A Halloween Story

Since it’s October, it seems apt that I tell a scary story. It begins when I get notice to move from my landlord. Within a day, I find a suitable place just a few streets away and negotiate a lease for less money than the place is advertised for. Sounds good, right? Do you remember that saying about if it’s too good to be true, it probably is? Keep remembering it.

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A week later, I receive a call from the property manager, I’ll call her “Sara.” She tells me the landlord has changed her mind about renting to a person with a cat and wants full rent. I tell Sara that I will pay full rent and write an addendum to the lease that if my cat dismantles the place brick by brick, undoes the plumbing, remodels the cabinets and excoriates the rug, I will pay for any damages. I receive a text that Sara has a call into the landlord. Then I hear nothing and, after several days, start to worry. I call a realtor friend, Andrea, who calls Sara. Andrea tells me everything is fine because Sara told her there’s a signed lease in place, presumably mine. That night, Andrea runs into Sara’s best friend and they put in another call to Sara about the place. Sara tells her best friend she’s rented it out- -to someone other than me.

I text Sara. I tell her she should’ve informed me the place had been rented to someone else. She texts me back claiming the place is NOT rented to anyone and that she had told me I was not getting the property. For all you sci fi fans, this is proof of an alternate dimension and someone living in it.

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Now, I have 2 weeks to find another place to live and to move. What I thought would be a leisurely move to a nearby location has become a stress situation. Andrea looks, I look and we finally find a quaint place with a slight ocean view. The only problem is I will have to downsize because it’s smaller and doesn’t have a garage. I get another lease negotiated for less rent and the paperwork is signed.

I put up all my excess furniture for sale on Craigslist San Diego, one item being my desk. I love my desk, but it’s a 5’10” x 5’10” hulk. I see a man has posted a photo of my exact desk and he wants one. I let him know I have a desk that matches his needs and he emails me that he’s happy. Then I hear nothing. After a week, he contacts me and wants more photos of the desk. I take more and send them. Then he wants photos of any scratches, the drawers, the doors and more. I send them. He waxes praise about the desk and how it’s perfect. I ask when he can come and get it because it’s been two weeks of emails with him and time is ticking. I now have 2 days to be out. He says this is a problem because…he’s in Portland, Oregon! I tell a friend about this experience and she says she had the same thing happen to her. Perhaps there are people who troll Craigslist who are desk fetishists, looking to virtually meet the right desk.

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Another Craigslist couple contacts me regarding some of the antiques I’m selling. They show up, look things over, definitely want a few pieces…and bring no money. They also rifle through the items I had put out for a yard sale I was having, stack up a bunch of stuff and say they will contact me the next day so I can price everything they want and they will come and pay me for it. I don’t hear from them until 10 p.m and I’ve already redistributed their pile into the sale. I’m told they can’t come by again and not a word about the furniture they desperately wanted.

If you want to be scared this year, don’t go to a haunted house. Go  to a yard sale.

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My first customer is a woman in hippie attire with long grey hair slowly surveying  the sale. She picks up items then lets out a loud and long moan/hum as she scrutinizes each one. She pretends to be dim, but her sharp eyes catch sight of the Harry Potter Lego collection and she became a shrewd wheeler dealer. Fortunately, my daughter drives a hard bargain.

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Then we have to endure a father with a 12 year old son who’s still not old enough to be embarrassed to be seen with his dad. He should be. The guy picks up numerous items, making a wisecrack or demeaning remark about each one while his poor kid pretends to find this all amusing. Then Dad wants to see the Lazy Boy recliner I have for sale. He nearly wrecks it by slamming it back into the reclined position like he’s tackling a linebacker. Apparently satisfied with his Mock Fest, they buy $4 worth of piano music and depart.

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In the middle of all this, the realtor who is selling the house I’m moving from sends a young couple over, telling them I will show them the house. I didn’t know I had a real estate agent license, nor was there any discussion about a possible commission if I did sell it.

The wealthy people are the worst. Several come by just so they can sniff disapprovingly at things. A couple with a small boy won’t pay $20 for a $250 music box, acting like I’d insulted them. To make up for it, I give them one heck of a deal on a toy accordion for their son. He whales away at it, making screeching noises so disturbing I hope they finally recognize it’s the sound of karma .

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On moving day, everything is packed, organized and disassembled except the entertainment unit. I’d hire a guy off Craigslist who specializes in moving antiques. Let’s call him “Joe.” I’ve used Craigslist the past two moves and never had a problem. The first problem I see when Joe shows up is he’s FAT. Who moves furniture for a living and is fat? When he sees the entertainment unit, he exclaims “I can’t possibly move that!”  After that auspicious start, he walks through every room, gasping like he’s never seen a piece of furniture before and exclaiming about the problems he will have moving it. To top things off,  he speaks to me like I’m back in preschool. ” I have a big twuck and you have to go weally, weally slow when I follow you to your new house…”

After Joe leaves later that day, I get a piece of paper and write something for our gratitude jar. It says “I’m grateful I didn’t kill anyone or myself today.”

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We settle into our new place and…what’s that smell? The windows have been open for a few days, it’s not just a musty odor. I’m suspicious when we start to cough and sneeze. I hire a guy and get a lab report because the former prosecutor in me doesn’t accuse anyone without proof. Lurking in the kitchen and both bathrooms is….MOLD. The normal number is 1400 spores per cubic meter. In the kitchen alone it’s 19,000 spores. And my mold expert sees evidence there was previous mold testing. Not a good sign. I type up a lengthy email to the property manager, detailing 10 problems with the place, of which one is the herd of cockroaches my cat is occupied with annihilating, and ending with the M word.

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After finally seeing the problem (namely, me) won’t go away quietly, the property manager lets me know there was a water leak in the kitchen about a year ago. What the clean up will entail is unclear at this point, but it involves words like HEPA filters, mold remediation and insurance underwriters. I might even have to move again. If I do, I know who I won’t be calling.

In the meantime, if you want to be scared for Halloween, come stop by my kitchen.

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1 response to A Halloween Story

  1. Mary says:

    Very well done. It’s really cute, but I know there’s a lot of frustration, upset, disappointment…and fatigue in all of this. Moving is HELL! I was truly shocked at the depth of this statement until I fully experienced it. I hope you are able to find another place soon. Mold problems the size of your kitchen’s problem are SUPER-serious! You don’t want a lifetime of health complications from it. Take care of yourself and Kathryn and Russell. Love, Mary

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