Bright Street

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Brenda gets help from a friend

Bright Street

I sell real estate. I get a feel for a house and a feel for a person. They say, “I’ll know when I see it.” So, I take a deep breath and the right house comes to me. It’s the coolest thing in the world when I open that door and hear them say, “Wow!” 

There’s a lot of money to be made from my ability. I’m top saleslady three years in a row, but things can go wrong. Like my live-in romance with Mr. Know-it-all, the man I intended to marry and have a home with, that didn’t work out well. Anyway, when I saw the low asking price for the house on Bright Street, I said, “What’s the catch?”

That’s the oldest part of the city. Those houses were fine once; they were shined and polished with wrought iron fences and quiet back yards. Bright Street was especially pretty because all those houses face the river. It was - the - place to be, but now it was shabby with cats in the alleyways.

 Still, there was urban renewal and grants for preservation. Some of the houses had been restored. Word was that Bright Street was coming back, especially if you were in the real estate business and could jack up the price. So, when I saw the low asking price on the old house, I went straight in my boss’s office.

Ben’s my father-figure for making money. “I knew you’d like it, Brenda,” his eyes lit up with dollar signs.

“What’s the story?” I kept the interest out of my voice.

“It’s a bank foreclosure, needs lots of work. Being sold – as is – because the longtime owner, Walter Denton, disappeared without a trace. He disappeared  without a will, or even a relative. He couldn’t make his payments and the bank foreclosed on him. They sent him notice after notice, but he never replied. Anyway, the police think he jumped in the river.”

 “They haven’t found him?”

“No, and all of Walter’s things are just like he left them. The bank wants to unload it quietly. Old guys jumping in the river ain’t good for progress.”

* * *

The house set back among fine trees. A painted clapboard that looked settled between its neighbors. The gate stood ajar like someone forgot to close it when they left. Daffodils lined the walkway and a rusty glider sat on the porch. An ashtray overflowed with soggy cigars. I saw a walking stick in the corner, and when I looked to the river, a tugboat was pushing a barge.  

I turned the key inside the lock, wondering how many times Walter Denton had stood there before me. I get a vibe with my houses. They absorb the people who live there. If a house had a bad owner, I tell it that things are looking up. I say great people are coming – give it a pep talk. By the time I get the old crap out and put fresh paint on the walls, they’re perking right up. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the leaded glass windows that shone rainbows around the entry way. The high ceilings, soft light, or the peace of the rooms with the sagging chairs.  

“So far, Walter, it’s wow!”

I felt this odd little shrug.

The stairway rose upward. I smoothed my hand on the worn-down banister that had seen many hands before. There was a bedroom on the right with an unmade bed, a squashed pillow. A torn sweater draped on the chair. The hairbrush was full of  gray hairs, and when I opened the closet there was a blue flannel shirt, “That shirt’s forty years old.”

Still good . . .

Yes, actually – it was.

Downstairs in the kitchen, I found dirty dishes in the sink and a piece of toast in the toaster. “Why make toast if you’re just going to jump?”

 A strange little smile.

Opening the pantry room door, I counted twelve cans of cat food and eight cans of tomato soup. “It’s going to work out. Tomato soup is my favorite.” I gazed at the stacks of Christmas cookie tins. Smelled bacon frying in the pan, the coffee perking in the pot. “Oh, Walter,” I said, “I’m home.”

There was a pause, then a nod. He was OK with it.

* * *

A week later I was head down cleaning the kitchen cabinets of my new/older house. “I’m throwing your dish towels out. They’re not even rags.”

Walter didn’t care one way or the other.

The doorbell rang. It had a ding-dong chime like from an old movie. A man in a rumpled suit held up a detective badge. “Joe Goodwell, I’m here about the Walter Denton case.” He looked directly into my eyes. I felt this strong steady vibe. 

 “I didn’t know there was a case,” I motioned for him to come in.

“Probably not, but we still have to check.” He sat in Walter’s man-chair and glanced all around. “I like what you’ve done. I’ve been here before.”

“Me and Walter have worked on a truce. I have to go through his things. Some things, I’m getting used to, but if they really stink, I say, Walter, I’m throwing this out.”

