Selling The Farm.
| It's amazing what you'll meet on the road around here. I'm heading east for the drugstore in Chatham on a sunny Saturday morning to pick up my Centrum Silver. Waylon’s into a "Slow Rollin' Low" on this CD, but my mind is elsewhere, meandering through the byways of the coming Fall. The way veers sharply to the left. Vision of oncoming traffic is blocked by an orchard. I've just put the car in fifth and, by instinct I steer for the outside of the turn, in this case toward the shoulder. It's an unspoken wisdom of driving that many never learn.
Halfway through the turn my view clears. The driver of a westbound express train, in the form of an orange cement truck, its mixer churning, is veering toward the outside of HIS curve, the center line. He has miscalculated a little. My little piece of plastic and steel shakes as he roars by. We might have shaken hands except that his cab was too far above my driver's window. The dog, my constant back seat driver, tells him off.
Away from my Nemesis, my mind heads back into a fog, and when I arrive in Chatham, I forget about my nostrum. The dog needs a walk. I choose the shopping center. As she ambles about, I block the spinning monster out of my mind and try to continue thoughts of the new home in New Jersey. An alarm goes off; before I move I must visit my wife and daughter in the glade in the mountains. I laugh to myself, thinking that 'Big Orange' almost had me take a trip to the Stone Farm, or wherever some lucky soul will deposit my ashes.
Had the rolling mixer's aim been better, or my driving worse, there would still be the three acres about my place to use, but I remember that my instructions for burial omitted my wish not to be interred under a sumac. After burying me, that lucky person can take over the selling of this place. What a pity that would be! I would have shuffled off just after honing my famous guided tour to perfection.
The Realtor’s sign went up Thursday, and since that morning, there has been scarcely a moment when a car or two is not pulling into my driveway, filled with other agents and prospects. The first word out of the professionals’ mouths usually is, "You know the house, lead the way." I should have prerecorded a message and rented cassette recorders with earphones to the home seekers. The cat suggested a gift shop while the dog thought crackers and cheese might be even better. Seems like everyone is trying to make an easy buck from the end of this dream and the start of a new one.
On my way home from Chatham, I passed Bob’s Mower Service in Ghent. Lawnmowers blanket his ground; weeds cover some of the mowers waiting for service or parts. On Tuesday Bob nicked me for the cost of a new machine so that buyers could reach my front door without walking through calf-high grass. I’m not sure if he saw me coming or not, but I was a bit incredulous that he did not have a cheap used cutter. “You can use the new one for years at your new home,” was his reasoning. I did not have the heart to tell him that I could probably trim the grass there with a scissors, something for which I am thankful.
There was a message on my answer machine when I arrived home after my latest brush with immortality. It was my agent, confirming that buyers would be shown the property at one, two and three o’clock. I would have enough time to burn the flaking paint off the outside of the kitchen door and repaint it, which I did. As I dabbed the white cover-up over the surface, the dog explained to the cat that Mr. Jimson was preparing the house for more visitors. The feline, still miffed that she could not sell dead mice in an alcove near the exit, retired to the top of the kitchen cabinets.
By being up there she missed the man in the pickup who saw the “Sale” sign and pulled in my drive. He was from a village nearby, the name of which he spat out with contempt. He and wife were looking for a better home, or so he said. He accepted my offer to see the inside and by the time we emerged from the garage, I was ready to take his check for a down payment, but as always happens, he had ‘just one more question.’
“Chatham Central School District.”
“My wife wants Taconic Hills or Ichabod Crane, not Chatham or Hudson.”
I gave him an ear for a few seconds, then reverted to my best Claude Rains “Shocked, shocked” mode, reminding him that my neighbor, a big wig in state and local government, sent his children to Chatham Central. My visitor was bigger than me; I couldn’t ask him who wore the pants in his family, but he left saying he would tell his wife about the wonderful home he saw.
I also didn’t tell him that my neighbor does not speak to me; apparently when I moved here I registered in the wrong political party. I wonder what he will think if James, the young man of color, who saw the house in Thursday’s unbearable heat, is his new neighbor. James seemed to like the layout and was impressed with the building’s solidity. I did explain that possession could not be had until after Election Day, when I could vote against my neighbor who is running for Town Council. He has lost two elections by a total of less than fifteen votes since I have lived here.
The agent who accompanied James was the first to ask me to show the prospect about the spread, and by today, Sunday, I have developed a taste for the job. Friday’s showing transcended a good country storm that saw me stopping to close doors and windows, while lightning and thunder rattled the atmosphere. By the time the last prospect left on Saturday, I’d incorporated a Jimmie Rodgers country yodel into my routine. It must have worked; after my forty-five minute Flush The Toilets, Start The Dryer Special, they retreated to the basement to take measurements, or perhaps to recover their hearing.
Their agent was Barbara, the woman who sold me this house. How she accomplished that feat with her mortal fear of dogs is one of the great tales of modern real estate. This particular day, I had to keep the canine threat in the basement, while she concentrated on the upstairs.
As the young couple and Barbara walked with me to their cars, God decided to close a circle. We heard the rumble of a large truck pulling out from the house being built at the top of the hill. It picked up speed; the sound was loud and terrifying. Our heads turned to the tree line on the left, which runs to the edge of the road. I caught a glimpse of familiar color. Into view roared the cement mixer that began my day. He had dropped his load next door. Cement makes a great tombstone! God, the perfect ironist!
Valatie, August 24, 2003