After two hours sitting on a couch, in an empty vacation home, the real estate agent decided enough was enough.
Shutting down an Open House was the same as opening it, except for a certain element of suspense. Since the sign out on the road that passed the oceanfront estate was the last thing to come down, there was always the chance of visitors at the door, even as he turned out the last light.
Packing up his marketing materials, laid out on the coffee table like horizontal mug shots, he decided to play it safe and lock the front door. Ascending the broad staircase that clung to the wall on the right side of the living room, he began turning off unneeded beside lamps, closing closet doors devoid of clothing and drawing the curtains on windows which cast light on empty beds.
Once back down on the main floor, he moved through the formal dining room that opened out to a patio on the left side of the granite and timber house. A butler’s door, complete with a still-reflective brass plate, took him into the kitchen as his next-to-last stop.
Company sits in the living room, family ends up in the kitchen, The random thought surprised him. The kitchen, as the rest of the house, was furnished in mid-Sixties Summer House. The table was a brashly optimistic combination of the yellow vinyl and tubular chrome. The cabinets were glass and wood with dark wrought iron latches. On the linoleum-covered counter, next to the double cast iron sink, was a single glass. Putting it in the cabinet above, he stared out the window. A covered porch was the final transition between indoors and my-god-the-ocean-is-huge lawn. He felt a renewed pride in his ad copy for this property, ‘A once grand oceanfront home waiting to host your memories of Summer’.
Turning off the last light in the basement, his mind now preoccupied with holding together a contract on a new sale, he fell victim to the most rookie of errors in the real estate business.
Focused on his next appointment and the oblong of light from the kitchen above, he walked into a low-hung steam pipe. The velocity of his head as it encountered the iron pipe was sufficient to knock him to the floor.
After a loss of awareness barely long enough to qualify as a loss of consciousness, he sat up in the dark. Feeling a flash of embarrassment, he swiped the flashlight app on his phone. Leaning on one hand, he bent his legs at the knees, the first step to getting his legs under his body so he could stand up. He laughed at the sudden memory of the Erector Set that occupied hours of his time as a boy in the 1960s.
Eyebrows gathering close like a football huddle over the childhood toy metaphor, his head felt a little like there was static under his scalp. Standing slowly, shoulders hunched in a purely somatic defense posture, his frown was nourished by sounds from the house above. Taking comfort in the certainty of his memory of locking the front door before beginning his rounds, the character of the sound registered.
It was, for lack of a better, (or more rational), description, the sound of a house full of people.
A very common expression of surprise voiced by countless people. The difference, the inference and, of course, the instance that followed was left to the individual. In this case the individual was a young woman standing in the center of the unaccountably sunny kitchen.
Allyson stuttered her exclamation of surprise with a trill of laughter. Startled in that way when a mundane assumption is contradicted. In this case, on this particular Sunday afternoon, she expected to be alone in the kitchen if for no other reason than she ran in to get additional coasters for her guest’s drinks; said guests all being located on the broad, covered-porch that overlooked the ocean. That, and the fact that the kitchen was empty when she entered.
The laughter, in her response, was natural enough, given how her cousin Michael had a reputation for having fun, with the cooperation of others or not.
“Michael! How on earth did you get down there and… your head! You’re bleeding!”