Distressed – Fiction Snippet

George – the realtor – was waiting by the curb, leaning against an obnoxiously yellow sedan and bouncing a keyring in his palm as Keith pulled up. He waved, heading towards Keith’s much more subdued blue truck as Keith slid out from behind the wheel.

“Keith, welcome back. Can’t get enough of the place, can ya?” He laughed, but Keith thought he heard a tone of nervousness in it, as though George wasn’t quite joking.

Keith knew the place had sunk its claws into his mind, and knew it was probably not healthy. Since seeing the place while driving around town yesterday, he’d thought of almost nothing else. He hadn’t even bothered to check with Helen before throwing most of his settlement money at the place, and while she seemed to be at least somewhat understanding, that was out of character for him. The word “obsessed” had come to mind once or twice already, but he kept shoving it back into the basement of his mind. He wasn’t obsessed. He just had finally found something he could do, something he could focus on, and after so long without it he was more… enthusiastic than normal. That was all.

Or so he told himself. The look on George’s face, the tone Helen had given him this morning, the questions Fred had presented him with when he first told the accountant what he wanted the money for, those all said different.

He realized he’d been lost in his own mind for several seconds, staring at the house and leaving George’s question unanswered. Keith shook his head, turning his gaze back to the realtor.

“You could say that, yeah.”

George laughed again, that same nervous laugh – What’s he got to be nervous about, Keith wondered – but extended the hand holding the keys out to him.

“Good news, too; was driving over when I got the call. Your bid’s accepted. Of course, it’s still gotta run through escrow and everything, but given the circumstances… place is practically yours already. Figure might as well let you have the keys, as long as you don’t do anything too drastic. No knocking down any walls or ripping up water mains ‘til it’s final, but otherwise do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, so they say.”

Keith lifted his hand to meet George’s, not entirely sure he’d processed what the other man had said.

“Wait, what?”

George dropped the keys into Keith’s palm, pulling back as though he’d touched something hot.

“Place is yours, buddy. The rest is just paperwork.”

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