Steering

If you’re not one for introductions, just skip to below the line.  I’ve been posting a lot about my divorce and depression lately.  I want to post something different, but I’m not in a good place to write anything different.  So, I thought I’d post something I wrote a little while ago for a short story contest.  For this particular contest, it had to be a romantic comedy.  It had to be fewer than 1500 words.  It had to be about buying a house.  And it had to feature a college professor.  I didn’t win, so I might as well be environmentally friendly and recycle, right?  The requirements made sure this isn’t what I normally write about and I’m not exactly sure what I think of it, but I hope it’s worth posting.

 


“That’s crazy.  I’m a terrible liar.  I can’t.”

“Come on, Will.  I’ll owe you big time.  I want the best house for me and Jen.  I just know the realtor won’t even show me the best ones.”

“But that’s completely illegal.”

“Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  And you’ll barely be lying.  We’re practically the same person, if one of us was dropped in bleach as a baby.”

“I know a realtor you can trust.  Let me give you her number.”

“We already have the appointment.”

“What does Jen think about this?”

“I’ll call her right now and let her know.”

 

***

Will opened the door to the realtor’s office.  Jen wasn’t there yet.  He wiped his palms on his pants and sat in the closest chair.  There was one other person in the office.  She was absent mindedly flipping through a magazine.  She glanced at Will, then went back to the magazine.  Will gave a slight smile, then wiped some sweat from his forehead and exhaled loudly.  He took out his phone, but kept looking at the woman.  She had deep brown skin.  Her hair was pulled back flat against her scalp until it exploded in tight curls at the back of her head.  Her face was round with full cheeks.  Will put his phone away and started pacing around the waiting room.  She must have noticed that he was trying, and failing, to stop looking at her.

The inside door opened and a woman stepped out.  “Jackson and Jennifer?” she asked.

Will and the woman said, “Yes,” at the same time and then both looked at each other, clearly confused.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” the realtor said.  “There are a few places I’d like to show you, but do you mind if we take separate cars?  I have another appointment after this and I’d be late if we had to come back here.”

 

***

“Who are you?”

“Who am I?  Who are you?” Will asked.

“Jennifer showed me a picture.  You’re way whiter than the picture she showed me.”

“Who are you and what are you doing here?”

“What am I doing here?  Jennifer asked me to come.  What are you doing here?”

“WHO ARE YOU?”

“You’d better go.  We’re supposed to be following.  I’m Jennifer’s sociology professor.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.  Did Jack put you up to this?”

“No.  I’ve never even met Jackson.  Jennifer said he would find it funny.  But, I still don’t know who you are or what you’re doing here.”

“Jack and I have been friends forever.  I’m going to be best man at their wedding.  He wanted me to come because he thought the realtor would show me and Jen different houses than him and Jen.  But, now that you’re here, I have no idea why I’m here.”

“That’s kind of why I’m here.  Or maybe it’s the opposite of why I’m here.  Jennifer is my research assistant for a book I’m writing.  She had the same thought as Jackson and thought if I saw it first hand, it would give me some good perspective for my book.”

“Isn’t that unethical?”

“Isn’t what you’re doing unethical?”

“I’m trying to help two people avoid an injustice.  You’re hoping the injustice happens.”

“I am not.  I’m just realistic.  Besides, this isn’t research.  I’ve already done my research.  It might add a little spice, but it certainly isn’t changing the meal.”

“Oy.  She’s pulling over.  This is going to suck.”

“I think it’ll be fun.”

 

***

“What was that all about?”

“I got a little angry.  It wasn’t a big deal,” said Will.

“Not a big deal?  She would have been less insulted if you’d just called her a crack whore.”

“That’s not true.  I can be way more insulting than I was.  I know what Jack sent her in terms of price and what they want.  Not only did she ignore that, she lied to my face about it.”

“You were lying to her face the whole time.”

“Ugh.”

“I’m serious.  You can’t just go off on someone like that.”

“I didn’t ‘go off’ on her.  I just reminded her that she wasn’t treating us right.  No biggie.”

“That’s your stupid privilege talking.  You wouldn’t last a day as a black man if you reacted like that to every slight.”

“What’s the point of privilege if I don’t use it?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It was a joke.  Just try to relax.”

“If you want me to relax, don’t ever make a joke like that.”

“Okay.  Sorry.  Look, I’m still trying to salvage this.  I might have insulted her, but I’ll bet the next house is closer to what Jack’s looking for.”

“Not a chance.  What’s the bet?”

“A Coke.  And what do you mean not a chance?”

“I mean that all you did is make her think you’re uppity.”

“Uppity?”

“You really are clueless.  It’s when you’re acting above your station.”

“I know what the word means.  I can’t be uppity.  I don’t have a station.  Or if I do, she has no idea what it is.”

“White people are so stupid.”

“Wait.  Where are we?”

“You owe me a Coke.”

 

***

“I wish I’d have taken a picture.  You should’ve seen the look on your face.”

“You mean when I asked about the grocery store?” Will asked.

“Yup.  ‘There’s a Seven Eleven on the corner.’  That was beyond genius.  I haven’t had this much fun in years.”

“I don’t know how you guys live like this.”

“Come on, don’t say something stupid and mess up a pleasant afternoon for me.”

“I’m not saying anything bad.  I’ve been friends with Jack my whole life.  I see how he’s treated differently than I am, but he never seems bothered by it.  He’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met.  If it were me, I’d walk around punching white people in the face.  And you seem to think it’s funny.”

“It is funny.  Just remember that white people are stupid.  It would be impossible to live otherwise.  Now, come on.  We only have one more house left.  Let’s have some fun.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“Whatever she shows us for the next house, just act like it’s your dream home.”

“I’m a terrible liar.  It’ll never work.”

“Either it will make her think she’s got a sale and then ruin her day when she finds out Jennifer and Jackson are using a different agent, or it will sound really sarcastic.  Either way, we win.”

“What the heck.  I suppose it will make a funny story someday.  Hey, aren’t we right around the corner from the realtor’s office?  I thought she said she didn’t have time to come back here before her next appointment.”

“God you’re an idiot.  She just didn’t want to ride in the same car as us.”

 

***

As the three left the house, the realtor looked like she had just sucked on a lemon, but the other two could barely contain their giggles.  They didn’t say anything as they got into their respective cars.

“You were right.  That was a blast,” Will said.

“I told you.  When you started getting rhapsodic about how great living in a house with one burner and no oven would be, I really thought she was going to break.  God bless her, she kept that composure.  She’s a credit to her people.”

“Where are you parked?”

“Across the street from her office.”

Will pulled out and started back.  “I never even got your name.  I’ve been calling you Jen all day.”

“I never got your name either.  Mine’s Samantha.”

“Nice to meet you, Samantha.  I’m Will.”

“It’s that silver one up there.”

Will pulled in behind her car.  There was a long pause.  Samantha said, “Thanks for driving.”

“No problem.  Good luck with your book.”

 

***

“Dude, that was a total disaster.  Have you talked to Jen?”

“No.  She probably let her cell run out of juice again.  What happened?”

“It’s a long story.  How about we grab dinner and I’ll tell you about it?”

“I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.  You and Jennifer look like the perfect couple.  You must have seen some great houses.”

“Not even close.  I’m going to give you my realtor friend’s phone number tonight.  But you have to do one thing for me.”

“Anything.”

“You have to get Jen to get me her sociology professor’s number.”

Share This:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.