"OPEN HOUSE" — © 1995 - 1999 by Charles Dobie


Charles Dobie

As soon as they turned into the street they knew it wasn't for them. It was a street-long hockey game, a mass of screaming children; staggering toddlers to gangly, staring, twelve-year-old boys.

Wordlessly, they agreed not to bother looking inside, although the house seemed to be what they had been looking for. They turned to walk back to their car but a hoarse shout stopped them: "Gentlemen! Please! Costs nothing to look."

The agent beckoned to them from the porch as he ushered out a Chinese couple with a tall and handsome teenage son. The woman peered with alarm at the hockey game and pulled her coat more tightly about herself while her son stared at the two men with interest. He looked quickly at the ground when they smiled.

The agent was squat and unctuous, with calculating eyes. He reeked of shaving lotion, but his jowls were blue. "The lady asked that people take off their boots," he said. "She keeps a very clean house. Very clean. Very nice. Portuguese family. Very clean."

They sank to their ankles in the antiseptic, mauve broadloom. The Virgin stared at them from every visible wall as her only Son writhed in agony over each doorway. The agent handed them a printed listing. "Take your time. And they'll go lower on the price." He leered at them. "Maybe a lot lower, eh?"

When they reached the third floor they were wet-eyed from swallowing shouts of disbelief. Each room had been a different Station of the Cross; a cacophony of plastic and painted velvet. And no books. None. Anywhere.

Only the tiny bedroom looked as if a real human lived there. A huge KISS poster filled the wall over the bed, overlooking a blue quilt still imprinted with an outstretched body. A jumble of tools and model airplane parts covered a desk by the window, and a pair of battered hockey skates wedged open the closet door.

The photographs showed his life history: first Communion, birthdays, Christmases; each framed and nailed to the wall. And on a bedside table beside a gigantic hockey trophy (Most Valuable Player, Senior Boys' Something or Other) was a set of photos, stunning in their sharpness and light. He was about eighteen. He grinned as he gripped his hockey stick and stared directly at the camera, a whisp of black hair almost hiding his eyes. He was gorgeous; definitely to die for. They stared in mute reverence until the doorbell rang.

A last regretful glance around the room. But wait, check out the closet. Closet space is important, especially in older houses.

His mother had been too busy with the open house to do his laundry. His hockey gear hung inside the closet door: stale towels, uniform, socks, underwear and (there is a God!) jockstrap. They left the house calmly, waving at the agent who was effusively greeting a stockbroker and his girlfriend. They grinned widely at the boys who stared at them with interest.

That was twenty years ago. It has never been washed.



"OPEN HOUSE" — © 1987 - 1999 by Charles Dobie