The House on the Corner
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The House on the Corner

 Glenn A Bruce
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 Glenn A Bruce
The House on the Corner
by Glenn A Bruce  FollowFollow
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2015 will mean that I have been writing "professionally" for 36 years. That doesn't mean I made money at it every single year, but most. I at...read more least had a worthless agent. As a chronic writer, I have certainly written all of that time - many hours per week, but usually many hours per day. I self-published five novels in three years, along with two collections of short stories. Then I took a year out to earn my MFA in writing. At my age! What was I thinking? Well, I can tell you what I wasn't thinking: that it would be 40-60 hours/week of intense work for a solid year, in the middle of which I would fall and break my back, end up in the hospital for a week on heavy drugs with a strange blood infection, and I would hobble to a chair with my laptop to do my homework - and write more. Now that all of that is over, I have two novels I am shopping and a third almost ready to go. I'm hoping to find a small publisher this time, but if I don't in the next few minutes, I'll do it on my own, again. People buy my books and like them. That's close to enough. I am best known for my work in movies and television, having written the minor hit movie Kickboxer, as well as for Walker: Texas Ranger, Baywatch, and Assaulted Nuts—as well as work on Cyborg Cop, Undercover Cop, and Blood Brothers. I was an assistant editor for The Lindenwood Review, and have stories published in Red Fez, Beat Poets of the Forever Generation, Alfie Dog (2), LLR (2), Carolina Mountain Life, and upcoming in Ova l(3) and Brilliant Flash Fiction. I teach Screenwriting and Acting for the Camera at Appalachian State University and have won several awards for writing/directing/producing safety videos there.
The House on the Corner
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IT WAS THE HOUSE.

The young couple’s dog had never left the side yard. That morning someone knocked on the door and said, “A dog’s been hit. I didn’t know if it was yours.”  It was.

Morgan had wandered into traffic and lay dying on the corner. When his owner picked him up to take him to the emergency animal clinic, Morgan bit him. He also threw up in the back seat on the ride, managing to miss the blanket completely.

The vet scolded the man and put Morgan down. The man’s wife cried for several days, vowed never to have another dog, and they moved at the end of their lease term.

Another tenant got caught with an underage girl. Fortunately for him, his roommates—and not their landlord or the girl’s father—discovered them on the couch, naked. The roommates told him never to have her there again; they didn’t want to get arrested for aiding and abetting a child molester. The girl was 15 but looked 40, and soon thereafter dumped him for a 12-year-old boy who lived in her neighborhood—a first cousin, it turned out.

He got her pregnant. She blamed it on the 32-year-old and he ran to Mexico where he took up with a 16-year-old and later married her younger sister.

Her parents made her get an abortion and threatened to burn down the house “where it happened.”  The landlord evicted the former roommates and got a restraining order against the aggrieved father/almost-grandfather—who did throw an empty whiskey bottle through the front window of “the house of no repute” one night while drunk; but no one was living there at the time.

This was six years later.

Two Cuban brothers rented the house for a few months to be closer to work. During the second month, one of the brothers, the younger handsomer one, told the older fatter one that he was gay. His brother made him move back to Hialeah and the two never spoke again.

A cat died up under the house where no one could get to it. The stink lasted for weeks.

A piece of an airplane fell on the roof and made a small hole in the tar shingles. The owner at the time climbed up to inspect the damage, fell off his ladder and broke his leg. A passing roofer saw the accident, took the owner to the hospital and offered to repair the roof. He had a nice business card.

The roofer stripped off all the shingles, dropping them around the house in the grass and removed the tarpaper in a similar manner, telling the owner there was some soft wood that would have to be replaced. He asked for half his fee up front, as good faith money, so he could go buy the materials. The roofer, a gypsy, never returned.

A storm came up the next day and soaked the insulation in the attic. Since there was no way into the attic, the owner had to hire a man to tear a hole in the ceiling and climb up through it. The nice black man tore the insulation out handful by handful as he inched around the low overhead crawlspace on his stomach.

