Damon’s cell phone buzzed in his pocket as he stepped out of the stately house and into the warmth of late April in Scottsdale, Arizona. Checking the display, he recognized the number from the four previous calls he’d let roll to voicemail. Whoever it was, his mystery caller was pretty keen on speaking with him right now. He sighed as the door closed behind him, deciding to break his personal rule about taking calls while showing property.

“Excuse me for a moment,” Damon said to the young couple waiting on the porch, pointing to the phone.

“No problem,” the wife answered, running a hand over the lone straggler in her otherwise perfectly coiffed, auburn hair. “We’ll go ahead and get Maddux in his seat.”

Nodding, Damon pressed the “receive” button and put the phone to his ear.

“This is Damon,” he informed the caller in a slightly quizzical tone. Not for the first time, he wondered if he sounded helpful or confused.

“Yes, um, hi, this is Peggy Dragic. You showed my listing on Oak? Just curious what the buyers thought.”

The vein over Damon’s right eye throbbed with aggravation as his cobalt blue eyes narrowed to angry slits.

“You’re kidding, right,” he demanded, the sing-songy eagerness in his voice replaced with an icy baritone. “You’ve called five times in the past ten minutes for feedback?”

“I have a very eager seller,” she responded, by way of an apology.

“Look, Peggy, I’m right in the middle of an appointment. If you want to call back with the property address, you can leave it on my voicemail. I’ll review my notes when I’m done here and call you back,” he directed, willing his rigid jaw to relax. The last thing he needed was a trip to the dentist to fix another filling.

“Surely you remember it,” the agent pressed. “8423 North Oak – the beautifully remodeled Tudor with a split guest suite and stained glass clerestory windows in the foyer.”

He glanced at his black Yukon, where his clients were struggling to load their squirming nine month old. He couldn’t help but smile at their plight. Dylan had started reacting to his seat like a cat to an ice bath at about the same age. Damon suspected it was because he didn’t want to face backwards anymore. No longer content within his own little world, he was ready to join the big, forward-facing one.

“Hmm, doesn’t ring a bell,” he lied, deciding to play along. “What day did you say I showed it?”

“Today, between ten and eleven,” the incredulous agent informed him.

Damon pulled the phone away from his ear to check the time.

10:31 AM.

“Today? We must not have gotten to it yet. Nothing but overpriced dogs to this point,” he said. His mouth curved into a toothless grin.

“But I just got off the phone with the seller! She said you were just there!”

“Wait … did you say Oak,” he asked.

“Yes, Oak! There’s a koi pond in the front courtyard,” the agent clarified.

“No koi ponds today, just a stagnant bog that someone is using to brew West Nile virus. Couldn’t have been your listing,” he assured her, looking down at the half dozen carp of varied brilliant colors loitering near his feet.

“She was home when you came through,” the agent insisted. “You were there for half an hour!”

Movement in the living room window caught Damon’s attention.  A wrinkled face disappeared behind the elegant taupe curtain when he turned to look.

“Tudor, you say? We did see one Tudor, but it needed a lot of work,” he replied.

“My listing has newer appliances and a tankless hot water system,” the agent corrected.

“Well the one I’m thinking of smelled like an old lady’s apothecary chest and had the most garish flooring I have ever seen. The husband called it the “La Vida Loca House.”

“I’ll have you know that is the finest terracotta tile money can buy, imported directly from an artisan in Pienza. Each piece is handmade, baked in the sun for seventy two hours and fired in a 16th century kiln,” she huffed.

“No kidding? It looked like something my kid made in art class,” Damon responded. “And not for nothing, but Michelangelo he is not.”

“Well, what did they think about the kitchen? Is that not a gourmet’s delight,” she asked.

“If you are into cherry wood and granite, I suppose,” Damon admitted. “My people are alderwood and corian people. The kitchen would be the first thing they’d have to gut.”

“You won’t find another piece of property like this,” she pressed. “Where else can you get an acre and a half backing to state trust land in Scottsdale?”

“Maintenance would be a killer,” Damon countered. “My people are relocating from a studio apartment in San Francisco. He doesn’t even own a lawnmower.”

“How about the price,” she asked, hesitating slightly.

Damon allowed an audible sigh to preface his reply.

“You already know you’re overpriced by two hundred thousand, Peggy. No sense belaboring the point. It’s out of their range, but we wanted to take a look just in case it was move-in ready and the seller was willing to deal a little bit.”

“She is open to all offers,” the agent replied.

Damon realized he was pacing and began walking towards the SUV, where his clients had finally wrestled their sobbing child into his seat. He made a mental note to stop for a snack, toy, bottle of methadone or any other anti-tantrum talisman one could purchase at a Circle K.

“I appreciate that, but I just don’t see this house working for my people, Peggy. They want a split master, need an extra half bath, hate stairs …”

“Any suggestions? She really needs out of that house,” the desperate agent interrupted. “Since her husband passed away last year, it’s become too much for her to handle. Her family is all waiting for her back in Toledo.”

“Just between me and you, as a professional courtesy, it’s not going to sell while she’s living there. Her stuff is all over the place, family pictures staring down at you from every wall. Didn’t help that she followed us through the entire house, pointing out where one of her kids bumped his head forty years ago and the laundry room baseboard that Daisy, the Golden Retriever, chewed up in the mid eighties. My people felt like intruders.”

“I know, I know,” the crestfallen agent confessed. “I keep telling her to take the dog for a walk during showings. It died ten years ago, but she doesn’t know that.”

“Put her on a plane to Toledo and crash the price. It’s too far gone for a mom and pop. Your buyer is an investor.”

Damon climbed behind the wheel and buckled his seat belt while pinning the phone between his ear and shoulder in a well-practiced maneuver. After checking his passengers to ensure that everyone was secure, he started the car.

“Well, not what I wanted to hear, but I appreciate your candor,” the agent said, partially obscured by the throaty engine roaring to life.

“No sweat, hope it helps,” Damon offered.

“It does, thanks for taking the time.”

“Sure thing, Peggy. Best of luck,” Damon concluded, terminating the call and dropping the phone into the grey cup holder in the console. He looked in the rearview at the young woman in the back seat, beaming despite the now shrieking child next to her.

“So what do you think, guys? Still feeling it,” he asked.

“Absolutely, it’s everything we’ve ever wanted,” the computer programmer with the prematurely salt and pepper flecked buzz cut sitting next to him gushed, breaking from his usual recalcitrance to answer for them both.

“Terrific, let’s go back to the office and write it up. One thing, though,” Damon teased.

“What,” both spouses asked in unison.

“We’re gonna offer a hundred grand less than we discussed.”

All three smiled as they pulled away from the curb, leaving 8423 N. Oak Drive in their wake.


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