The Hardest-Selling Realtor in Zeus, Florida
By David Hartley Mark
“I love Florida,” said the man sitting next to me at the bar. He was on his third dirty martini—“Gi’me just the juice from the pickle barrel, Billy, and two olives—the biggest, fattest olives you got,” he told the young man in black behind the chrome-and-black-granite bar of the Pilkington-Dubrow Hotel in downtown Zeus, Florida.
As I watched, the man expertly lanced one of his gin-soaked olives onto the black plastic mini-epee adorning his martini, and nibbled at it.
He turned to me. “I’m a realtor,” he said, though I hadn’t asked, and didn’t really care. “I’m the best damn realtor in all of Zeus, Florida.”
I said nothing. I sipped at my Beaujolais. It was a crummy Beaujolais. I was feeling crummy. My boss had yelled at me. I had run the biannual company reports off on pink, rather than salmon, paper, and the Big Meeting was tomorrow.
My boss was a craphead, anyway. The world was full of crapheads.
Plus, I was having this dream. Every night. It was interfering with my work, with my life, even. I couldn’t get away from it. I would be walking down a hall, which led to another hall, which led to another. I felt trapped. I would start banging on the walls, and screaming. But, wait—was it me, screaming, or was I hearing other screams? It didn’t matter; finally, the screaming would wake me up. The dream was making me crazy. That was why I kept messing up at work. Stupid craphead dream.
I don’t know. It was time to look online to find another job. This job was killing me.
“I sell big houses,” the man continued, smiling at me—my chest, really. I couldn’t blame him. It was a nice chest, and I wore bras that certainly pushed it up enough. It was the main reason I was able to keep my job, not my bad choice of copier paper.
“Big, rich farking houses,” he said, and lifted his glass, to all at the bar—just him, me, and the barfly at the end, who was nursing a beer—“Big houses!” he shouted.
People at adjoining tables looked up quickly, and then returned to their chatting. Two hausfraus nearby, who had been complaining about their cleaning girls, frowned, but then went back to their cellphones and their gossip.
“I cleared three-and-a-half mill, this past two weeks alone, right here in Zeus, and in Mercury subdivision,” the man continued. “Hey, Billy, another martini, Kay? And see what this lady—“ he stuck his nose toward my glass, or at my chest, really—“is drinking. Smells like wine. Is it wine, Honey?”
I smiled. The wine was bad, but it was starting to work. My brain was getting the warm fuzzies. The man—had Billy the Bartender—that was funny, Bartender Billy—called him “Mr. Ransom”?—was starting to sound less obnoxious. And he seemed to have money to throw around, at me and my tits. You never know. Fortune smiles on the courageous, or Courage smiles on the fortunate. Or something.
Hey, bottoms up.
The drinks arrived—another martini for Mr. Ransom—he told me his name was Chet—and a Beaujolais for me. We got to talking. He was from Duluth, originally, but moved down to Florida after his divorce; I was from New York, ditto divorce. Our conversation lagged after that, except that we both found each other very funny. And we seemed to find each other attractive. Bartender Billy was a great help: he kept the drinks flowing; we just had to lift one finger, and a fresh glass would appear, like magic.
I’m pretty sure that it had been about five-fifteen when I first came to the Pilk, feeling sorry for myself and my poor choice of paper, but we sat there for a long time. Billy was happy; Chet was a big tipper. All cash, too. That was good.
“There’s a certain—what’s the word?—reassurance about dealing with wealthy people,” said Chet, “you know that, when you show them the goods—that is, big place, big pool, big entertainment space, extra-large garage for the Hummer and the ‘Borghini and the cars for the teenyboppers, plus in-law quarters for whomever might drop in for a week or two or six, they’re ready to deal. And it’s not just the sports stars, mind you….”
“I don’t mind,” I smiled. My dental implants were paying off. I wiggled my bosoms in his direction. He looked—a long look. I sat back and tossed my hair.
“What was I saying? Oh, yeah, right—you have your Canadians, your Europeans, your anonymous South Americans, looking to make some investments, recycle some cash in the good old U.S. of A., you know—“
“I know,” I said. Really, Chet Ransom didn’t need much priming to his pump. I finished my glass, and signaled to Billy. There it was, another glass, as if by magic.
“Would you like to see it?” asked Chet.
I wasn’t sure what “it” was.
“It?” I asked. This was certainly a direct question, even to my Beaujolaised brain.
“Yes. The house,” he said, smiling like a shark.
“Oh. The house. Um, sure, I guess,” I said.
“Well, let’s go!” he said, rising immediately. It was hard for me to believe that he had just swallowed—what? Ten martinis? At least, six, even if he sipped them slowly. The man smelled of juniper and olives. He was a commercial for Williams Chase Gin.
I loved his car: a gold Lamborghini, though I was too bashed to ask what model it was. It purred like a kitten as we eased out of the Pilky’s parking lot. He patted my knee.
“You’re gonna love this house, Courtney,” he said, as we slipped onto the highway, and the Italian cat purred up to eighty-five.