At the far eave, he got stung by 23 wasps and had to go to the hospital for a shot of epinephrine. His helper, a cousin, killed the bees and finished the job but almost lost a finger to his box cutter. He went to the same hospital and received 23 stitches.

The owner, on crutches, had earlier hired a reputable roofer who ordered his materials from a building supply warehouse that delivered onsite. The reputable roofer subbed out the waste removal to a man who cleaned up the yard beautifully but ran over the owner’s bushes on one side and killed them all. The roofer was bonded but the waste hauler wasn’t.

By the time the job was over, and the attendant bills from collateral costs were in, the owner discovered that he could have built a new house from scratch.

His leg didn’t heal properly and he had to have three operations.

A group of Haitian men rented the house for a year. The first week they were there, police knocked at the door. The cops said they had probable cause.

Someone had called it in, a “neighbor who witnessed suspicious activities.”

The police found drug paraphernalia—a glass pipe with residue—and arrested all four Haitian men. They were convicted of drug trafficking and deported.

They never got their deposit back.

Four birds flew into the same window on the same day and all died.

Three young guys from New York rented the house for a while. During their stay, one of their cars was stolen—a Corvette—the house was broken into three times and one of the guys got herpes from a Chinese hooker at a bar downtown.

A woman miscarried in the back bedroom.

A teenager hanged himself in the front bedroom.

An elderly woman died of natural causes in the middle bedroom.

Someone’s visiting grandfather had a heart attack in the bathroom, while on the toilet, but had a cordless phone with him, called 9-1-1 and survived with four stints.

The mother of the teenager had to be put on lithium. She forgot to pay the rent and was evicted.

One pair of tenants were musicians. The guitar player’s girlfriend had a baby and didn’t work. She said she couldn’t work because of the baby, but she could drink all night long.

While her boyfriend was out playing a gig, the young mother would call her relatives back home in Indiana and talk for three-to-six hours, or until the guitar player came home with their roommate, the bass player.

The girl’s car died and she left it in the yard. The bass player sold it to get her part of the rent and the guitar player hit him in the eye with a drumstick at  Thanksgiving. The bassist lost partial sight in that eye and quit the band. The girlfriend went home to Indiana and left the baby.

The guitar player was arrested for child abandonment, led the FBI to his ex-girlfriend in Indiana, quit playing music and became a real estate agent.

He later sold the same house from the same landlord to a new “investor-owner” who lived in the house while fixing it up—he was a retired contractor—until he came down with shingles and sold the house, at a loss, to his younger brother, the asshole doctor who never repaired so much as a burnt-out light bulb.

He let the house go to hell while collecting “high rent dollars from low rent losers,” then sold it to an elderly couple from Plains. It was supposed to be their “retirement home in Florida,” but they never even saw it. Their own realtor told them it was a dump and they should stay in Plains. He then sold it to his younger brother who was a slumlord, by his own admission, and happy to get it for a song.

He prospered.

A group of Jamaicans moved in—no one was ever sure how many—but the guy who signed the lease, signed as B. Marley. They actually were dealers. During the six months they lived in the house, the men moved over five tons of weed and a few pounds of coke. Buyers knocked at all times of the night.

The police never came.

One night, one of the Jamaican men shot one of the other Jamaican men and they all moved out the next day. There were no bodies, but there was a lot of blood, and the K-9 dogs sniffed out so much residue they got high and had to be temporarily retired.

One of the police officers drank from the kitchen sink and got dysentery.

A few years before, three college girls had rented the house—one per bedroom. Two got pregnant in the house and one got hepatitis-C from a junkie she thought was cute. She didn’t know he had “a problem.”  His name was Jake-O.

Her parents made her move home and get a job in a 99-cent store.

A young black couple moved in with their three children just after the couple with the dog left. The Hoakes were the first black folks in the neighborhood at the time. No one planted a burning cross on their lawn, but their tires were slashed once and their dog disappeared. A large, rotting fish was left in their mailbox and two trees died for no apparent reason.

