A Tale of Two Houses

Here is my tenth story for the twelve stories in twelve months challenge. The prompt was “The Signature” and the word count was 1,000. I’m not sure what to think of it. The prompt didn’t exactly inspire me, but it’s gotten positive feedback on the challenge’s website. Let me know what you think.

Doug stood in the street next to the first driveway. He looked at his clipboard. His parents, his sister, two cousins, and his parents’ neighbors. At least they didn’t all share his last name. He wiped his right hand on his pants and shook it hoping to dry the moisture. A clammy handshake wouldn’t do at all. He took a deep breath and walked to the front door.

He rang the bell and waited a few moments. Just as he decided no one was home, he heard the latch and the door opened. An old woman, about the same age as his grandmother, smiled at him.

“Hi,” he began, “I’m Douglas Walker. . .”

“Come in!” she opened the screen door for him. He stepped inside. “Can I get you anything?” she continued. “I just took some cookies out of the oven.”

“No, thank you. I’m just here to. . .”

“Nonsense. You remind me of my grandson, too skinny.”

She bustled off to another room. Not knowing what to do, he looked around the room. There was a couch and a chair and a coffee table and a TV. It looked like every square inch of the walls was covered with photographs. Her family, he guessed.

She came back with a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk. He put the clipboard under his arm and accepted the treats with a, “Thank you.”

Doug took a bite of the cookie and washed it down with some milk. “Thanks again,” he said. “I’m here today collecting signatures so I can get on the ballot for town council in the next election.”

“That’s lovely. Why don’t you sit down?”

Doug sat in the chair and the woman sat on the end of the couch nearest him. “You really do look like my grandson,” she said. “He’s going to be graduating from college in May.”

“That’s great, congratulations.”

“He’s always been a smart boy.”

Doug smiled and took another bite of his cookie. When the woman didn’t say any more, he swallowed and continued, “As I was saying, I’m running for town council and I need to get signatures to get on the ballot. I hope to. . .”

“You know,” she interrupted, “it’s good to see young people getting involved.”

“Thank you.” He finished his cookie and took another sip of milk.

“My grandson is going to go into banking. He had an internship last summer and they offered him a job once he gets his diploma.”

“That’s excellent. It’s not easy to find jobs right now. Which is something I want to help fix as town councilor. . .”

“It’s hard for your generation,” she said. “I saw on the news that a college degree doesn’t mean what it used to.”

“I’m one of the lucky ones, and it sounds like your grandson is, too. That’s why I feel like it’s my duty to give back. . .”

“I’m sure my grandson will do the same. He’s always been very generous and very involved.”

Doug waited to see if there was more. After a moment he said, “He sounds like a great kid. That’s why I’m running for office, I want to make things better for people like your grandson.” He held out his clipboard expectantly.

“Oh! Silly me. Of course, I’ll sign.” She took the clipboard and signed her name. “You must be wanting to go get more signatures. You don’t want to spend the whole day here with me.”

“Thank you,” Doug said. “I’m happy to stay and chat. . .”

“Nonsense, I’ve kept you too long already.”

“It’s my pleasure, but I am hoping to get to this whole neighborhood today.”

He finished his milk in a couple of big swallows. The woman stood up and reached for his glass. He handed it to her as he stood. “Thank you again,” he said.

“Thank you,” she responded. “I enjoyed our chat.”

“I really appreciate it. And remember in November, I’m Douglas Walker for town council.”

She showed him out and said, “Bye.” He said goodbye and waved then walked over to the next house. It had taken longer than he expected, but he was feeling more confident now.

He knocked on the next house’s door. An older man opened the door almost immediately. “Hi,” Doug began, “I’m Douglas Walker and I’m collecting signatures to get on the ballot to run for town council.”

“You a Democrat?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Taxin’ us to death,” and the man started to close the door.

“Not at all, sir,” Doug said. The door opened a little wider. “You know those old, blighted buildings on Cedar Street where the car dealer used to be?” The man nodded. “I believe there’s a way for the town to take control of the land so that we can find new owners who can contribute positively to the town.”

“So, you want the town to steal someone’s land?”

“The owners already abandoned the property.”

“That doesn’t mean the government can steal it.”

“We wouldn’t be stealing it, sir. They haven’t been paying their taxes for years. . .”

The man interrupted, “What’ll ya do with it once you’ve stolen it?”

Doug answered, “We wouldn’t be stealing it, but we will clean up the land and put it on the market.”

“That’ll cost money, won’t it?”

“Well, yes. There will be some up front costs, but. . .”

“That’s my money you want to spend. Taxes!” and the man shut the door.

“No, sir,” Doug muttered to himself, “it will raise revenue for the town without raising the tax rates. Could you at least sign? You don’t even have to vote for me.”

He walked slowly down the driveway and let out a long sigh when he reached the road. This was going to be harder than he thought. He shook his head and took a deep breath as he looked at the third house. “Just keep swimming,” he said to himself and continued on his way.

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