So, I won’t bore you with the beginning part of this story in which I forget to write down the address to the open house I want to attend and I call my Taller Younger Brother who lives across the country, for god’s sake, ask him to open up my gmail account and hunt for it in there… and when he can’t find it, demand he open up craigslist and search for what I remember of the address under “houses for rent” in my city and then Google “79th St. and cute house”. Because I would never, ever want you to believe that I could be a) that forgetful or b) that desperate for an address that I would call someone in another time zone to help me find a house that was about five blocks where I was sitting in my parked car.
The real story here is that when I got to said house, (which was, in fact, on 79th street, but was only cute on the outside) Michele, who was supposed to be showing the house, was not there. Instead, there was an older gentleman there. An older gentleman wearing a tie tack in the shape of a house key. A house-key-shaped tie tack that was pinned to his tie and his fuchsia colored shirt. A gentleman who looked like he had recently been in a fight with a bag of boiling hot french fries because half of his forehead and part of his right cheek were covered in short purple scars. Now, had this guy just been wearing a hot pink shirt, or a key shaped tie tack, or just covered in bizarre scars, there really wouldn’t be any story here. I’d just tell you that a slow moving man with unfortunate looking scars showed me a house that smelled of cat pee.
No, the real story is this: When I got there, he was in the middle of telling the people who’d arrived before me that he was only filling in for Michelle, that there weren’t many questions he could answer about the house. I felt a little bad for him. He seemed very out of place. If he had ever been a real estate agent (and I’m guessing he didn’t get that shiny tie tack for selling steak knives door to door), it seems like he had been out of the game for a while. Perhaps he had been recovering from the accident with his face and the nail gun when Michelle called and asked him to cover for her. I don’t know. He just kept talking nervously to everyone who came into the house to compensate, it seems, for his total lack of knowledge about the heating bills and the square footage. All of a sudden, he stopped talking to a woman to my right, turned to face me and asked me, “And what do you do for a living?” I was a little taken aback, his nervous prattle going right into direct questioning, but I responded, “I’m a bookkeeper”. And that’s when the fun began.
“A bookie?” He asked. And without even blinking, I said, “yup”. Now, I know it’s not nice to mess with the hearing impaired. And I know it’s even meaner to mess with someone who is probably taking daily painkillers, but I couldn’t help it. It was hot, the place smelled like pee, I had just been on the phone with Taller Younger Brother for twenty minutes to find a place that took only five minutes to walk through, and I didn’t appreciate this guy looking me and down like that. So I went with it. “And how do you get your clients?” he asked me, knowing full well that he thought I was a bookie. “Oh, you know. Word of mouth”, I said, winking. His jaw went a little slack in surprise. He took a step back and really took his time eyeing me up and down. I folded my arms across my chest for affect. The woman next to me made a little shuffling noise and cleared her throat. “And you can make a living in this city doing that?”, he asked me, completely and totally astounded. I knew where this was going, so I took a breath, waved him away, and said, in an accent tinged with just a touch of Tony Soprano, “Oh, yeah. A VERY good living”.