Development houses are tombstones for the living. There they sit, all looking the same. Sure one model has a double front door and another has a side out observatory and another has a copper rooflet over a bowed out dining room window, but they are the same. Burial plots. As Harry says, buy one and die. Harry knows.
There is something about a development house. Why do they sell like fish on Fridays - maybe its the smell, maybe its the builder white walls and neutral carpeting, maybe it's because they are like fresh canvasses asking for an artist's brush or maybe it's because they have a virginal quality that calls out to the seducible buyer. Or maybe it's because they offer all new and fresh possibilities. Who knows? Harry Medellin, that's who. He knows.
Harry is a thirty-two year old sales representative for Vertical Pharmaceuticals, Inc. It "is a privately owned pharmaceutical company that supplies niche prescription pharmaceutical preparations. The Company specializes in Womens Health, Primary Care and Pediatrics". The company is located in Sayreville, NJ. Harry used to work for Pfizer, but he and his manager battled. Harry lost. Harry's best product is a hemorrhoidal preparation, Zypram. This cream contains hydrocortisone and pramoxine. Hydrocortisone is a steroid which reduces swelling and inflammation. Pramoxine is a topical anesthetic. It works by stopping nerves from sending pain signals. Harry, himself, uses Zypram. He dosen't have hemorrhoids. Harry is a long, long lover.
Harry is cool, tall, good hair and thin. Not thin skinny, but thin sinewy, thin lithe. He looks like a young Denis Leary, a Denis Leary who dosen't use stuff like drugs and alcohol. Harry plays basketball every Thursday with a Maple Shade neighborhood team called Restitution My Ass. This odd name came about when the team's six-nine center, Luther Liddy, broke down his girlfriend's front door and damaged some of her walls after he caught her doing the do with a short guy from Camden. Among other things, Luther had to make restitution to Keesha for the damages to her house and to Tyrone for damaged teeth. After that, Luther would always say, "Restitution, my ass.", whenever something he didn't like happened. And so it went.
Michelle Parla worked in a breakfast-lunch joint on Dorset Avenue in Ventnor, NJ called Annette's. You would need Google Maps to find it, if you weren't familiar with the area. Three summers back Harry and a few of the Restitutions rented a beat up summer bungalow on the inter coastal waterway. Ventnorians call it the bay, but it's about twenty feet wide near Harry's house. At that point, it is a man made canal interconnecting larger inlets and estuaries. It is possible to go by water around the island on what represents the non ocean side. The bungalow had two stories and sometimes, when the guys were lit, they jumped off the roof into the water. Annette's was a half of a block away, an easy walk. The food was decent and consistent and convenient. That's how Harry and Michelle met.
Harry ate two easy over with dry rye and browned, not burned, home fries every morning, say Sunday. On Sundays, the order changed to a long stack of sinkers with warmed maple syrup and a rasher of bacon. Two sometimes three cups of light, but non sugared coffee, followed a large orange juice. Harry was a creature of habit, if he was anything at all. Michelle, who was a quick study, would have Harry's breakfast ready for him as he entered Annette's. Michelle would see Harry walking down Edgewater Avenue and she would enter his order. She knew how to work a tip. She would usually have The Press saved for him, too. Early bird customers usually left the paper behind to Harry's advantage.
Michelle was twenty-five the year they met. She had one more semester to go at Stockton College. She was hoping to get a job in the marketing department at the Borgata Casino. Her uncle, Simon Parla, was in charge of human resources and he had pull. This was her fourth summer working Annette's. She didn't know it then, but she was making more money on an adjusted annual basis waiting tables then most of the Borgata's marketing employees. Ahh, the value of the bachelor's degree can't be underestimated. By the way, Michelle was hot.
The locals and the early birds nick named Michelle, Daisey. These older guys grew up with the Dukes of Hazzard. This TV show was aired from 1979 through 1985. It was based on the Moonrunners, a 1975 not so successful movie. The TV show featured cousins Bo and Luke Duke and their adventures in fictional Hazzard County, Georgia. They drove a 1969 customized orange Dodge Charger named the General Lee. The boys were always in some sort of entanglement with Boss Hogg, the county's scheming mayor. Daisey Duke, played by Catherine Bach, was a cousin, too. She often wore short, real short cut offs, which became known as "Daisey Dukes".
Michelle wore her shorts every bit as well as Catherine Bach. When the show was filmed Catherine Bach had to wear flesh colored tights under the cut offs. The directors feared too much would be revealed. Michelle didn't wear anything but the cut offs. Today people know the term "Daisey Dukes", since it is part of the chorus of Katy Perry's pop tune, California Gurls.
