Atchison Real Estate: Like Shooting Dead Fish In An Empty Barrel

A Post By: Michael Gallo

I got a job.  Typically, this news is considered “joyous” or “happy”.  However, this job is located in Atchison, Kansas so unfortunately I must take it with a small grain of salt.  Which also wouldn’t be a big deal, but I’m terrified of high sodium levels.  But I put the significance of the location aside and went to Atchison to find a suitable living space.  I had three requirements:

-A one or two bedroom house or apartment (that’s really about 4 requirements rolled into 1)

-Washer and Dryer (or at least the hookups)

-If I lived there I would never have to ask myself, “what was that noise? Am I about to go through the floor?”

I met up with my real estate agent thinking those requirements aren’t crazy. I should be able to find a place by this afternoon.  Then reality smacked me so hard in the face my two front teeth went through my upper lip.  Here’s how the afternoon went:

My father and I meet up with the real estate agent outside of house number 1.  I’m excited to treat this afternoon like an episode of HGTV’s House Hunters.  I love channels geared towards middle aged women and homosexual post 20 males.  It’s like crack to me.  The real estate agent (we’ll call him “Rick”) tells us how excited he is for the three properties he’s about to show us.  I’m naive, and sometimes illogical, so I get excited too.  He puts the key in the front door and turns with all his might.  It doesn’t budge.  He tries again, his efforts accompanied by a low grunting noise.  Doesn’t budge.  I get even more excited, picturing myself having to use a SWAT team door buster every time I want to enter my own home.  Next, Rick turns the key and drives his shoulder into the door.  The door makes a weird noise and swings open.  My jaw drops.

The door opens to a dining room with wood paneling and one window.  It’s the darkest room I have ever seen, and I’ve been in plenty of rooms before that had no windows.  There’s a small fireplace off to one side, an entrance to the kitchen, and an entrance to the living room.  I feel an overwhelming urge to leave this room so I enter the kitchen.  It’s got more wood paneling and appliances that the 1950s clearly dropped off into the present via rip in the space time continuum.  The oven/stove combo is directly next to my washer and dryer.  Perfect, I think.  This way I can introduce even more heating elements to large floating clumps of dryer lint.  The sink looks like someone threw up rusty blood and left it there.  This is only getting better the more I look.  I leave the kitchen and walk into a half way normal living room.  I look at the first bedroom (all of this is on one level.  Most people call that a “ranch” I call it “easier to level with equipment rented at home depot after a heavy night of drinking”).  The first bedroom looks like a carpet sample store threw up in it.  Upon first glance, the bathroom looks different.  After a minute or two of staring, I notice it’s missing one wall.  Rick informs me it’s because they just replaced a sewer pipe.  The missing wall is in the shower (the mirror still connected).  Rick then tells me they will have this all fixed in the next five days.  We laugh together.  As I walk back towards the front I pass the basement door.  I notice there is a lock on this side of the door.

“Why would I want to lock the basement from this side?” I ask.

“Oh you know, you never know who’s gonna break in through the basement windows and then come upstairs.” He answers.

We stare at each other for a few seconds.

“Or I don’t know, you can throw your girlfriend down there and keep her locked up I guess,” he says.  I can feel real, raw panic rise up in my stomach.  Rick is an animal.  He would kill a man in a bar fight if he found something sharp enough.  I know it.  I shudder and walk with Rick down the street towards house #2.

We walk past what would be my neighbor’s house if I chose to move into house #1.  The tenant is sitting on the front porch in what appears to be only the frame of a lawn chair.  Next to him is a stationary bike and a shopping cart.  Even from this distance I can tell he has no teeth.  I wave.  He stares.

House #2:  Hobbits live in bigger houses than this.  I walk in the front door of house #2 which automatically places me in the living room, the entrance to my bedroom, and the entrance to the kitchen.  There is no door to the bedroom.  It smells so heavily of smoke in the house that I am confident that the walls are actually wallpapered with unrolled cigarettes.   

“Rick, it reeks like smoke in here,” I say.

“Ha, does it? I can’t smell out of my nostrils,” he answers.

I stare at him for a second or two.  Why can’t he smell anything?  And more importantly, why was he so specific about where he can’t smell out of?  Can he smell out of other orifices in his body?  With each passing second I am becoming more and more scared of the man we call “Rick”.  I walk into the bathroom.  The shower is a shower/tub combo.  However, the “tub” portion is roughly the size of a small bucket.  The sink is the size of a dog bowl.  When sitting on the toilet, one can touch not only each wall, but each corner as well.  I leave house #2, not even placing it on my mental list of options.

At house #3 Rick introduces me to the man that would be my landlord if I were to rent this property.  Where ever this man goes he should be accompanied by The Deliverance music.  It is clear this man is from generations of family REALLY loving family.  When he speaks, it takes him anywhere from 2-3 minutes to say things like, “yeah, that’s what I think”.  When he is “thinking” he scratches his chin stubble with his thumb and first finger.  At some point in time, this man had apparently lost the top half of his first finger.  I can only stare at it.  I can’t move my eyes.  I can only stare at this nub finger which has somehow managed to grow some excuse for a finger nail.  As I stare at it I find myself making weird noises like, “neeeeeeeeb”.  I determine the finger has magical powers.  I break myself of its curse and enter the house.  The current tenant has not yet moved out and greets us at the front door.  She seems nice.  She’s alone.  Then I hear a “meow”.  I turn to see a cat come up the basement stairs.  I bend over and scratch its neck.  I hear another “meow”.  I quickly stand up and search for the source.  Another cat is on the couch in the living room, sitting next to another cat.  There’s a cat in the kitchen eating.  There’s a cat in the bedroom.  I’ve just wandered into the Cat Lady’s house.  Now I’m really panicking.  I’m sure at this point Rick has already thought about killing and eating one.  I get a quick tour and get out of the house as quickly as possible.

House #1 didn’t qualify as a house.  With a cheap bike helmet on, I could run through the front wall and keep running until I went through the back.  And by the looks of it, I wouldn’t be the first to do it.

House #2 smelled like a chain smoker’s tongue and was about the size of a dog house.  A small dog house. 

House #3 would need illegal amounts of radiation to remove all the remnants of the cats that were living there.  And who knows what that lady would leave behind in the basement.

Tomorrow I’m looking at some apartments.  Maybe a house isn’t for me.  Maybe the town isn’t for me.  But people have lived in worse.  Like the people in paranormal activity.  That looked awful and at least you can get rid of cats.  Baby torturing demons are a whole nother problem.  Wish me luck tomorrow.  I’m gonna need it.


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