About a month ago, an old man with smoker’s lungs was helped out of his house and into a taxicab by a real-estate agent. Ten years before this happened, the old man, who was seventy at the time, woke up next to his dead wife. His first thought was about her cheek and how it felt like refrigerated chicken. His next thought was about the chicken breasts inside the refrigerator and how they were never going to be cooked. He loved his wife’s chicken. He loved his wife too.
Nick, the real-estate agent, had a restless mind as he helped the old man into the front seat of a taxicab bound for the nursing home on the other side of town. They did not wave goodbye to each other. People don’t wave goodbye to each other when a lot of money hangs in the balance.
Nick had a tough time selling the house because it was coated in thirty-years of cigarette tar. The counter tops, the windows, the bathroom tiles; anything originally white had been turned the colour of flypaper. When he grabbed the doorknob on the door to the bedroom it clung to his palm, which made Nick think of the old man’s wife, and how she died.
The old man accepted an offer that was fifty thousand dollars below the asking price, and that’s when mom and I got down to work. We scrubbed every square inch of the house with trisodium phosphate. We cleaned the windows with extra strength vinegar. And when it came time to paint, we used a thick coat of oil primer topped with two coats of latex.
One day, while I was working in the living room and my mom was working in the bathroom, her phone rang. She put the paint brush down and answered the call. It was the hospital reminding her of an upcoming CT scan. You see, she got sick with strep throat about six months previous. When she went to the urgent care centre they x-rayed her lungs and found a bunch of calcium nodules. She’s never smoked a day in her life. She did, however, spend twenty years across a desk from a chain smoker when she worked for the Ministry of Transportation. Anyway, the doctor said it wasn’t serious, but that her lungs should be scanned every six months, to keep an eye on things.
After two weeks of work the house was relisted for fifty thousand more than what my mom had paid for it.
I hope she has some fun with that money.
Maybe she’ll go on a road trip.
Maybe she’ll ask me along.