There was a smell of gasoline in the yard for several months. It might have been diesel.

A bachelor lived in the house for three years. He was a good renter. He made all his own furniture and repaired both air-conditioners. While he was away over a long weekend in Ocala, for a wedding, thieves broke into the house in the middle of the day and stole all of the appliances, fixtures, electronics, jewelry—such as it was—and every inch of copper wire and pipe in the walls.

They used the toilet just before they stole it. The large amount of paper caused the septic to back up. So, when the good renter returned from his getaway, vowing never to get married, he found a yard full of shit and a house empty of everything.

Not one neighbor thought anything of the busy work going on all day when the thieves arrived with their “Johnnies’ Electric” truck. No one thought it odd that the faux workers kept removing items, but never took any in. Everyone assumed the absentee owner was renovating.

When the good renter called the absentee owner to tell him what had happened, the absentee owner blamed it all on the good renter and had him arrested.

He didn’t have good renter’s insurance.

The charges were eventually dropped, due to lack of evidence and a solid alibi confirmed by more than 125 wedding attendees. By then, the good renter had been fired from his job for not showing up three days in a row. He had to move back home with his parents for over a year which he found more depressing than finding the yard of shit.

Two couples went in on the house together to save on rent. One husband cheated with the other’s wife and they all got divorced.

For a short while after the house was gutted, several homeless men lived in the house. They used the middle bedroom for a bathroom and kept the door closed. The smell never completely went away.

A raccoon tore through a screen to get at some leftovers under a window and tore one renter’s new Stearns and Foster to shreds, then managed to open every cabinet in the kitchen. Animal Control had no problem capturing the coon which was in a severe food coma by the time the renters came home, found it, and called the County from outside.

Three bikers shared the house for a brief period and cooked meth in the kitchen. They ruined the stove and one of their girlfriends OD’d. She later moved out and the bikers left the place surprisingly neat, though the cooking odors lingered for months.

When the couple with the dog lived there, a huge truck with an oversized load rumbled past, shaking the foundation so hard that an autographed picture of the Osmond Family Singers fell off the wall onto an end table and knocked an antique vase onto the floor where it broke. The vase had been the wife’s mother’s uncle’s half-sister’s.

The Osmonds were o-kay.

Another morning, the wife was leaving for work on an early shift and wasn’t fully awake. She pulled out before another car had gotten fully past and hit it, right where her dog had been run over and left for dead. The accident wasn’t as fatal for her Camaro but the car did lose a bumper and her insurance refused to pay because, they said, she was at fault for driving while not fully awake.

That’s what the ticket read. It was from the same cop who got dysentery before.

An inexperienced man trimming a tree with a chainsaw slipped and cut his leg.

A drunk ran into a car waiting to turn left at the corner and drove it all the way into the driveway of the corner house where it totaled one of the Jamaican’s Escalades.

Two junior high school kids, feeling mean one day, threw their apples at the house and broke a jalousie windowpane which shattered on the kitchen stoop and the lady who lived there cut her foot cleaning up the glass.

She refused to wear shoes in Florida. “Why live here?” she said.

After the house had been gutted, the good renter falsely arrested and the hobos run out, the absentee owner came down to survey the damage and found the original Bill of Sale for the entire subdivision—all 128 acres—in a hole in the wall.

Ecstatic, he had it appraised. The paper itself had little historical value and therefore no monetary value, but a reporter with nothing else to write about got wind of the story and ran it with a picture of the absentee owner standing in his gutted house holding his worthless piece of history.

The only remaining heir to the subdivision land read the article and filed suit. The original Bill of Sale put into question the validity of the original sale and cost every current homeowner $4,000 to settle, even though none of them were the original lot owners. Every house had changed hands at least three times, if not five.

The 2,000-plus homeowners were represented by a big lawyer who lived in a big house and needed the money for his big gambling habit. The living heir was represented by a bigger lawyer who lived in an even bigger house and needed the money for his even bigger marriage habit.

