Jerry Wentz grinned as he ran his stubby fingers through the few stubborn wisps of hair atop his otherwise bald pate. Shouting to be heard over the roar of the descending fighter jet, his last word punctuated the relative silence that accompanied its disappearance beyond the mountains to the immediate east as it descended to its destination at the small, unseen airfield that lay just on the other side.

“What was that, an F-52,” he marveled.

“You’ve been playing too much Call Of Duty, Jerry,” his non-amused audience replied. “Or not enough. An F-52 isn’t a thing. That was a 15. The Norwegians have been here testing them for the last two weeks.”

“Norwegians, you say,” Jerry asked, tilting his pock-marked face quizzically. “Interesting. How do you know so much about jets anyway? Didn’t take you for a military man.”

The man in the faded blue jeans, untucked orange Hawaiian shirt and Birkenstocks scoffed. He adjusted the square glasses that had slid down the bridge of his sharp nose, and smoothed his unruly goatee.

“I sell locally-sourced, gluten-free, non-GMO vegan cookies online, Jerry,” he reminded the Real Estate agent. “The closest I ever got to the military was a brief flirtation with the Peace Corps.”

“Of course,” Jerry boomed. “I ordered some just the other day! The caramel pistachio hemp seed truffle was delicious!”

Both paused as another plane approached.

“Cesna 510,” Ned muttered to himself before returning his attention to his guest. “You tend to read up on these things when the sleepy, commuter airport next door turns out to have a contract with the United States Air Force.”

His brown eyes drifted to the picket fence that separated his property from the barren field beyond it. He jutted his chin towards an obviously newer portion of fencing. The ground beneath it was scorched black.

“That’s the section I had to replace last spring when an F-35A Lightning decided to lose an engine on final approach.”

“Who’da thunk,” Jerry empathized, eyes wide and palms turned up to the sky. A single bead of sweat formed on the short man’s bulbous forehead. “Shall we head inside? I’d love to have a look at that kitchen!”

“Of course,” the man acquiesced, turning and leading the way along a treacherous stone path that bisected the dead lawn.

“Mind your step,” he cautioned his guest. “The oil won’t be easy to get off those fancy shoes. Are they leather?”

The scowl that threatened to consume Jerry’s face gave way to a broad, toothy grin.

“Alligator,” he boasted. “Straight from the Everglades.”

His grin settled back into a grimace as he inspected the blackish mud that oozed between the mismatched stones of varying height and width.


“Abandoned underground tanks,” his companion informed him without turning around. “There was a gas station here in the 50s, according to old man Hansby a couple miles over. I had a guy over to look, but it would cost even more to repair them than to rip them out. Have to involve the EPA, USDA, ONRR, DHS, FEMA, Mulder and Scully … pretty much every division of the federal and state government other than game and fish. I’m sure they’d pop up to tell me that my drums are endangering the hunchback pigeonfish of Eastern Idaho at some point, too.”

Upon reaching the porch, he stepped out of his sandals and slipped into a pair of disposable blue booties. He gestured for Jerry to do the same. Grumbling, Jerry obliged.

“What in God’s name is that smell,” Jerry squawked before the man even finished swinging the front door open on its protesting hinges. He took half a step back, placing a hand over his mouth as his gorge rose in his throat.

“That would be the sewer backup,” the man said with a sigh. “Remember the slow sink in the master bathroom? Turns out it needed more than just a little Drain-O. There are more roots in the main drain line than in Kunta Kinte’s family tree.”

“These old houses … probably should have had that scoped prior to purchasing,” Jerry chastised. He eyed an alarming system of cracks in the walls and ceiling as he stepped inside the small home.

“Yes, that would have been good advice,” the man agreed through clenched teeth. “If only someone had told me what to look out for as a naive, first-time buyer.”

