2 LITTLE, 2 LATE
Spring was late, and so was he. An unusually warm day made Tom Johnson not in the mood to hurry on his way to an appointment that Betsy Morelle lined up with a real estate salesman, or woman.
"Hello, Betsy," Sally Morris answered the phone in less than cordial tones. "Best friends tend to press in with business, especially when you're my boss. Sally flounced into a sitting position. "Never mind that you upset the neat order of goofing off I had arranged to nurse my bad case of spring fever."
Betsy Morelle hung up the phone. The old property outside of town would be the ticket for the first sale of the year for Sally, she thought.
She startled at the jangling phone on her desk. Answering she went into her sales pitch. "Don't be alone without your own home! And how may I help you today?"
"Oh, hi, mom. I was just talking to Sally. You know I have a soft spot for my dear friend who is on her own for the first time in her life."
Larry turned into the Smith house drive and slammed into an abrupt stop.
Drooping willow branches hung over the litter strewn winding drive. Johnson followed a set of tracks over broken branches, crumpled trash and drifts of dead leaves. He moved forward slowly to avoid scraping the brown paint off his nearly classic Ford. Through the tangled bushes and trees, he got his first glimpse of his ‘dream’ home.
“Yo, anybody here?” He tilted his head and listened for a response. All quiet except for a blue jay scolding him. Johnson stepped forward on the thick carpet of damp leaves to find a way into the house. The missing driver left a trail of piled branches Tom crunched and stumbled over walking into the carport. “Hey, are you guys cleaning up?”, he shouted. “Where are you?”
“I am in here!” A weak reply sounded from the back door halfway open. Musty algae and other smells hit his nostrils when Tom pried the door open to enter the kitchen. “Gag a maggot,” he said, stepping over decaying material of unknown origin. “Where did you say you are?” Tom ducked hanging ceiling pieces looking for a door out of the kitchen.
“Come into the living room!”
“Easy for you to say.” Tom found the old oak door with stained facing and tarnished fittings. He turned the brass knob and pushed. It opened easier than expected and he burst into the next room sliding on the damp carpet.
“Are you the one Betsy sent to show me this house?” Tom Johnson roared. “Where did she have to go to find you two?” He did not go on, but stepped back a couple steps to regroup.
“I know what you mean. Please settle down.” Sally stood in front of him calmly. Tom caught his breath and it wasn’t because of his slide. She shimmered in the dimness of the room. Ummm, old man. What is this?, he thought. “What is your name?”, he asked sounding too much like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood.
"My name is Sally Morris." She put her hand toward Tom. He took it in his big hand. “Betsy Morelle sent me. She is my boss, technically. I am a real estate associate with her company.” Her hand was moist and cold.
“Glad to meet you.” He didn’t loosen his grip. “Why did Betsy pick this crummy house for me? She knows better.” Tom moved closer to check out Sally’s wide open blue eyes and cascading blond hair. He moved her around looking at all points of her tailored business suit. She shook loose from his grip.
“Mr. Johnson, I presume.” She tried to open the door. “Ms. Morelle sent me to show you this house. But I can’t because I can’t get out of this room.” She paced few steps toward the living room and back. “Vines and stuff have grown over the windows and the what used to be the carpet squishes,” she said looking down at her mold covered shoes. “Slime covers everything.”
Tom patted his hip as if searching for something. “Nuts. I left my flip phone in my jacket. We could have help, but no phone, unless you have one somewhere.” His face lit up in hope.
“Forget it, Big Guy. My purse is in my car along with my phone, and tools.” She pointed at the kitchen door, “If I had my pocket knife, I could get out of here.”
"Where's the guy, Larry, with the heat and air truck? He could get us out of here!"
"I haven't seen him. When I came in the door was like you saw it. I thought I heard a big burp echo from the air conditioning ducts," she said wringing her hands. "Larry was always playing tricks, so I hollered at him to stop," Sally starts to cry.
"Oh, no, you don't." Tom wasn't consoling. "Did you see his tool box anywhere? Maybe he stepped out back for a smoke!"
"Larry does not smoke! I found his hat in the corner, just laying there like he threw it down!"
"Ok, calm down." Tom had to get a grip on himself, before he said anymore.