June 2022 Flash Challenge, Day 21
“I need lots of space,” Trish had told me at our first meeting.
I wanted to point out to her that if she bought a house with more space, she would fill it as well, and in three years, she’d be looking to upsize again. Still, people’s foibles and insatiable hunger for more, more, more do provide me with a lavish lifestyle as a real estate agent. I’m not just any agent either. I’m Estelle. Yes, that Estelle. The real-estate agent who singlehanded created an entirely new niche of housing sales, one focused on solving problems. Trish had a problem; she needed more space. I had to solve her problem. My reputation was on the line.
As a part of every new client meeting, I will survey their current dwelling. I followed Trish to her home. Unfortunately, Larry and I just returned from Fiji two days prior, and I didn’t take the time to do my usual background research on Trish.
When she drove into that side of Malibu, I knew this was going to be rough. We parked in front of her house. A valet took our keys and parked our cars in an oversized garage around the side.
Then came the house itself. It was 29,000 square feet, a true mansion.
The foyer was enormous; the house was as opulent and grand as it was cluttered and cramped. Each new room contained some unique feature. Bold architecture, a glorious view of the Pacific, a private balcony, spaces that were half inside/half outside the house, intricately designed wooden entertainment centers that disappeared into the walls with the touch of a button, and every single room was buried in clutter. Full shopping bags squatted on every horizontal surface, even the floor, especially the floor. When you walked into a room, you gently shuffled your feet forward, brushing the colorful shopping bags aside like willowy blades of grass.
Trish was a compulsive shopper, an indiscriminate one from the look of things. There were all the upscale shops represented in her house of clutter: Saks, Ralph Lauren, Polo, Hilfiger, and Victoria’s Secret. But there were just as many bags from Target, K-Mart, Hobby Lobby, Walmart, and places I’d never heard of.
Thousands of unopened bags-Trish was an addict, one who needed more space.
Or perhaps a twelve-step group, an inner voice observes.
“Esther, has Lupe put Charlotte down for her nap?” Trish says from outside the room as I stare at the overturned bag of Rolex watches I just knocked over. I’m tempted to pick one up. There are Yachtmasters, Presidents, and Daytonas, lying on the floor like an upended sack of oranges.
The watches had fallen onto a toppled tower of jigsaw puzzles. That image is seared into my brain. Solid gold Rolex watches resting atop discounted puzzle boxes of dogs playing poker and a kitten clinging onto a curtain for dear life; all the puzzle boxes had round, neon-yellow stickers boasting, “Only a $1!”
Suddenly I needed out of this place. I had to get away.
“Trish, I have to go, but I have just the place for you. I need to make some calls and do just a smidge of research and maybe some legwork, but I’ll be in touch soon. Promise,” I say, kissing the air near her cheek before beating a hasty retreat out of there.
Back in my car, I started to hyperventilate. I was in over my head with this one. It was way too late to cancel the contract. Estelle Matthews never canceled. Nor at this point could I pawn her off to one of the junior members of my firm. Trish had insisted that I handle her case personally. I had to think. And by think, I mean drink. So I pulled into a liquor store near my apartment. Yeah, sue me. I’m a billionaire real estate mogul yet I live in an apartment-a foolish consistency and all that jazz.
I plop my fifth of Bacardi onto the counter.
“Is that all?”
“Yeah…, well not unless you have any hot tips on houses that have… oh, let’s say infinity square feet?” I cackle as I consider going back and swapping my meager fifth for the 1.75.
“I see,” the man says.
I look up and see him for the first time.
He’s an older Chinese man with a wispy, scraggly, uneven, white beard that mesmerizes me.
“I was joking; just the rum, please.”
Wong reaches to the wall behind him, pulls down a small beige card, places it on the counter, then slides it over to me, using only the tip of his index finger.
“Give call, he have house you need.”
Could this day get any more unreal? Without even thinking, I pick up the beige card with one hand as I pass him a twenty with the other.
After Gimlet number three, I remember the surreal scene at Trish’s and then the bizarre exchange at Smitty’s Bargain Liquors. I pull out the faded card. Apparently, Wong had had it for quite a while.
I flip it over.
Big House, for sale, (555) 555-5558, ask for Jerry.
I snort, and a mist of Rum and Rosa’s sprays from my nose.
The phone number is obviously fake, all those fives. Crazy. But if you were making up a phone number, why deviate on that last digit? You jumped on the five-bandwagon early and rode it hard for nine stops; why add a single eight at the end?
Maybe the eight was a typo?
Trish’s problem was an intractable dilemma. In the glorious age of “the customer is always right,” I didn’t dare suggest she might have an addiction. That wouldn’t do at all. I needed a solution. I usually listen to the universe when it sends me signals. I look down at the card again.
Maybe this is such a sign?
I pick up my phone and call Jerry.
Jerry tells me the house costs a hundred dollars.
I nearly hung up on him.
Jerry asked for a minute to explain.
I gave him a minute. The minute turned into an hour.
“Now, don’t judge it too quickly, Trish,” I say.
We park in front of the house. It doesn’t have an overhang, a valet stand, or a 14-car garage around the side. It is a modest two-story building.
Trish rolls her eyes.
“What the fuck is this, Estelle?”
I recoil at her casual profanity. I have to get her inside; this house will sell itself. This house is HER solution. Estelle Matthews delivers again!
“Just give me a minute, Trish,” I say, unfastening my seatbelt. I insisted on driving us together. If she were in her car, she’d already be halfway back to Malibu.
She looks at me, exasperated, then looks at the house again.
Something shifts in her.
“Sure. I’ll give you a minute; then I’m headed back and write about a hundred reviews. By next week, you’ll be lucky if you can get a job selling RVs, let alone houses. Let’s get this over with.”
Of course, Trish’s price won’t be a hundred dollars. I had to mark it up somewhat to justify my involvement. My firm doesn’t flip two-bedroom condos, you know.
Trish had a space problem, a problem I solved.
I purchased the house from Jerry three seconds after entering. I tried to pay Jerry a fair-market price. I offered him 500 million. He said he wouldn’t dream of it. He just wanted to be rid of the thing.
If I had been smart, I probably would’ve had an ominous feeling of portent or doom. I wasn’t smart. I forgot all about Charlotte and those damn glasses.
“A tesseract. Your new home is a tesseract. It is a four-dimensional house, a portal to infinite space. You must remember to wear a pair of these glasses,” I say, tapping the row of glasses that sit near the front door.
Without the glasses, one could get hopelessly lost in Trish’s house. It wasn’t a big house. It wasn’t a huge, enormous, or ginormous house. Trish’s new place was infinitely big on the inside. From the outside, it appeared to be maybe 2,400 square feet. You could walk around the entire structure in under two minutes. But on the inside, an infinite array of hallways twisted away in impossible gravity-be damned directions. Without the glasses, one could get quite lost.
I never understood the magic or technology that made the glasses work. But when you wore them, you could safely find your way back to the front door.
It was only much later that I would remember that none of the glasses I saw would fit a three-year-old child’s head.
Last I heard, neither Trish nor her daughter has been seen in weeks.