Monday, April 22, 2013

Beach Tale: Home Sweet Home

 In the spirit of Earth Day 2013, it seems a fitting time to "recycle" one of my stories.  And in light of the fact I'm now a card-carrying member of the real estate-agent brigade, this story spoke to me on a different level.  It was originally posted on July 11, 2011 when this blog was in its infancy, so should be a "fresh" read for many of you.  Enjoy!    

         I’d read Jameson Lee Clemmons’ purchaser profile with interest and painted a mental image of a gracefully aging southern gentleman who resembled Colonel Sanders. No marital status was required when purchasing a house with cash, but if he showed up for our two o’clock appointment with no spouse in tow, I’d fix him up with my Aunt Meg up for dinner tomorrow night.  Maybe someday she’d return the favor.
          I hit the PRINT button on my computer and the laser jet wheezed to life at the same time the bell over the front door jangled. “Just a minute,” I called. Grabbing the stack of printouts of suitable properties, I headed for the reception area. “Can I help...” My words were replaced by the sound of a girlish giggle that bubbled forth. From me! But what red-blooded woman of child-bearing years wouldn’t have a similar reaction upon coming face to face with this sun-bronzed surfer type? Aged mid- to late-thirties, if I were to hazard a guess.  The perfect age for me!
          “I have an appointment with Tara Quinlan.”
          Even his voice had a sun-drenched tinge. “Jameson Lee Clemmons?” I squeaked.
          “Just J.C. please.”
 “I’m Tara.” We shook hands. His grip was strong and firm, his hands no stranger to manual labor. My heart did a little shuffle step. “Let’s start with a tour of the island.”
          We piled into my golf cart and headed west. The large expanse of sandy beach and the crashing surf never failed to put a customer in the buying frame of mind. “Tell me what you’re looking for,” I said.
          “I’ll know it when I see it.”
          “How large?”
          “Nothing too big. It’s just Molly and me.”
          No ring, but no surprise there was a Mrs. Clemmons. Knowing he was off limits allowed me to relax and focus on the job of finding this man and his family the perfect Home Sweet Home. “How many bedrooms?”
          “Maybe three.”
          Kids in his and Molly’s future maybe?
          “I need a workspace and a fenced-in yard.”
          All yards were fenced on the island. That didn’t narrow things down much. “Any style preference? I can offer Tudor, Plantation, Victorian, Contemporary--” He held his hand up and I stopped.
          “Like I said, I’ll know it when I see it. Oh, and I have to head back east tomorrow.”
          There were over 100 houses for sale that would fit his vague parameters. Good thing I liked a challenge. “We’ll find the perfect house for you and Molly.”

          By sunset we’d driven past 72 houses, peeked over the fence at 19, and took the time to tour the inside of three. Nothing had caught his eye. In hopes that he’d open up a little about what he--and Molly--liked, I offered dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant tucked down a narrow but rustic alley, far away from the tourist crowd. Over warm tortilla chips and scrumptious queso dip, I asked some probing questions, and found myself wondering if I could clone this smart, good looking, well-humored man. But my time was running out and I needed to learn some specifics if I was going to make a sale. “If you don’t mind my asking, what’s the rush to relocate?”
          “Molly and I have conflicting climate preferences. She was born and raised in Maineand can’t take the heat. I’m a Florida boy and allergic to snow.”
          “Really? Like you break out in hives?”
          “Not hives, but I get terribly grumpy when I’m cold to the bone.”
          I smiled.
          “Southern California is the perfect compromise.”
          I agreed. Not too hot and not too cold.  “How long have you two been together?”
          “Two weeks.”
          I’m a believer at love at first sight, but question relationships that move too fast.
          As if reading my mind, he clarified. “My sister died a month ago and left Molly to my care.”
          “Molly’s not your wife?”
          “No.” He laughed, and his eyes crinkled up like a young Santa Claus. “Molly is aNewfoundland dog. Lots of fur. Heat and humidity make her ill.”
          Suddenly I had a better picture of J.C.’s housing needs.
          On the way home I drove him past a charming Craftsman-style home, appealing in its simplicity and alluring with its deep front porch. The interior leaned towards functional not fussy with dark wood trim and easy-care tile floors. A breakfast nook overlooked a large backyard, offering plenty of room for a game of fetch. And it was right across the beach where dogs were allowed to run off-leash.
          “Perfect,” J.C. had proclaimed at every turn throughout the tour. “But I didn’t see a FOR SALE sign outside. What’s the availability?”
          I hesitated to tell him I was the current tenant. Aunt Meg owned it, but due to financial reasons, planned it put it on the market next month. The house had been “perfect” for me, too, but there was no way I’d be able to afford it any time soon. Maybe he’d sell it back to me when I hit retirement age.
          I called Aunt Meg over and we inked the deal.
          After she left, J.C. said, “That was a nice thing you did, selling me your house. I hope you’ll stop by to visit Molly and me often.”
          I took him up on his offer.
          And moved backed into the house five months later, as Mrs. Jamison Lee Clemmons. 

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