Flash Fiction Fridays is back! We missed Chuck and I tried to get into the prompts - and didn't do a good job with them (check out the ones I do below this one). But he gave us a line of Yeats: 'Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold...' I've used it in this piece and I hope you guys like it.
“Exactly what shit-hole have we signed ourselves into, Jake?” Vera looked around the townhouse complex in amazement as she walked around with her husband of twenty-five years during their first inspection.
“Yeppers, what a fucking dump the last asshole let it turn into – oh crap! Just look at the state of the pool area! No bloody gazebo, no barbeque area and – tsk! – where are the kids supposed to play?” he tapped the things required out on his clipboard, “This is going to take years to fix, Vera, honey, unless we get a huge cash injection from somewhere.”
“I’m on it... this is why we’re here.” She pulled out her smartphone and called their boss, but she didn’t get three numbers in when she noticed an old, spindly woman limping towards them, leaning heavily on a walking stick, “And who in the hell is that?”
Jake looked up, “Oh, that’s Helene. I was warned about her. She’ll try to take over and tell us what to do.”
“Good morning, good morning. I’m Helene and I’ve been living here for a long, long time and there’s got to be change – change I tell you! – to this place! You must fix up everything, goddammit, everything! Or there’ll be hell – hell, I tell you – to pay!” she pulled out a piece of paper with a list of things (the same things Jake had written down on his clipboard) and shoved it under his nose, “Now, you must get these things done – done I tell you... or you’ll be out of here. I’ll complain and I’ll get everyone on my side to get you out! I can do that you see!” then she turn on her walking stick, leaving him with her list and the stink of Vicks Vapour Rub (or was it Deep Heat?) behind.
Both Vera and Jake exchanged exhausted expressions, sighing, “She’s mad.”
Lunch couldn’t come soon enough for Jake. He had gotten quotes for a new gazebo and barbeque and entertainment area – which wouldn’t cost the earth. Then, he pulled a favour from another unit complex gardener who came in and pulled out all the dead plants from the Body Corporate gardens and planted out new plants. He then knocked on the first unit and the one by the end car park asking if they minded getting the trees trimmed; only to find out from the lady in the one nearest the back car park that she had massive wasps nest he had to deal with first.
He sighed as he finished his sandwich and Vera put his cup of tea in front of him, “I have no idea what happened to this place when the last person was caretaker – but it seemed to have stood still; like that island called Sark, where time forgot it.”
“Well, the backyard really needs looking into. Our back fence is leaning over and it’s no thanks to that weird woman from this morning; she’s got bamboo in her garden. We have to do something about that.” Vera sipped her cup of tea, “And there are stains in the curtains here I just can’t get rid of... honey, I have to replace them. I need the credit card and the car; if you’re not using either one this arvo?”
“Oh, sure... here.” He pulled out his wallet, dumping it on the table between them, along with the keys to the car, “You’ve got your house keys?”
“Sure.” She nodded, “Then, we’ll need to talk to the Body Corporate about this place... it needs a repaint badly.”
“Um... a little problem there.”
“The guy who was forced to get rid of the last guy had refused to fix this place up. So it’s up to us to make it look like a home. This is why I pushed for a bigger pay each year than the last guy got... we have to fix the place ourselves.”
“Jake I don’t understand...”
“Vera, honey, this townhouse is very much like this complex... things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.”
“Don’t quote fucking Yeats to me! Tell me what’s going on!” her tea cup clattered to its saucer, causing Jake to wonder if she was going to break it. She didn’t seem to notice – or care – if she did or not.
“We needed a job, right?”
“Vera... we needed a place to live... right?”
“Okay... this was the best I could do; but,” his mouth pulled into a tight white line, “If we want to have this place running like a well-oiled machine – like our last complex – we have to do it out of our own pocket because the Body Corporate will go broke if we ask them to pay for everything we’ve told them that needs fixing in the next six months.”
Vera sniffed, struggling to make eye contact with her husband as she blinked away tears, “So, in other words, we’re painting ourselves into a corner with this money pit of a place to save the people living in it?”
“Without the support of anyone?”
“Oh, Jake, honey, it’s not a matter of the centre falling apart if things cannot hold – it’s already fallen, and we’re falling with it.”He slid his hand across the table towards her, and she reached out and took it. Jake squeezed her hand gently, as he looked into her eyes, knowing she was worried sick about what was going to happen next in their lives here; about the debt they were going to get into, “If we hold onto each other tightly, we’ll fall into this together.”