Joe narrowed his eyes, “They told me you were like this.” He put his left hand in the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a pen. He wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.

“I get a feel for a house and a feel for the people, too. You can call it brainwaves, or vibes, or whatever you want.” Joe settled into the chair – like he belonged there. I said, “You want a cup of coffee?”

“Sure.”

I went into the kitchen wondering why I never baked cookies. “What if Walter comes back?” I called into the living room.

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Joe said.

“I’m not worried. It’s just that you get to know somebody if their underwear’s still lying in the bathroom.” I balanced Joe’ s cup on the little tray and went back to the living room.  

Joe picked up his cup and leveled his eyes into mine. “What do you feel about this case?”

“Walter Denton was a nice old man who got behind on his payments. He couldn’t keep up.”

“So, he jumped in the river?”

“I don’t get that either. He could be anywhere.”

“No, ma’am,” Joe shook his head. “Walter Denton’s body was pulled from the river this morning. It isn’t out yet. Preliminary forensics can’t tell if he jumped or if he was pushed.”

 “Oh, I’m sorry.” I sort of hoped Walter might show up on the porch. “I don’t get a sense of foul play.”

“Maybe a good-looking real estate lady gave him a little push,” Joe gave me a smile as he set his cup on the tray, then drew a line through my name in his book. “I’m crossing you off my list.”

“Fair enough,” I said.

 He handed me his detective card. “But if you find anything, see anything, feel anything with your brainwaves, call me.” He looked around the newly painted living room. Sunlight poured through the windows. “It’s going to be nice,” he said.

I thought so, too.  

* * *

That afternoon when I opened the back door to take out the trash, a gray cat curled around my ankles. The older lady from next door stuck her head over the fence. “That’s Boxer,” she said. “He lived with Walter for ten years. When Walter went missing, I took Boxer in, but now that you’re here, he’s wants to come back.”

“You knew Walter a long time?”

“Forty years.”

“It isn’t released yet, but the police found Walter’s body in the river.”

“Oh, no,” she said sadly. “I always hoped he’d come back.”

“Me, too,” I said. “They don’t know if he jumped or if he was pushed.”

She threw back her head and laughed, “Knowing Walter, he probably just stumbled and fell in by accident. You can have Boxer back; my cats never took to him.”

“So, that’s why there’s twelve cans of cat food,” I said as Boxer followed me into the house and curled asleep in Walter’s chair. “Boxer’s home,” I whispered.

Damn cat.

*  * *

 The telephone rang, “Joe Goodwell, police detective.”

“How’s the case?” I said as I pictured his eyes, his grin, the tilt of his head.

“The case is officially closed. He was a nice old man who fell in the river.”

“Walter’s glad that his case is closed.”

Joe laughed, then paused, “It also means that after a time, if I asked you out to dinner, it couldn’t be connected to this case.”

“You mean like a date?”

“Yes, I was thinking somewhere Italian or you could use your brainwaves.”

“How long do we have to wait?”

“This weekend ought to be fine.”

* * *

The next morning, I put my bread in Walter’s toaster with a smart little snap. The sun was bright through the windows, bright through the trees, so happy and bright.

A sailboat sailed along the river and I opened the door and stood in the sun. I breathed in the green spring, the new beginning and walked across the street and stood by the water. The sun was shining on the ripples, sparkling and golden, with little leaps of light like a whole city was underneath the surface.

I leaned way over the edge and saw my reflection, “Oh, Walter, it’s wonderful!” So good to feel good again as I leaned out and almost fell in.

An invisible arm grabbed onto me. Scrawny and skinny, I heard a sharp gasp. 

Grateful and steady, I took a deep breath, “Thanks, Walter, I’m back.”


Submitted: March 14, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Suzanne Mays. All rights reserved.

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Comments

D Mays

Great character building in this story. A good story. I liked it!

Sun, March 14th, 2021 2:29pm

Ann Sepino

I love the spring/summery feel of this. The MC is so quirky and interesting. The setting she's in puts her personality into focus so well. Thank you for sharing your story with us here. :)

Mon, March 15th, 2021 3:54am

Suzanne Mays

D, thank you for reading and commenting. I'm glad you liked it.

Mon, March 15th, 2021 12:34pm

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