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Wednesday, February 17, 2010



Last fall, it became all too clear that we would need to sell our Michigan house. But before we listed it, a realtor "made contact," wondering if we were interested in showing the place to an out-of-town client. We agree to let her see it

--Are you pleased with your efforts?
--Pleased isn’t the word. I did my job, that’s all. I was cordial and chatty.
--Did this Jane person fall in love with the old place?
--You coward. Leaving me here alone like that. Taking off with the dog.
--I told you over and over I was going to. Didn’t you believe me?
--I thought you said it for emphasis. To express how little you liked the idea of selling the house.
--That’s exactly true. I hate the idea. It’s why I left.
--Where’d you go?
--To the park on Martin Road. Chelsea wasn’t much interested. So, give me some details. You say she was theatrical.
--Dramatic, but not over-the-top. She said she played the woman teacher in The History Boys. She did a very commendable British accent. She said she loved the part because it allowed her to use the word twat on stage.
--She said that to you? A stranger she meets for the first time?
--Maybe it was all the books. I think it established a bond. When she came in and saw the books, she went right into character. “I love seeing so many books!” she said. “Why is it I go in so many houses and see no books?”
--What’d you say?
--I said I thought realtors probably tell sellers to get rid of bookcases so the house will look bigger. “How I love them,” she said. “If I buy your house, you can just leave the books, although I already have many of them.” Then she swept her eyes around and said, “I love your house.”
--Yes, definitely an actress. Did she have a feather boa?
--Now now.
--Did she have that show-stopper Ethel Merman quality?
--She won’t buy.
--How long were they here?
--Twenty, twenty-five minutes. I told them to just nose around, I’d leave them to it. It was funny. She didn’t give a rap about the new roof, or all the painting we had done. I told her today was an anniversary of sorts, that the new high-tech furnace had been installed a week ago. None of it seemed to register. But she won’t buy. She was too tall.
--What? How’s that work? The actress won’t buy the house because she’s too tall?
--Tall people are sure to feel confined in the upstairs hall.
--It’s true, that hall is very narrow. We’re not big so we don’t notice.
--Barry, what are you saying? We can only sell to the Little People?
--That would limit things, true.
--How do we advertise? “Attenion Little People! Attention all circus and carnival alumni!”
--I followed them when they went upstairs. When she started up again about books in every room, I told her I’d gotten rid of eight hundred in the last year. She crushed her hands to her bosom. “How could you?” When she opened the door to the attic, I told her she could go up, but only if she signed a safety waiver. She laughed.
--Was it a hearty laugh? Girlish? Raucous? Do you remember—
--I know what you’re going to say. You’re thinking of The Church restaurant in Stratford.
--It was wonderful. A whole table of actors, six I think. I never heard such canned laughter on any sitcom. “Mwuhuhuhhhh!” It was my second most favorite meal in Stratford. You know my first.
--Yes. He dies with Cordelia in his arms to huge applause. We leave and hustle to the restaurant, we have to be back at eight for the next play. We sit down, and there on your left, already well into the first of his double martinis is King Lear.
--I thought we were very good about not looking at him during dinner.
--The actress woman is also a dog person. I told her I’d taken away Chelsea’s bed, not knowing what her take on dogs would be. I gave her a copy of Just Bill.
--Oh, well, that should seal the deal.
--She said everyone in her family has two dogs. She said family dinners always involve four to six dogs under the dining table. I pointed out our dining table doesn’t have pedestal legs, which means lots of room for dogs.
--You wag, you.


  1. I love this! And now we will have to entirely re-write the rules of Blogging For Dummies, or I will have to eat much crow, for I can't seem to help wanting to invite you to my archives for "The Pod People vs. The Yard Gnome Ghetto." I began my blog with a For Sale sign in the yard (hence, one interpretation of the blog's title), and have struggled with that damn sign, since. I'm happy to say, the sign came down last week. At our age, it just seems really hard to sell and really hard not to!

    Please, I hope you will visit often and comment at will; I cherish well-read readers. Also, I much admired your comment on Saul Friedman's piece yesterday, 2/16.

    How will you feel if the actress-woman makes a real offer?

  2. Nance,
    Congratulations on selling your house. We know all about the widely applicable adjective qua euphemism "mature," at least in regard to our Michigan house, not to mention ourselves. Excepting the furnace and roof, one would be hard-pressed to locate any aspect that's not mature with a vengeance.
    I would like to read "The pod people vs the yard gnome ghetto" (I have a special, not altogether generous interest in this area of human folly), but please tell me where in the archive to find it. Being mature, I need all the shortcuts I can get.

  3. Though not an actress, I'm seeing Brian Dennehy in "Hughie & Krapp's Last Tape" this weekend, and I am rather tall for a woman, so I feel quite at home making a comment.

    You're right, the upstairs would be a problem, but since I listen to my heart, if I truly fell in love with those books (which I tend toward), I'd buy the place anyway ;)

    On the serious side, I like your writing sytle. I like that you give us the "she won't buy the place because she's tall..." comment. It gives the reader a "what the heck?" moment that is quickly satisfied. The whole style calls the reader to jump from "here" to "there" (which is true dialogue) and it's rigorous. I enjoy following it.

  4. My first visit, courtesy of Nance at Mature Landscaping. As a married man of thirty years, the conversational tone of your blog brings a smile to my face.

    Good luck with the house; but did you really sell 800 books? How traumatic.


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