Househunting

Househunting

Enjoy this story with a coffee.

Apartments are cheaper because they’re smaller and easier to pin down and because the deed has less space in which to hide as they bound about the prairies avoiding the hunt. It’s into these fields that the homes go when they’re released like animals from the zoo once the builders have made their last flourishes.


You’ll have heard people talk about the buying process as a brutal one. It is. Hand-to-hand brawls with the drawers and the windows and the doors. But people, like our couple, come nonetheless and they stand in the queue on a bright cold Sunday monday as the sun climbs above the horizon into the clear blue sky. The houses yawn awake as coffee cools in takeaway cups that will be left haphazardly behind. Our couple can see their house. She has the paperwork. He has the stapler. Their house is cautious and it watches the gathered crowd beyond the boom as it meanders about the grass. There are other buildings separating them all.


When the gate opens, they run. And the house moves too.


She’s faster than he is but he’s heavier and he’ll get and keep the closed but unlocked doors open. They’re passing the older, tireder homes upon whom more work will be required. They’ve been rehearsing on Saturdays for months, across the football field near to them, and they’re making good time. Each with a clear head and focused, easy movement. They saw this house in the brochure early last year and they waited for its release through a construction company collapse scare and they watched on, nervous, as it was fair game for the last few weeks. They had been just a bit too late, a bit far back in the long line to get past the gate on the Sundays before. The line had thinned today. They wondered if the houses were becoming more fierce. They would see.


The mile between the gate and the house disappeared fast but not as fast the house disappeared behind the hills ahead. It crested and it turned its rear patio away to turn and look back to them through the first-floor-windows-as-eyes and then rotated back away, grinding the grass below as it did, the front porch ripping through the slope as its tremendous weight pushed into the earth. It takes a lot for a house to climb a hill and its downward drop accelerates it forward but the pace slackens on the flat thereafter.


She’s powering ahead. Almost there now, skirting the rent earth the house left behind atop the hill, and she slows to let him catch up and he does and he powers on and over and down and he’s carried faster downward to the flat. Another soft rise greets them ahead and the house is racing for it. Its back stairs down to the grass are an easy target as they approach, their legs tight with pain, but he gets a hand onto the balustrade and pulls himself forward before turning, smooth, on his heel and reaching back out to her. She takes his hand and jumps up and on but they stumble as the house hits the rise. Dirt bursts about the garage, gouging through the hill to an ascension. 

As it crests they throw themselves forward against the back of the house and he misses the wood and hits the glass sliding door and it holds without cracking but they worry about the warranty. He slides the glass open and steps inside, balancing against the kitchen bench as he holds it safe for her and she hops inside. The house reaches the hilltop. He closes the door. And the unusual feeling of the floor falling out from beneath them arrives, like on a plane but with the weight of a life to be lived all about them as well, and they come crashing down. 


The slab bites through the earth but it holds, concrete and tough, as the cabinets and internal doors all swing open and harsh crack shut but nothing comes spilling out about them in the kitchen. She knows this means the papers are upstairs. She would have been surprised if they were here in the open plan living but she doesn’t hold that thought for long as she sees through the window backsplash that they’re turning towards another, taller hill. She sends him upstairs with a word and he runs with the paper and she has the stapler and she starts to double check the kitchen drawers like a storm.


He checks the cupboard under the stairs but there’s nothing there, like she says there’s nothing in the cabinets. They’re looking for the deed, for the contract of sale, paperclipped together somewhere they won’t be ruined by people frustrated and frantic in the search; somewhere they would be able to find in the spirit of competition if others had reached the house at the same time they had. He’s on his way to the master bedroom, bounding up the stairs as the house moves still across the plain toward the hill. He’s racing for it but she has the stapler and the paperwork needs to be affixed; with that shallow click, the house knows it’s over. That it’s settling.


So it races, like they are, for the hill to go hard and fast and up and shake them loose somehow so they come tumbling from the back door to the grass. He’s rummaging through the display furniture drawers and into the walk-in robe and he’s forward a step running a hand over the shelves and he feels something light and thin brush against his fingers. He stops and then freezes because it’s not often that houses jump. It vaults from before it hits the hill and sails up and coming on even with the hilltop ready to slide right over. He snatches the paper.


The room feels weightless, ungrounded, so huge but now so driven that it’s unstoppable and he feels as if he’s gliding through and out of it in the hallway to the stairs. He’s past the bathroom as he feels the clip of the slab on the grass on the way through; thrown forward, stopping himself with his hands on the stairwell and the wall. He calls out over the odd quiet and she hears and snaps to the stairs. Now freefall. Not far to go but with enough inertia to crack like heaven into the ground. And it does as he lets the contract go. It falls, aching, slow. The house does not. 


He tumbles down the hall to the spare room but she braces against the wall opposite the end of the stairs. A great rumbling arises beneath them and it kicks once, twice, as the house recovers, the sound breaking, leaving a four-bedroom crater where it struck and carving up through the ground as it comes level. Aware of its defeat. 


The contract falls in a sheaf down towards her and she takes it as the house seems to rotate about it as it flattens out. Paper to paper and click and the house’s heavy earthward tremble stops and the bones of the place creak as it comes to a stop and their first thought is to note where the noises come from so they can see if it will need to be fixed. She stands. He’s halfway downstairs and he slows and she comes forward and they move into each other, tight and firm, to celebrate and catch their breath over a kiss. 


They hold for a moment then let go and she looks towards the front door, urging him along, as they make their way outside and onto the clear green grass just like a lawn. They look together upon their new home. Weather-proof and double-glazed with a wooden frame. Well-won. And it would look even better with a few changes here, here, and here. They couldn’t help but laugh to each other.


They walked back up the hill along the gouge through the ground and they saw at the top the agent approaching with the keys. 


Behind the agent’s car, another couple making their way across the plain. Their eyes on something similar with floor-to-ceiling curtains and a caesarstone, not marble, benchtop.

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