New Thing, 4
My heart was beating a little fast. I opened the attachment. And blinked. You couldn’t rent a broom cupboard in Manhattan for what Hayley was offering me a two- or three-bedroom house for. The three-bedroom house was enormous. It had a long porch around two sides, a dining room, double front parlours, an attic and a cellar, and a huge garden. A huge garden. There was a photo of it, with Yggdrasil in one corner. I was sure the listed rental was too cheap even for Cold Valley. It must have rats, or damp, or Shub-Niggurath, Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep playing poker in the cellar. I shook my head. Just looking at it on line was giving me agoraphobia. It was even bigger than Gelasio’s penthouse. Ha ha.
The other one was possible. It was just an ordinary house. It had a garage for the car I was going to have to buy, and a clothes line in the back yard, so I didn’t have to pay to run the dryer. Oh, gods, I thought. Please tell me it has a washing machine. I am much too old to drive twenty or thirty miles to a Laundromat every week. This was aside from the fact that I’d been behind the wheel of a car slightly less often than once a year for the past twenty years—which had been fine with me. Driving to buy food was going to be an interesting experience. So was learning to live with gas prices. Maybe Cold Valley had a farmers’ market. Maybe I could eat a lot of frozen peas and canned tuna. And scrub my clothes on a washboard in the lake.
Driving to Cold Valley in the first place, with all my worldly goods (such as they were) in the back of a hired van, was going to be an interesting experience.
Was I really going to do this? I looked up. I had forgotten how big my office was till almost everything had been taken out of it. I felt marooned in here now; it took an effort of will to walk three steps to the door, six steps down the hall, and two across the kitchen to the granite-topped island which used to have the electric kettle on it. Gelasio would have let me keep more of the furniture, but I had suddenly taken against all the stuff he, or anyway his money, had bought, and after that there wasn’t much left. In here with me now was the sofa I’d bought at a junk store in the East Village and was the biggest thing I’d brought with me when I married Gelasio (although it was now a rather handsome dark green fake-brocade print instead of blotchy khaki with the horsehair sticking out in clumps), a dozen (okay, maybe fifteen) cartons of books ( . . . okay, maybe twenty), and about three of clothing. I had kept the jeans-and-All-Stars end of my wardrobe; nearly everything else had gone. I’d got a little money for it, but I hadn’t tried to do any better. It was like when young Mr Wolverine, my lawyer, had wanted to go after Gelasio for a bigger settlement—Gelasio didn’t owe me anything. I’d been a (relatively) happy freeloader for the last almost-twenty years. I had enough money to buy a car and to pay the rent on a two-bedroom house in Cold Valley. Yes, I was going to do this. What better ideas did I have?
I wrote back to Hayley saying that I was interested in the two-bedroom house, and could she tell me please if it had a washing machine? And was it (aside from laundry appliances) furnished? Should I forward her a month’s rent so she would hold it for me?
I hit ‘send’ and went back to the kitchen to make another cup of tea. This was probably the eighteenth today. One for every year of my marriage. Oh, stop it. The sooner I was out of here the better. There’d be a hotel in New Iceland; I should just go. I’d phone around about self-drive vans tomorrow.
You forget how long it takes to boil water if you’ve got used to an electric kettle. While I was waiting for my hot water and trying to come up with non-controversial topics of reflection (how far would a tea mug thrown with violence through an open penthouse window fly before gravity forced it to yield to reality?) I suddenly thought, I could get a dog.
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