I chose the old house image. It was supposed to be a 20 minute sprint, but ended up being 30. It’s amazing how long you can focus when you’re on a bus with no WiFi.
Mom’s Old House & the Boy Who Mowed Her Lawn:
Greg was appalled when he saw the state of the house.
Trees and bushes had grown all the way up to the porch. He thought he even saw a tiny tree growing out of the one remaining gutter.
He’d had no idea it had gotten this bad. No wonder Nathan made their mother move in with him and his wife. By all account they were all doing pretty well with the arrangement. But the taxes were due on the house and no one had the money.
Greg waded through the weeds to the front porch, carefully testing each step before putting ghis weight on it. There was no telling how bad the place was. Mom had been out of the place for six months and Greg didn’t know when she’d last had anyone in to work on anything, inside or out.
Using the key Nathan had mailed him, Greg unlocked the front door and pushed it open.
At least it didn’t smell damp or moldy. That was something.
It was surprisingly clean inside. Just a thin layer of dust. Much better than the exterior predicted.
Greg took a few minutes to really examine everything.
The dining room furniture was intact and in good shape, just a bit dusty. The kitchen was clean enough and they’d taken all the food when they left. The fridge was unplugged but the inside still smelled like bleach. The living room furniture was even draped in sheets.
Greg kept moving, heading for the bedrooms in the back of the house. He glanced behind him, chuckling at the footprints in the dust. If it was dark, or Halloween, or some such, he’d expect ghosts to pop out of the walls. But it was a bright sunny day in the middle of April. Not spooky at all.
The bunkbeds still stood in the room he and Nathan had shared when they were growing up. He’d had to climb up there to sleep until he left for college.
The mattresses were bare, and looked rough enough not to be worth salvaging, but the bedframes were in great shape. He suspected Nathan would want them now that there was another kid on the way. Greg already had a niece and a nephew. He was pretty sure Nathan was planning one more after this one, so they’d need the second set of bunkbeds.
Greg headed for the master bedroom next. The bed had gone along with Mom, but the rest of the furniture was still there. Her vanity table, their dad’s tall chest of drawers. The low dresser their mother had used. It was all there.
Greg sighed. At least there were no signs of water damage or leaks. If the roof was sound then it wouldn’t be too bad. He just needed some serious landscaping tools and to get the hosue painted and it would be saleable.
If a realtor thought they could get enough for the house, he could front the money for the taxes. He had to know he’d get it back. He might not have a family to raise like Nathan, but he couldn’t lose all his savings. At least they knew that Mom would have somewhere to live if the house was taken away. That was more than a lot of families had.
Greg headed back outside, ready to survey the rest of the exterior now that he’d seen that the inside wasn’t so bad. It was always easier to face the bad news when you’d had a little good.
Greg hadn’t had nearly enough of that lately.
“Can I help you sir?” a voice called out as Greg stepped off the porch to head for the side yard.
“I think I’m good,” Greg replied, eyeing the man. Dark curly hair, brown eyes, and a deep tan. He was in great shape by the look of it, probably worked hard for a living. He didn’t look familiar.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but do you mind telling me who you are?” the man replied.
“Only if you reply in kind,” Greg answered, frowning at the question. He didn’t know the man from Adam.
“I live next door,” the man said. “We’ve had people try to mess with the house before. Owned by a nice lady, so I try to watch out for her.”
“I appreciate it then,” Greg said, smiling now. “It’s my mother’s house. I’m just here to try and put it to rights again so she can sell it.”
“Jason Gonzalez,” the man said, holding out his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Greg Parker.” They shook hands and Greg tried not to look too hard or hold on too long. You never quite knew with people and they were just far enough from the city for him to worry about bible thumpers.
“We were wondering if Miss Hilary was ever coming back. She seemed to think so when she said goodbye.”
“I know Mom didn’t want to leave at the time,” Greg said, glancing back at the house. “But she couldn’t handle this place all on her own anymore. She’s living with my brother and his family. Loves looking after her grandkids and helping my sister-in-law cookie.”
“I’m glad to hear she’s doing well,” Jason said. “If you need help around the place, let me know. I enjoyed way too many cakes and pies from Miss Hilary not to help out where I can.”
“You must be that nice boy she was always talking about baking for,” Greg said, laughing. “I always thought she was talking about some ten year old who mowed her lawn with the way she talked.”
Jason laughed. And it was a nice laugh.
Greg looked over at the house so he wouldn’t stare.
“I’m not ten, but I was certainly the boy mowing her lawn. She never would let me trim anything else.”
“Well, there’s plenty of trimming to go around if you want. There might even be a cake in it for you by the end. She never succeeded in teaching me to cook but I got her talent for baking.”
“If there’s cake at the end of this that’s half as good as Miss Hilary’s, I’m happy to lend a hand.”
“I’ll have to buy supplies, but you tell me what your favorite kind is and I’ll treat you before we’re done.”
“Much obliged,” Jason said, clapping Greg on the shoulder. “My schedules pretty random at the moment, but if you let me know what the plan is I can work on stuff whenever I have time.”
“What do you do that has a random schedule?” Greg asked.
“I’m a forman for my family’s landscaping business,” Jason replied with an easy smile. “I can loan you tools and such if you don’t have what you need. No sense buying when you can borrow.
“That will save me a ton,” Greg said, thrilled that he’d met the neighbor now. He’d have to tell his Mom that he met that nice boy that mower her lawn.
“Make me a list and I can bring over what we can spare. Now’s a good time for it. Early enough that we aren’t overloaded yet.”
Greg pulled the little notebook out of his back pocket and the pen from his other. He never went anywhere without them, and he was glad he had them now so he could write up his list. If he could get enough help, they could knock out the landscaping part in a couple weeks and he could get the house painted faster, get it to market before they had to make a decision about the taxes.
“I like a man who comes prepared,” Jason said with a laugh. “And if you’re really as good a baker as Miss Hilary, I’d love to try your version of her coconut pineapple cake.”
“That one is always a crowd pleaser,” Greg replied. He smiled to himself as he wrote out his list. He’d been told his coconut pineapple cake was even better than his mothers.