89 Splash! Poof!

R.M.’s phone jangled him away from his Thursday crossword. He lingered a little longer than he should some mornings, especially over the trickier puzzles.Chapter 89 Splash Poof

“Hello, this is R.M.”

“Good morning. Dr. Thorne speaking. I hope I’m not disturbing you too early?”

“Not at all. How are you?”

“We are all well, thank you. I always feel it’s best to call people early in the day, before they get busy.” R.M. set his puzzle aside.

“What’s on your mind?”

“It’s really on my daughter’s mind but I believe you can help me with her questions.”

“Would you prefer to get together to talk or to ask me over the phone?”

“If you have time, now?”

“Go ahead.”

“My daughter is Keki’s mother. A single mother. She lives with us but was at work the afternoon you came to tea. We take care of Keki when she is away. She’s being promoted to a position that will require her to be often out of town. She is most interested in buying a condo for all of us to share, with two bedrooms and two baths. As long as Keki is little, two bedrooms will be adequate.”

“I can help you with this. First thing she should do before she starts looking at units is to meet with a lender to find out about a monthly mortgage amount, what I term a ‘comfort level.’ People go out looking at properties first, and are disappointed later when the lender says they’re not looking in the appropriate price range.”

“Oh, she’s already done that! I’d like to take the credit for that but I think she’s better organized than I will ever be.”

“It does seem to run in the family. So she has a price range in mind, then?”

“Yes, she says it’s between $300 to $350 thousand. It’s a good promotion!”

“There are many choices in that range. So, what are the basics? She’s looking downtown, correct? You said two bedrooms, two bathrooms. You have just one pet?”

“Two, actually. Our other one is shy.”

“And how many cars?”

“Two, again. As we will be there more than she, Mrs. Thorne and I would prefer, as I’m sure you remember, to be near the lake with a clear view of the water. If our daughter ever has to move away, she would like us to live there and keep a guest room for her.”

As was often the case with decisions about other people’s lives and properties, R.M. walked a line, fine like the edges of the paper contracts that filled his days. His role was to satisfy the desires of his customers, whether they could articulate or afford them, or not. The process, whether intuitive, hit and miss, or statistically exact, brought buyers close to their perception of value, though some were unlikely to ever settle on less than an absolute.

For consumers in this culture, perfection was, more often than not, the entitled reward. Some required that certain ‘Wow’ factor to get them over the threshhold and into contract. Others figured that ‘Wow’ must be more expensive and eschewed those choices. To give them their due, a few buyers said that a place was good enough; clearly, for these people, there were other, often unspoken, priorities. The impossible customers, those who never, ever bought, used ploys – ‘the wallpaper in the powder room is just too awful’ – to avoid buying, no matter how many listings shown to them; all proved equally dismal.

R.M. sends a table of search results comparing available units by a number of factors including taxes and condo fees.

R.M. e-mails a table of search results comparing available units by a number of factors including taxes and condo fees.

R.M. left it up to the lender to work out the details of who was buying what for whom, and on what terms. Once that was established, he could do his job, introduce buyers to properties most likely to meet their needs. Everyone was different. He had a kindergarten teacher friend who’d said it best, about her years and years of incoming children; every year the molds are broken and each child, and by extension buyer, is unique. Buyers didn’t care about him personally. Understandable, despite the focus given by the larger brokerage firms to this type of branding, but his principal care was to discover, very quickly, how they wanted to live and in what, with all of that wrapped, as a silk cocoon, into a price point.

“I appreciate your call. This is what I’ll do. I’ll research what’s currently on the market, with these details in mind. Did you want these results sent for you to look at, or would you prefer to meet to discuss them?”

“Sent. We’ll look together, then call you with questions.”

“All right, let me get to work. I’ll send you what I have later today. One last question before I go. I’m assuming that you’d be ready to move quite soon?”

“We do have a lease on our apartment but it will be up for renewal in a month. That’s one of the reasons my daughter thought this would be a good time to make a move.”

“And your daughter’s name? I can’t keep calling her ‘your daughter,’ or ‘Keki’s mom’.”

“Of course. Her professional name is Sue Thorne.”

*    *    *    *    *

Mrs. James, thrilled to hear that Kitty Doyle was leaving the building, went down early on Thursday morning to share the news with Gervase. In this case, she was keen to gossip outright.

“Gervase, did you hear the news! Kitty Doyle…”

“…is moving!” they ended together, like any old married couple finishing each others’ sentences.

“I saw her going. How did you find out?” Gervase had hoped to be the first to tell her.

“It came out last night, up at the Karon’s. Martin had seen her packing up the day before. We had no idea her place was up for sale, did we?”

“No, we didn’t. And, we still don’t.”

“Odd.” She looked at Gervase, who burst out laughing.

“Couldn’t have said it better myself. Reason I knew was that she’d tied up the elevator. She had some kids there moving stuff out. I reminded her that she needed to arrange a time for this.”

“Yes, a real rule-follower, that one. I just hope she pays her bill before she goes. Hans told me she got it. The girls will be so excited that she’s gone. They keep expecting her, or her witchy alter-ego, to materialize around every corner of this building.” Mrs. James seldom prattled; so much enjoyment lost. “Any idea where she’s going? Is it far?”

“You mean, is it far enough?” Gervase hoped he wasn’t as transparent as this with most people. He put this down to Mrs. James, and marveled at the difference between a good witch and a bad witch. He’d never believed up until this moment.

“Carrie Karon let drop that there was a hoped-for job down south and that she personally gave inside information, nixing Kitty’s prospects for said job.”

“Speaking of prospects, that interior designer Vanity Fairbourn, who’s working up the other penthouse, deigned to speak to me and ask if there was any protocol about moving in. Guess her client is finally ready to make an appearance and understands that standards do exist, even for the likes of them, as my mother would say.”