Location: marengo, il, United States

Monday, November 22, 2004


“Oh, it's located in a flood plain.”

The man flashes an enormous set of gorgeous teeth as he explains mundane details about obligatory flood insurance to an attentive couple.

All three emerge from inspecting the basement of a house up for sale. They stop to linger in a roomy den for a few minutes, admiring the sturdy beams that support a grooved wood ceiling. The husband then slides open a patio door, so the group steps outside to see the backyard. Withered oak leaves left over from last fall lay scattered about a new deck where the group halts briefly.

The outdoor sun and white teeth of the realtor only enhance the man’s tan as he continues his explanation of flood protection.

“And everyone throughout the neighborhood is required to have it.”

He pauses to wince sympathetically at this government-inspired mandate.

“But, the fact is there has never been any serious problems here since a drainage ditch was dug years ago. It takes care of any potential flooding now. You do have to pay the yearly fee, but you really never have to worry.”

Smiling Guy shrugs both shoulders to suggest helplessness.

“Can you see the ditch through the trees there?”

A line of saplings growing along a fenced border stand wrapped in dense early summer foliage. They hide the trench from view, but the couple both nod in unison at Guy. (They had already seen it from the highway beyond the channel. The husband even remarked to his wife about the standing water when they first drove by.)

“Now some times the streets here might actually flood a little, say during a heavy downpour.”

The glare from the teeth of Smiling Guy enhances the man’s youthful but professional air. His blue eyes twinkle as he leads the couple down the steps of the deck to the grassy back yard. The three stroll toward the east side of the house.

By now the wife has her mind on spacious cabinets and numerous empty closets waiting inside. Windows dressed with old sets of Venetian blinds immediately called out to her as soon as she saw them, and they begged her for more feminine things.

The husband, perhaps more austere or suspicious in nature, tries to keep a running list in his head of hard questions to pose as the trio walks across the green lawn. A vent pipe on top of the hot water heater downstairs in the basement worries him as much as one damp spot in the corner next to a sump pump. A confusing array of water and gas lines that crisscross overhead in the ceiling also give him concerns. All the windows throughout the house open and close fine, though most need re-glazing. He recalls too some questionable wiring he has seen up in the attic. But he is forced to admit that part of his heart gets left back in the roomy den with its adjacent deck.

Guy continues to ramble on cheerily as the group rounds the corner of the house.

“Any amount of water goes straight down the ditch for about a mile where it empties into a canal. Then it heads straight for the river. So you really don’t have to worry about the area staying dry. Oh, and I should mention that you have a fairly new roof up there. That was put on maybe a couple of years ago. Did you guys want to look at the garage?”

“Say, what about up there, Guy?”

Guy stops dead in his tracks and looks to where the husband points.

“Oh, my!”

He holds the smile fast as his eyes take on a certain puzzled expression.

The threesome stands and stares up at an end gable of the house. There several spots of peeling paint cast irregular shadows across the tan lap-boards.

“Well, I‘ll be dog-gone. Now I know for a fact the previous owner just had the whole outside of this house painted. Last year, I believe it was. They did it themselves too, if I remember right. But this is the first time I’ve noticed that.”

There isn’t much else left to say, so Smiling Guy falls back two steps and motions towards the front yard.

“But I’m confident the owner can take care of it before closing. Let’s go have a look at that garage now, if you are ready. Did you see all the landscaping that they put in along the front here? It looks real nice, don’t you think?"


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2:07 AM  

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