“Not big on decor, Ned,” the agent asked, changing the subject. As he looked around the cramped great room, if you could call it that, he saw a small suede sofa, a matching love seat, and an unadorned coffee table. A single picture of an empty beach at sunset hung slightly askew on the wall behind the sofa. “I mean, no offense, but I’ve seen more warmth in the county morgue.”

The house shuttered as another plane rocketed directly overhead. The picture rattled off its nail and fell on the sofa.

“Boeing V-22 Osprey,” the homeowner noted, returning the picture to its place before rounding on his former Realtor.

“There used to be more,” he hissed. He opened his mouth to continue, but was interrupted by an otherworldly mewling that seemed to originate from the floor directly beneath their feet.

“What the devil is that,” Jerry demanded, fiddling nervously with his ill-fitting red tie as he considered abandoning the appointment altogether.

Lord knew he needed the listing. He never could figure out why repeat business didn’t come his way like it did for the other agents in his office. He suspected it was his hair. If he were straight out of central casting like Bob or Veronica, he would be the one with all the awards for production at the annual holiday party instead of constantly looking for new clients who weren’t put off by his appearance and zillow reviews.

As eager as he was for the business, however, he needed houses he could actually sell. Not this monstrosity. He vaguely recalled telling Ned during the purchase that home inspections were a waste of money, but it was all a bit fuzzy. He had been huffing a lot of Reddi-wip at the time.

“Chupacabra,” Ned answered. “Bastards are everywhere out here. I don’t have any goats, but turns out they like to eat the insulation in the attic. Go figure.”

“I’m sorry, did you say chupacabra,” Jerry demanded.

“Relax,” Ned assured him. “It’s locked in the basement.”

“But you don’t have a basement,” Jerry protested.

“That’s the fun part,” Ned replied. “Turns out I do.”

“Well, how did you get him down there,” Jerry asked, ceding the point.

“Caught it rummaging in the utility shed when I came home from a zoning hearing about converting the cemetery on 5th to a luxury condo development last week,” Ned answered. “Zapped him with the taser I got to fight off the sludge mutants. Bullets don’t work.”

Sludgemutants …,” Jerry gasped.

“In the pool,” Ned said with a wink. A wicked glint flared in his weary eyes.

Jerry lifted his gaze to the sliding glass doors that led to the backyard. A layer of trash covered the murky bog that lay just beyond the patio. As he looked on in horror, one hump, then another, emerged from the sludge, and disappeared back into the inky depths.

“Should I fill it in for showings,” Ned asked with no hint of sarcasm. “Or offer rides?”

“What the hell was that,” Jerry croaked. The room spun dizzily as he nearly fainted.

“Not entirely sure,” Ned confessed. “But I’m pretty sure it’s a plesiosaur of some kind. Maybe a mosasaurus. Either way, I don’t host too many pool parties here.”

Jerry turned and ran, not bothering to stop for his nineteen dollar shoes. Smoke rose from the booties on his feet as he touched the oily ground, missing several stepping stones in his haste.

“Wait, Jerry,” Ned called after him, bursting into laughter. “You haven’t even seen the new granite in the kitchen yet!”

“Thanks for thinking of me, Ned, but I’m gonna have to pass,” Jerry bellowed over his shoulder as he fled. “And your cookies are shit by the way!”

Ned continued laughing hysterically.

“Well, locally sourced isn’t alway a positive, now is it, Jerry,” he called after him between ragged breaths. “Drive safe!”

The deafening roar of a jet overhead nearly drove Jerry to his knees, but he managed to stagger the rest of the way to his waiting 2009 gold Buick, where his booties promptly burst into flames. He danced them off and dared to glance back at the house just in time to see Ned, still doubled over howling with laughter as the porch collapsed around him.

Home warranty should cover that, Jerry told himself before remembering that he advised not upsetting the seller by requesting one during negotiations.

Jerry floored the Buick, pulling away from the house as it imploded into itself and vanished. Along with Ned’s 1 star review, he hoped.


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