All White

There was a knock on Shane’s door. At first he thought it was a fallen bird, or a branch hitting the roof, but then there was another knock, and then a third. He checked his watch – it was 9.15. They were way too early; Martin had said that they’d come at 10.

He shouted, “Just coming!” slipped out of bed, and pulled on his dressing gown. He turned down the music – a tune produced just for him by multi-instrumentalist Seth. He didn’t have time to listen to it now though. The “motivated buyers” were here. He had to show them the main house.

Shane was greeted by two enthusiastic faces, both brown. “Hi, we’re Dev and Priya,” said the man. “And you must be Shane.”

Shane said, “Yes, welcome to Lucerne.”

“I’m sorry we’re so early,” said Dev. “We set off on time, but the journey was much quicker than expected. Have they upgraded the road from the City? It’s better than the last time we came, isn’t it honey?” She nodded, and he continued. “Well, we’ve come all this way to see the house, so may as well take a good look. I hope you don’t mind.” He started to laugh, like a donkey braying, but cut it short.

“No, that’s ok. I was up anyway,” said Shane. “But you’ve got me in my pyjamas rather than my business suit.”

“Were you going to wear a business suit?” said Priya. “It wasn’t necessary.”

“I was just joking,” said Shane. Priya cackled like a hyena, but cut it short. After Seth’s soothing music – gentle layers of wind, rivers, and waterfalls, added strings and hand drums, with flowing chants which appeared and eased – their laughs were fierce assaults. Their braying and cackling had chased away his peace of mind. He said, “Come in. Would you like some tea?”

Over tea, Dev said, “I’m a doctor and Priya is a lawyer. We’re thinking of getting away from the City. Somewhere more natural and beautiful, with a better sense of community. Of course we’ll keep our place in the City. Keep our options open.”

Shane asked them to wait five minutes and changed into yesterday’s clothes. He could shower later. His rented cabin was near the road. The main house was a hundred metres into the forest, along a gravel driveway. He said to them, “Please follow me.”

The property for sale was a boxy 3-storey house with red bat’n’board siding. It covered 4,000 SF officially, but almost 6,000 SF if you included the basement. It was an abode of ample proportions.

“Wow!” said Dev. “Much bigger than expected!”

“Great value for $500,000,” said Priya. “Three big floors – just imagine what we could do with them.”

“What were you thinking of doing?” said Shane.

“We thought of making the inside entirely white,” she said. “Plain white, endless white, white as far as the eye can see. Walls, carpets, sofas, bookshelves, everything white.”

“Why so much white?”

“It’s a colour that appeals to everyone. I began my career working at an insurance company. Vehicles came in and out. The white ones sold most quickly. No one hates white.”

“But do people like white?” said Shane.

“That’s not what counts. What matters is that they don’t hate white.”

“That’s right,” said Dev. “We repainted our rental apartment white and doubled the rent. That’s what we might do here if we decide not to stay. Repaint and sell it.”

Shane was intrigued by their philosophy. It was opposite to that of the current owners. His landlords loved colour. You could compile a whole Pantone book by taking swatches from their home. Red leather sofas sat on green wool carpets, blue metal vases balanced on yellow plaster pillars, carved silver doorframes were set with embossed golden doors. Lilac acrylic cabinets contained fancy teal china. Tangerine wood kitchen counters had an antique peach kettle and modern mango pots. A square navy table was set with tiny crimson teacups. Small monochrome etchings faced huge fluorescent digital prints. They were both artists and collectors. Makers and patrons. The being and the becoming. Their home was a living record of their fabulous lives.

Their happiness was here. Their inspiration and illumination was here. Their wounds and healing. Their grieving. Their celebrations. And most recently – lovely photos of their first grandchild – their completion. They were a wonderful couple who had built a true home, and also provided one for people in need, like minimum-wage Shane.

He showed Dev and Priya around the main floor. The lounge where the current owners watched Casablanca for the fortieth time, and said to each other, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” The kitchen where they’d roasted the fattest turkeys in the Valley, stuffed with cranberries, sage, oranges, and that special ingredient: Old Speckled Hen beer. The garden where a marquee had been raised, filled with golden planets and silver stars, and their happy, handsome son had been married. Shane showed them upstairs.  The bedrooms where dreams had filled their imaginations, and where they had loved each other fully. The bathroom where they had cleansed their bodies, and washed their worries away. The balcony from which they’d watched sunrises and sunsets together. Shane showed them downstairs. The guts of the house – the boilers, tanks, pipes, and cables – that fed and nourished this haven. The storage areas filled with past and future lives.

Shane had nothing against this young professional couple. They seemed like nice people. Next-generation immigrants with endless ambition. But they were not the right people to own this house. They understood nothing about it.

“Look,” he said. “I shouldn’t really tell you this. But did you know that the previous owners were murdered here? That’s why it’s so cheap.”

The motivated buyers seemed less motivated now. “Who by?” they asked.

“No one knows,” said Shane. “But they shouldn’t have tried to sell this house.”

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One Response to “All White”

  1. Getting better as the year rolls on! An incomplete ending though; needs the reaction of the young couple, either the reaction one would expect, or a surprise one.

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