though nothing had happened.

“Nope. Not we, little lady. But you might since you’re gonna need a place to live after dumping me.”

“Ah, I see. Well in that case, hotshot, since this building’s bylaws won’t allow pets, where are you gonna sleep, Fido?”

We looked at each other and simultaneously burst into uproarious laughter, reliving the whole tater-tossing episode and mimicked about every nincompoop who had showed up until tears ran from our eyes. We hugged, and grateful all was fine and fabulous here in Cuckooville, I told her to go freshen up a bit, that I’d take her out for a Gino’s deep-dish pizza and a bottle of fine Chianti.

“Ugh, no wine,” she waved it off. “Went through a gallon of Gallo already today.”

“Oh, by the way,” I said, still giggling. “You’ll probably find a potato in your shoe closet ‘cuz I scored one for Liverpool,” her favorite soccer club when living in England.

“I know, I saw. But better keep your day job, handsome, cuz Pele you’re not,” she quipped, triggering more chuckles as she ambled into the bedroom and I back to the kitchen.

While picking up scattered potato wedges, a few sobering thoughts popped into my head. I believe it was Ben Franklin who once said something akin to: ‘everyone is born totally ignorant, but one has to work really hard at staying stupid.’

Hmm… and they breed and vote, too? “Uh… is there any more wine left, hon?”






w.d. 4239

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