If you are a regular reader, you know I’m writing a novel I hope to publish early in 2014. I’ve written a ton of material and am now cutting it down. Below is a “throw away chapter.” It’s a fun story, but is unnecessary in the story and won’t work well as a stand alone short story (maybe for a B-More Stories 2 in the future?). Soooo, I thought I would share it with you today. Enjoy!
Quick catch up: Maddy is a young mom looking to buy a house in downtown Baltimore. She is married to Tucker. Rudy is a friend from church who has been “helping” her by showing her properties he’s flipped. Before this story, Maddy decides she isn’t going to work with Rudy any more because he keeps showing her houses that won’t work.
Chapter Twelve – Maddy and the Girl Downstairs
Her phone’s sharp ring surprised Maddy. Sweaty from her jog around Federal Hill park, she had to wipe the moisture from her face and catch her breath before she answered. She retrieved the phone from the front pocket of her hoody and looked at the number. There wasn’t a name attached to it and she didn’t recognize it. She debated briefly on whether or not she should answer. Her time was limited. Tucker had taken the kids to lunch at the hot dog stand in Cross Street Market so she could run. He would be back in less than an hour.
The phone rang on.
Maybe it was an apartment she wanted to see?
“Hello?” she answered.
“Hell-o! Hell-o” an angry, elderly female voice said through the phone. The voice was ragged from decades of chain smoking.
“Hello? This is Maddy?”
“Yeah. Hello,” the voice replied.
“Can I help you?”
“Are you the one who called about renting my house?”
“Probably,” Maddy said excited. “Which house is it?”
“1429 Covington,” the woman said gruffly.
Maddy strained to remember. She didn’t recall pursuing any houses on Covington; but she had called about so many rentals, it was getting hard to keep them straight. “Great,” she said. “When can I come and see it?”
“How much are you going to pay?” the woman said.
“To see it?”
“No. In rent. How much are you going to pay in rent?”
“Well,” Maddy said surprised by the directness of the question. “I’d like to see it first.”
The woman sighed with frustration. “Fine, fine. I’m here for another ten minutes. Get here and I’ll show it to you.”
“Great,” Maddy said. “See you in a few.” She hung up, put the phone in her front pocket, and ran toward Covington Street. She figured the house was only four or five blocks away.
As Maddy approached the address she slowed down. She counted ahead and found the house. She had no recollection of seeing it before. It was a thin, two-story row-home covered in grey form-stone.
On the front steps, leaning on a thin plastic rail, sat a short Caucasian lady aggressively smoking a cigarette. The woman’s slouch was so strong Maddy wondered how she could sit that way for any extended period of time. She was overweight. Maddy guessed her to be in her mid-sixties. She wore blue jeans, a white blouse with small brown stains on it, plastic rimmed glasses which were much too big for her face, and a large round straw hat. Behind her was silver a screen door full of scratches. A few months ago Maddy would have kept running, but her desperation to move into the neighborhood and end Tucker’s insane commute was growing by the day.
“You Mary?” the woman on the porch asked, exhaling a huge puff from her cigarette.
“Um, I’m Maddy? We just spoke on the phone? How did you get my number?”
“So, you’ve seen it. How much can you pay?”
“Is it for rent?”
The woman sighed and took a long swig of her cigarette. “Yeah, hon. Of course it’s for rent. Why would I call you if it wasn’t for rent? How much can you pay?”
“Well,” Maddy said looking at the house. “Can I see the inside before we talk money?”
The woman sighed again and looked Maddy up and down. “You married?”
“Yeah,” Maddy said hesitantly.
“No,” Maddy said.
“Got kids?” the woman asked.
“Yes?” Maddy replied unsure where the conversation was going.
“What’s your husband do?”
“He’s a pastor,” Maddy said.
“Where at?” the woman asked suspiciously.
“Big Stoop Church on Smith Street,” Maddy said.
“Hmm,” the woman said puffing her cigarette again. “You’re all respectable and everything.”
Maddy didn’t know who to respond so she just nodded.
“How much does he make a year?” the woman said suspiciously.