The heir received very little of the money in the end and drank himself to death before the year was out. He had no heirs so the rest of the money went to the state.

No homeowners were recompensed.

The absentee owner considered tearing the house down, but decided to fix and sell it. He lost money on the deal, but the new owners were ecstatic—until the shoddy repair work became evident and they re-sold the house to an investor who rented it to the bikers, the blacks, the college girls and the suicide teen and his mom.

A woman college professor lived in the house one day and most of one night. She had a phobia of roaches, of which there were always many. She slipped on the way out, in a hurry at 4 a.m., and sprained her ankle. She had to sue for her rent and deposit.

The owner almost won by sneaking in an exterminator; but the roaches were so bad, the RidCo man was unable to kill them all—after four applications—before the woman professor’s court-appointed home inspectors visited and collected 23 roaches in 15-minutes.

The RidCo exterminator was fired and sued the owner of the house on the corner on grounds of “insect population misrepresentation.”

He won his case.

The next renters were a Haitian family who stayed in the house two years with no ill effects or accidents. However, on the day they were moving to a bigger house in North Miami, their last piece of mail was delivered. It was a summons for jury duty. The man and his wife had been U.S. citizens exactly one year.

The company he worked for did not pay for jury duty and he lost his job. He sued and lost the suit because he was black.

A motorcyclist was run off the road, hit the side of the house and was thrown into the living room through a window. He suffered minor cuts and a broken clavicle. His bike was ruined. He had no one to sue. The driver who cut him off never saw him and drove on home. He noticed a scratch on the side of his car the next day and blamed his wife. She hit him with an iron and almost killed him.

They divorced.

A skateboarder was practicing in the driveway of the corner house one afternoon when no one was home. The pierced and tatted 13-year-old fell and lost control of his skateboard. It flew up and away and broke the power meter. The owner had to pay for a new one but never knew how the old one got broken.

A second cat died under the house and stunk the place up for a month.

The couple who originally built the house and raised a family of five there over 30 years sold it when all three of their children had died in three unrelated freak accidents in as many states and the wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The husband had a stroke.

The house sold to the first investor in probate. The last investor who bought the house on the corner did so with the intention of tearing it down.

He did.

A track hoe lifted the crushed remains into several dump trucks that hauled it all away to landfills. The track hoe operator did a nice job of smoothing out the rubble, but a small crew of men with shovels and rakes finished the job.

One of the laborers saw something curious, something red, black and yellow in the middle of the blank space where the house had been. Thinking it was a Jamaican flag or beret, he reached down into the hollow to investigate. One of the coral snakes bit him between his thumb and first finger—the only place it could bite him with its tiny mouth. The man’s arm swelled up to twice its size and turned black. The doctors feared gangrene, but powerful antibiotics kept it at bay and the man survived.

The mystery of how the cats died so far up under the house was solved.

In order to remove the septic tank from the ground, per code, it had to be pumped clean. After the drain field and clean-out line were dug up and hauled away to a toxic landfill, along with the cement lid of the tank, a pumper truck came in to empty the contents of the old concrete tank so that it too could be hauled away.

The pump man dipped his hose in and smoked an unfiltered cigarette while the diesel whirred. Everything came up fine until the end when he heard something rattling up the flexible hose and the pump shut itself down automatically to prevent damage.

Knowing exactly what to do in such an emergency, the pumper man—who owned the rig—took a cover off the pump housing. The cover had been built into the truck for just such an occasion, to prevent damage to the working guts of the pump.

He quickly located the cause of the blockage:  an infant’s skeleton. Forensics concluded there was no way to determine whose it had been; they weren’t even sure how long it had been there.

So, the 62-year-old house was razed to make way for a two-story quadplex; then four times as many people had bad things happen to them.

It was the lot.

1 comments

Discussion

  4 years ago
Haha. I like the ending on this one. What a miserable place!
 

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