We left the highway in the exclusive Whispering Hooves subdivision, which I had visited once before, when I was waitressing for a catering business. I didn’t remember much of my previous visit—a girlfriend had given me a toot of coke in the back of her van before I started the gig, and the evening was a blur, including the handjob I gave the groom fifteen minutes before the processional. Hey, you’ve got to make a living, and my office skills weren’t really up to snuff back then.
We pulled up the driveway to Chet’s last sale, and I have to admit, it WAS a beautiful house. Almost like a castle—it had turrets and windows like battlements—did I tell you, I used to read picturebooks about knights in armor and ladies in peril and dragons, when I was a kid? This was amazing! And all the stranger, for being out in the Florida swamplands.
The sun was setting. We got out of the car, whose doors hissed like the space-age machine it was, while we stood close by. Chet put his hand on my ass and squeezed it, but I didn’t mind—I was practically anesthetized, from the neck down. It was a little hot, but so was I.
He whispered in my ear: “I still have the key, and I don’t think that the owners have moved in yet. Howzabout you and I enter the castle, M’Lady, and I show you how a Lord and Lady christen their new digs? Just for fun, y’know—I believe there’s an indoor, as well as an outdoor, pool and Jacuzzi.”
It was sounding really good, and I was about to take him up on it—when, suddenly, a big old Hummer comes rattling the stones of the pavement up the main driveway, and a big, muscled, football-player-type guy gets out of the driver’s seat. This blonde cheerleader-type gets out of the mommy-shotgun-side, and about three-four—I couldn’t really count; I was blitzed, and it was hot and humid; you know, it’s Florida!—get out, and start running around, playing tag and hide-and-seek among the trees, while the moon is coming up—
“Hey, Chet!” says Football Guy, going to high-five Chet, who looks surprised, but gets sober as he can, and all-smiley-salesman-head, all at once. He manages to high-five the Football Guy back, and hugs Cheerleader, who, it turns out, are Steve and Bev. The kids are—well, it doesn’t really matter, since they are lost in the bushes, with the darkness falling. But we can still hear them, out there.
“So, Steve, how’s the house working out?” asks Chet, a little bit too cheerily, it seems to me, but he has gone into his professional head, and I am amazed how quickly he is able to sound sober.
“Great place, Chet, great!” says Steve, and Bev nods vigorously, too, but they both look strangely at me, and I stand behind Chet, even when he introduces me; I just don’t feel comfortable, plus the heat and humidity from the nearby forest are starting to get to me; I don’t know why.
They all stand there shmoozing, and go over the house’s many deluxe features, which, plus the castle appearance, gives it a wonderful total effect. With Thanksgiving coming, Steve and Bev are looking forward to having all of their relatives visiting them. They are a lucky young couple, for sure. But they keep holding something back, and they keep looking at me. I am getting a bit light-headed—all of this attention, plus the wine, plus knowing that my evening is not playing out the way I had originally intended, is starting to have—I don’t know, a strange, dizzying effect on me.
“Steve, Bev, be straight with me,” Chet finally says, “I can sense that there is a problem. I am not just your realtor; I am your friend. I sold this huge pile of designer rocks and wood to you as your Forever Home. If there is an issue—if there is anything I can do to fix it—I will do whatever is in my power to do so.”
“It’s not you,” Bev finally says, which is surprising, because she seems to be, despite her cheerleader looks, a quiet type of girl, used to letting her man do all the talking, “It’s something about the house. It’s—unusual. When I am alone there, even with the kids and the cat, even in the daytime, I don’t feel alone. I have a feeling there—there is—is….”
“Say it, Bev!” says Steve, “Chet is our friend. He knows the house. He walked us through the house. He sold us the house. Chet,” he says, taking the Hardest-Selling Realtor by the shoulder, “the house is haunted.”
“Haunted?” asks Chet, “But that’s crazy! It’s brand new! It was built just last year! And the ground was all fill, and it was turned over and examined—there was nothing built there, ever before!”
“Every night—every night, when we put the kids to sleep, we go to sleep ourselves, and then it starts happening,” says Steve, “It’s making all of us crazy.”
“What starts happening?” asks Chet.
“Things start happening. Bad things. Noisy things. Walls banging, a woman’s voice screaming, ‘Let me out! Let me out! Please let me out!’ It scares the kids. They start to cry; they run to us. The cat is peeing all over the house, she’s so scared,” says Bev.
“I got my gun, and a baseball bat, and I walked all over the house and the woods around,” says Steve, “and I found nothing. I’m going to get a dog. A big dog. A Lab, a Pit Bull, or a Great Dane….”
“Stop it, Steve!” says Bev, “No big dogs around my little girls.” She turns to Chet.
“It’s making us crazy,” she says, “we may have to move. It’s scaring the kids. It’s scaring me. I can’t get any rest. And Steve has to go on tour with the football team. What are we going to do?”
“Finally, one night, we all saw the ghost. We all saw her,” says Steve. Bev nodded, vigorously.
“So, what kind of ghost is it?” asks Chet, half-laughing, “Is it your grandmother? Is it Typhoid Mary? Is it me in a dress?”
“No, not any of those,” says Bev, “and for sure, not you.”
She turned, and pointed at me. Steve nodded.
The kids were coming back; they saw me, and screamed, running to their parents.