Ted was making a point of keeping his eyes on the road. He pulled out his phone, opened his music app, and clicked play on Abundant o. There was bleeping and blooping and then Kim’s voice slowly screaming the word mistake around two hundred times in a row. Kim had played the trumpet in middle school jazz band, and the bass guitar in a Rolling Stones cover band when she was in high school. Usually Ted didn’t like to hear anyone’s voice screaming in a song, but it sounded great how his daughter did it. The first song, “Mistake,” ended and the second song began while he—reaching over his right arm onto the passenger seat—pulled a peanut butter & banana sandwich out of his briefcase and took off the plastic wrap. He ate the sandwich in four bites, nodding along to “Chokecherry Jam.”
Ted’s sedan came skidding to a stop in the gravel driveway to the three bedroom, two bathroom, immaculate first time on the market custom home. The time was 9:47am, leaving him thirteen minutes to finish eating before the showing. He wondered if he should tell the client it was his first showing. If it went well there would be no need to make apologies, and there was no sense even considering the possibility that it wouldn’t go well. He had passed the exam easily, and memorizing market trends and house specs came easily to him.
“Real estate is all about confidence,” he said.
He reached into his briefcase, pulled out an apple, wiped it on his shirt, and took a large chomp. He watched himself chew in the rear-view mirror. He ate the apple’s core too because he had nowhere to dispose of it and he didn’t want to chuck it out the window in case the client pulled in at exactly that moment.
Ted took off his seatbelt and removed himself from the car. He gently closed the door and looked at his reflection in the car window. He brushed the crumbs off his shirt and pants and slicked back his hair. When he worked the pulp mill, it never mattered how you looked—your hair could be full of sawdust and nobody would have said anything. He leaned against his car and waited, looking at the tall trees that lined the road. He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to wait inside or outside the house. He checked his phone. 9:59.
Abundant o were playing at a bar in Winnipeg called The Pyramid in three weeks. It was going to be their biggest show ever because they had just released their first album and some music websites were writing favourably about it. Kim had lived in Winnipeg for the last two years. Before that she had lived in Victoria with her mom, Beth, and before that the three of them had lived together. When Kim played live as Abundant o, her friend Timpani played the tambourine and a sampler. Kim had explained to him what a sampler was, but he didn’t remember. She had sent him the album as soon as it was mastered, so he’d heard it before practically anybody. She had explained to him what mastering was, but he didn’t remember. Imagine if he could go to the show. A green SUV pulled into the driveway. Imagine if he sold a house on his first try.
A woman in a black windbreaker came out of the car and waved.
He shook her hand and motioned toward the house.
“Isn’t this an ideal bay window?” he asked but was too busy opening the door to hear her answer.
He took her from room to room, telling her the statistics he could remember. Sometimes he paused and oscillated his body and she would do the same. He told her the type of wood the floor was made of, and when it had been installed. He told her about the neighbourhood’s demographic information. He told her the dimensions of each room, and which taps were a little funny. He was transparent about the house’s flaws. The windows often got covered in moisture, and the hot water pipes screamed sometimes while the shower ran.
In the kitchen, he asked about her family. She had twin sons named Geno and Julian, plus a German Shepherd named Melfi. She was thinking about moving them out of their apartment in North Port and into this new development so they would have more space to grow up. This was the first house she had looked at, and she was going to try looking in some other neighbourhoods too.
“You’ll want to see the yard, then,” Ted said, and while they walked through the house he told her about Kim and Abundant o and the little tour she had done and how she had snuck into the US without applying for a permit or paying the fee. Kim had gone from city to city on Greyhound buses and he was hoping to go see her play in Winnipeg soon.
They stood on the concrete patio, looking at the yard. There was a deflated-looking donkey pool toy leaned against the fence.
“I still get so mad when I think about that MoneySense bullshit,” Ted said, breaking the silence. “Worst place to live in Canada my ass.”
“I like it here,” she said, nodding.
Ted had no idea what her name was. He looked at the yard. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do now.
“Is there anything else you want to see?” he asked.
She said there wasn’t, so they went back inside. She picked up her jacket and her purse and walked through the house. Ted opened the front door for her and they stood in the front hall looking slightly past each other.
“Thank you for looking at the house,” he said.
“Thank you as well,” she said.
He stood in the doorway and watched her get into her car. Before starting the car she held her phone up to her ear, and she began talking as she backed out and drove away.
He went upstairs and sat on the bed in the master bedroom. He smacked the bed hard with his open palm. What else were you supposed to say? Had he given her a business card? And did she know what the next steps were? He remembered the Ronaldsons would be home soon, so he got up, glanced around the house to make sure everything was tidy, and left. He probably had failed to sell their house to the woman.
He had nothing planned for the rest of the day except for a phone call in the evening with the Ronaldsons and maybe to pick up some groceries at Price Saver, so he decided to go for a long drive. He put Abondant o on—starting the album where he had left off last time—and turned it up as loud as it could go without distorting. He sat back far in his seat with one hand on the steering wheel as he drove and soon he noticed he was passing through Cathedral Grove, where the highway cuts through the forest and the trees tower overhead, meeting each other in an arch at the top. He pulled into the parking lot and turned off the engine but left the stereo on. Sometimes when Kim was really in the middle of a screaming section of one of her songs, her voice would seem to break and transform into a childish whisper. He turned it up a little more and the speakers crackled and he closed his eyes.
Thomas Molander is from Vancouver Island and currently studies English and Creative Writing at Concordia University. His short fiction has appeared in The Void, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, ÖMËGÄ, and Soliloquies Anthology. He edits fiction at BAD NUDES.