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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outlandish (05/19/11)

TITLE: That Kind of Elegance?
By Anita van der Elst


It spouted hyperbole but we were hopeful. The craigslist ad headline screaming “awesome” also described the one-story single family dwelling with three bedrooms and two baths as “elegant.”

Visions danced through our heads of no communal walls beside, below or above us. Monthly rent $100 lower than our current living arrangement enticed as my husband and I thought of the $1200 yearly savings.

The posted photos showed a small front yard with pink flowers between the sidewalk and side of the garage. The kitchen looked expansive and bright. I could already picture my family preparing Thanksgiving dinner without bumping hips all day.

We hadn’t expected the street to be such a busy one. Parking was limited but we were still hopeful. The property manager rolled up in his pickup truck and then rolled out of his pickup truck. Enthusiasm sloshed from his short refrigerator-shaped body as he rubbed his hands together. “I’m Phil,” he said. “Glad you made it. This is a marvelous little house.”

The walk through left us breathless—but not from awe. Phil had forewarned us that the present occupant, though living there only a year, had made the house look “well-lived in.” Excuse me? Well-lived in? Try “pigsty” instead. And from one year’s occupancy? I don’t think so. Neither does my husband. Having worked in the remodeling business, he knows the difference between “well-lived in” and “pigsty.” He picked up on a lot more of the inadequacies and problems with the place than I did. Thirty years of abuse and neglect had more than likely brought it to its current sad state.

Stale cigarette smoke permeated every molecule of air and surface inside. Walls, ceiling and carpet were yellowed with it. Layered on top of that an odor of mildew wafted through, especially in the kitchen. We tracked it down to the waist high pile of trash stacked under the kitchen window outside and filling the entire space between wall and fence. Rolls of moldy astro-turf, formerly the backyard ground cover, topped the garbage heap.

Phil gestured to the ragged edge of broken tile on the kitchen counter next to the stove. “We’re going to try to figure out how to fix this. They had to cut through the tiles in order to get the stove to fit.”

Then clasping his hands together, he gushed, “But isn’t the kitchen nice and airy?”

If he was trying to distract me from the fact that there was no dining room, it wasn’t working. And apparently the tripping hazard created by the linoleum peeling up was invisible to him.

“The owners are willing to paint the kitchen and the master bedroom so it’ll be like new in here. We’ll try to find a way to eliminate the cigarette smell too,” Phil’s fantasizing continued.

I raised my eyebrows at my husband behind Phil’s back.

“Now don’t worry,” Phil tossed over his shoulder as we headed down the hall. “We’ll get these carpets cleaned for ya first thing.”

I stared down at the multi-stained carpet, knowing there’d be no way to expunge the cigarette smoke. Nor would stains like these disappear even with industrial strength rug shampoo.

As we exited the front door, Phil handed us his business card. “Can I give you an application?” he asked expectantly.

“My wife and I will talk it over,” Ed replied. I hoped my face didn’t show the disgust I was feeling. It’s not my normal nature to be rude.

“Give me a call and let me know what you decide one way or the other,” Phil encouraged.

“Wow,” Ed muttered as we drove away.

“Yeah, totally outrageous—that lying ad, Frigerator Phil, the house!” I shuddered. “It’d take more than new paint in two rooms and a carpet cleaning to make $100 less per month worth living in that kind of elegance, don’t you think?”

Ed chuckled. “So you’re saying you want to pass on this one?”

“You got that right, babe!”

When I called Phil to tell him we weren’t interested in the rental, he asked if I could tell him why. I hesitated, again not wanting to be rude. “It would take an awful lot of effort and money to bring it to the standards we’re looking for,” I finally said gently.

I would’ve liked to suggest that he consult a dictionary before placing his next rental ad. Perhaps “outrageous” would be a better choice than “awesome.” Let’s reserve “awesome” for places like heaven.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke05/26/11
Eeeewwwwwww-- shuddering right along with you-- (that's good writing btw) Love the creative descriptions: sloshed with enthusiasm being my favorite!! And yes, sometimes we are much too generous in our assigned adjectives for things here on earth. Your ending sums that up perfectly.
Bonnie Bowden 05/28/11
I can well image the condition of that house. When my sister and her husband first got married, they rented a 3 bedroom house, that smokers had lived in. We scrubbed the walls three times and still couldn't remove all the yellow stains and smell.

It was amazing that the real estate seller wanted a call back at all. Did he really believe his own story?
Carol Penhorwood 05/31/11
"...a marvelous little house"--truly outlandish!
Beth LaBuff 06/03/11
Oh, I could see all this and the couples conversation and emotions. You had me smiling and I LOVE your ending sentence.