The House Hunt
Our realtor was a lovely lady of about seventy. In heels she might have been 4’ 9” and she was just as wide as she was tall. A bulbous nose protruded out from two bakery-bun cheeks, her eyes disappearing in a spiderweb of wrinkles. As she took us around the neighborhoods of Chicago, we had to slow our pace and take one step for her every three to avoid overtaking her waddle.
The first place she showed us was in lovely Lakeview. A bit more than we were looking to spend, but it fell in that grey area where we thought maybe we could talk them down. It is a weak market, after all. And with stainless steel appliances, a whirlpool tub, and expansive sky lights, we couldn’t not see it.
“Oh baby,” my wife said as she burst through the door and pranced towards the kitchen, her legs kicking out behind her. “Just look at these appliances. They’re gorgeous.” She drew the word gorgeous out for a full ten seconds, a manner of speech usually reserved for babies or leather couches.
“These are nice, hon,” I said, following her into the kitchen and stroking the ice-maker component of a stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator. I turned to the realtor. “And you said there are skylights?”
“Oh yes,” she said, eyebrows suddenly appearing out of nowhere as she raised them with excitement. “Expansive skylights.”
We all headed up the stairs to the master bedroom. I took my wife’s hand in mine and we shared an excited glance before entering the room. The previous owners had excellent taste in furniture: two night stands flanked a four-poster bed, with a massive cherry amoire along the opposite wall. I was impressed until I saw the ceiling. It seemed that, in the construction of the condo, the builders had taken a very liberal interpretation of the whole skylight concept. Instead of building windows into the ceiling, they had simply left the roof off entirely. The bedroom was completely exposed to the heavens.
“How about that,” the realtor said, a smile barely visible through her pastry-puff cheeks. “You won’t find the like anywhere else in the city.”
“No, I’d imagine not,” I said, frowning. “But what happens when it rains?”
The realtor held up one finger and began dashing from one piece of furniture to the next. Umbrellas began sprouting from the furniture, huge rainbow canopies covering each piece of furniture, one from each post of the four poster bed. When she finished, I felt like I was at under the big top. The only thing missing was a car full of clowns.
“And the umbrellas come with”, she said proudly.
The next house she showed us was an actual house, not a condo. A whole house with a yard and everything just for us. It was a grand Victorian-style residence with delightfully high ceiling and hardwood throughout. At over 2500 square feet, it was more than double the size of our current apartment. Of course, the yard wasn’t huge, but it was not bad for Chicago. And best of all, it was within our price range.
My wife and I strolled through the house, hand in hand, decorating with our minds. We pointed to the arched entrance to the kitchen where our children’s height would be tracked and the breakfast nook where our kids would finish their homework in the morning before school.
“But,” our squat realtor said, craning her head up to meet our eyes.
The wife and I smiled at each other and shared an eye roll. “There’s always a ‘but’,” I said.
“I’m afraid there is, yes.” She paused, looking down at her hands. “The thing is, the house is infested with bunnies.”
“Yes, bunnies. Rabbits. They got in the walls and multiplied – “
“- Like rabbits?” I said, finishing the thought. “I didn’t even realize it was possible to get infested with rabbits. Are you sure you don’t mean rats?”
“Oh no,” she said. “It is a very real bunny infestation. And I’m afraid they’ve acquired a taste for meat.”
“Infested with carnivorous bunnies? How bad is this and can we just gas the whole lot of them?”
“Well, actually, the last two owners were devoured in their sleep. And attempts have been made to gas the rabbits for sure. In fact, the last couple who owned this place had the whole house tented. Piles of bunny bodies were carted out in wheelbarrows. And still, the owners ended up gnawed to death. The best guess is that these bunnies are coming up from underground.”
“And,” she continued with a deep sigh. “I’m afraid it’s been very tough on the property value.”
My wife gasped, biting her knuckles. “Oh honey!” she said. “But I just love this place. There’s so much room for kids. And the floors are in such nice shape.”
“But the man-eating bunnies,” I said. But she just looked up at me, eyes filling with water. I’d seen that look before. I turned to the realtor. “I think we’ll call it a definite maybe.”
When the realtor pulled up to the final house, we almost didn’t leave the car.
“Ugh,” I said. “Just look at that siding.” The siding was, in fact, powder blue. Our colors were orange and green which, in no uncertain terms, would cash horribly.
“Just bear with me,” the realtor said. We paused a moment but, figuring we’d already come this far, opened the car doors to follow her into the house.
My wife wrinkled her nose as we walked in and saw the floors. “Really,” she said. “Carpet? I hope to God we’ll pull this up and find some hardwood below.”
“Seriously,” I said. “Who puts carpet in a Chicago bungalow?”
Reluctantly, we continued forward into the kitchen and when we entered, I heard a small laugh escape from my wife. I turned to look at her, hands spread. “I know, right?” I said.
She just shook her head. “What are we supposed to do with this kitchen? White cupboards, white appliances? That’s just perfect. Is this a kitchen or an operating room?”
“It’s okay, honey,” I said, rubbing her back. “We can just gut it before we move in. Although it will cost a bit.” My wife just sighed.
I turned to the realtor, looking for some indication that she had showed us the house for a reason. She raised an index finger and gestured for us to follow her upstairs, telling us that the master bedroom was the key.
The master bedroom was okay – although maybe a bit undersized. She led us in and stopped in front of the closet. Smiling back at us, she threw open the closet door and swept her arm out like a Barker’s Beauty revealing a new car.
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s a closet. Is this what you wanted to show us?” The realtor’s arm remained outstretched, the extra flesh from her upper arm gently swaying as she followed our gaze into the closet, brow furrowed.
“Ah,” she said, now understanding our confusion. “Just wait.” And as we watched, the back wall of the closet began to dissolve, revealing a path lined with trees extending miles out to the horizon. At the edge of the path was a dead lion and four kids huddled around it looking disconsolate.
“Oh honey,” my wife said, clasping her hands together. “Narnia!”
“Wow, would you look at that,” I said. “Our very own portal to another universe. Now isn’t that fun.”
“Baby, I love this closet. And the kids would get such a hoot out of a battle between good and evil. But,” she said pursing her lips. “I’m still really worried about the kitchen.”
“And the carpet,” I said, nodding. “Plus, you know you’d get pulled into the White Witch’s web of evil. You can be a little gullible sometimes.”
She put her hands on her hips and stamped her foot at me. She had opened her mouth to bark her rebuke at me, but I cut her off with two words: “Pastor John.”
“Oh fine,” she said, pouting.
I turned to the realtor who had been watching our conversation ping back and worth like a spectator at Wimbledon. “We do like the closet,” I said. “Personally, I adore both talking animals and Christian Allegory. But I just don’t think we can get past the kitchen.”
Inside the closet, the youngest boy looked up from behind the lion and waved once before returning to his grieving.
In the end we settled on what we rather whimsically have named “The Bunny House.” To avoid dying in our sleep, we’ve put chicken wire around our bed and blanketed our covers with marigolds – we’ve heard rabbits don’t like them. We also got a dog for protection. Actually, we’ve gotten two dogs. The first was eaten a little bit and had to be put down.
But we’re already in love with the place. I’ve grilled out almost every night in our yard and the wife has done a fantastic job decorating the interior. I’d say we’ve really made this place our own and have no regrets.
Well, the first dead dog was a shame. But the hardwood floors really are in very nice shape.