“None of your business,” Maddy replied, frustrated.
This made the woman smile. “You want an upstairs room or the basement?”
“I want the whole house.”
“How much can you pay a month?”
“Alright,” Maddy said fed up with this strange woman. “Are you going to show me the house?”
“Fine, fine, fine,” the woman said. She took another long drag through her cigarette and savored the exhale. Then she put it out on the front stoop. “No smoking in the house,” she said smiling at Maddy. She stood, turned, and held the screen door open for Maddy.
Maddy stepped through the door and into the living room. The house wreaked of cigarettes. The room was decked out in gaudy décor from the early eighties. There were glass lamps and matching end tables, a purple couch, shag carpet, and a wall comprised of small mirrors. There was a closed sliding door on the far wall Maddy assumed led to the kitchen and a stair case on the right. “So, how much are you asking per month?” Maddy asked.
“How much can you pay?” the woman said, smiling. Then she exploded with coughing. Maddy grabbed her cell from her pocket, nervous she might have to call 911; but the woman recovered and said, as if nothing had happened, “Bedrooms are upstairs.”
Maddy and the woman walked up stairs. The stairs ended in a small hallway that wrapped back to the front of the house. It emptied into a small bedroom. “Just one bed room?” Maddy asked.
“How many does a girl need, Mary?” the woman replied.
“Well,” Maddy said. “I do have three kids.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” the woman replied. “Don’t get your hopes up. You still haven’t told me if you can afford it.”
There were two small windows in the bedroom, but both were covered with heavy floral patterned curtains. Maddy’s attention was drawn to a small, odd looking box mounted to one wall. It had vents coming out of the top and bottom. A small black chord ran from it to the outlet below. “What’s that?” Maddy asked, moving closer to the electronic box to get a better looked.
“That’s cutting edge Japanese technology,” the woman said. She pushed passed Maddy and pressed a small button on top of the box. It came to life with a lite whirring sound. “It’s window unit, but no window!” The woman began to laugh.
Not knowing what to do, Maddy laughed as well.
“I like you, Mary,” the woman said, patting Maddy on the back. “Let’s go see the basement.”
On the first floor there was a small door behind the staircase Maddy hadn’t noticed before. Maddy had to duck to get through the opening. As they walked down the wooden basement stairs, the woman pulled a string hanging from the ceiling and the lights came on. The basement was the size of the living room above. It had a concrete floor and cinder block walls. Most surprising was a small cot in the middle of the room, neatly made into a bed. Next to the cot was a small bookshelf with a coffee pot, a few mugs, and a tiny microwave. On the other side of the cot was a three drawer dresser.
“Don’t worry,” the woman said motioning her chin toward the cot. “I’ll kick her out.”
“What?” Maddy said in surprise. “No. Don’t kick anyone out.”
“She don’t have a lease or nothing,” the woman said as she opened the drawers of the dresser and peaked in them. “I mean, depending on how much you can pay. I’ll take less if you only want the upstairs.” Then the woman turned and headed back up the stairs. Maddy followed, in shock from the whole experience.
Once they were on the front stoop again the woman said, “So how much can you pay?”
Maddy stared up at the house. “How did you get my phone number again?” she asked.
“You being a pastor’s wife and all, I guess I can cut you a deal. How much you want to start with?”
“Did someone give you my cell? I don’t think a lot of people have my number,” Maddy said confused.
“Listen Mary,” the woman said as she lit another cigarette. “I’ve got a lot of people interested in the space. If you want it, you need to jump on it now.”
“I need to think about it,” Maddy said with no intention of ever giving the house a second thought. “If I don’t call you back, it means we’ve found something else.”
“Alright,” the woman said taking a seat. “Go on,” she said waving Maddy away with both hands. “I’ve got someone else coming in a few minutes. It was nice to meet you, Mary. ”
Maddy jogged away, back toward the park. She got a block down the street when her phone buzzed again. She slowed and pulled it from her front pocket. On it was a picture message of Rudy laughing giving her two thumbs-up. The message under the picture read, “Got ya!”
“Not funny,” she typed and jogged on.