It was a summer to remember. Michelle and Harry were right as rain. It took Harry almost a week of breakfasts before he made a move. It wasn't much of a move at that, just "we're havin a party tonight, stop by if you have nothing to do." Michelle didn't know it then, but that was about as emotive as Harry could get. For him, that was a formal invitation to the prom, for her, well, she got run at all the time. It was a typical, loud bay front Saturday night. Everybody on Edgewater Avenue threw parties. By the time Michelle made an appearance, people were having jumping contests off of Harry's roof. Harry, himself, was sober. He was so delighted to see her that he nearly ran up to her, not that he was anxiously waiting, hah. He hugged her. It was a full frontal hug, not just a cheek toucher. She hugged him back. OMG. Getting that close to her, well, it was toxic in a good way. Harry was hooked. It may have been pheromones, but Michelle could make ice melt.
Concerts, swimming, beaching, gambling, food, lots of food, ice cream, roller coasters, vodka and more made up the thirteen weeks of the summer of zero five. And so it went. Harry and Michelle. He lost a job and got a job. She finished Stockton and got a job, too. He played basketball and she played marketing. The months rolled by, then a year then two. Still good, still intense. They were inseparable, in love. She frequently stayed over in his Maple Shade apartment. She hardly noticed what a small sty it was. She was blinded by the light.
As romances are wont to do, the stakes are raised from time to time. Often it's a pregnancy, unintended but dispositive. Sometimes it's the need to be together all the time, sort of like eating strawberry short cake. One piece is good, two are better and soon you want the whole cake. After two years of the best relationship two people could enjoy, it came as no surprise that the move in together stake played out. It just so happened that Harry's territory partner from his Pfizer days, Kit Seddon, was being transferred to Kansas City, Missouri. He and his wife, Jill Klanvorovitch Seddon, owned a stucco surprise in Mt. Laurel on a nice street with short immature trees. They wanted to rent it out, mostly because they didn't think life would end for them in KC. They wanted a place to come back to, a place to raise future Klanvorovitch-Seddon concepti. And so it went. Michelle and Harry set up shop on Ann Drive. It was a big step, but it was a rental, not a total commitment. Lucky thing.
It was a fine house, finer than fine, more space than either of them ever lived in. Thick pile carpets, granite tops, wooden blinds, hardwood floors, recessed lighting, tray ceilings, a great room, a master suite, well, this was no pig sty in Maple Shade. It was a threaded neighborhood, too, pools, sprinkler systems, green grass, driveways, SUV's, high class grilles, buried wires and lots of garages. Most of the homes had matching backyard sheds. where the stuff that didn't fit into the oversized garages and full basements, was stored. If one thing could be said about Tranquil Place, it would be that there was a lot of stuff there. And a lot of kids, too. Tranquil Place is where couples, who matched up, accumulated stuff and bred.
Michelle and Harry were excited to live in the stucco surprise at first. It didn't take too long to feel the hints of disquietude and incipient disappointment. Things are never quite what they are cracked up to be. Part of life. The good Tranquil Place people were at an end game. House, spouse, kids, SUV, job, green lawn and stuff were the chips. It was the night of the Ann Drive barbecue that Harry figured it out. At least twenty couples and a score of kids, along with Harry and Michelle, partied, each in his own way. By the end of the night, Harry had been propositioned by two women and maybe a man. Everyone seemed to be looking for something they didn't have, although they all had what they had bargained for. The group as whole wanted more and bigger more. This was curious to Harry, since he had never seen people awash in so much of everything. Worse yet was Harry's realization that the couples had lost what Luther Liddy would have called "the Heat". The good people of Ann Drive were playing out the string. Harry couldn't be sure if it was the stucco surprises themselves, the kids, ennui or what, but he knew a toxic, bad toxic, situation when he saw one.
That night he held Michelle and he knew he still felt the Heat. He wondered if she did? He wondered how long it would be before he didn't feel the Heat anymore? When would golf or a BMW or a hooker become more important than the Heat. He shivered, not because he was cold, but because a feeling akin to nausea welled up in him. Was Tranquil Place the future, was this the end game for him too?
The next morning, a Sunday, Michelle made him a long stack, she warmed his maple syrup and she cooked bacon. She was talking about the advantages of four bedrooms over three and how a breakfast nook added to the resale value of a property. She asked Harry if he was going to do the lawn later. She had heard the weather forecast, showers were coming. Kit had a sweet ride-on Cub Cadet in the garage.
Harry hated the lawn. Money to water it, money to fertilize it, money to cut it, phooey! Later that day, while he was riding around the rented baronial estate, Harry drove the Cadet back into the garage with the lawn only half done. He found Michelle in the great room, reading Architectural Digest. She smiled like a spouse. He told her he was going to Maple Shade to play basketball. The Restitution My Ass were having tryouts for next season. He was hoping he wasn't too old or too slow to make the team. Besides, he needed to talk with Luther. Harry missed Luther, the team and the sty.
Mostly, though, he hated what he had become and he was afraid of the future. As he drove his decade old Jeep Cherokee down Ann Drive, he flipped on his right directional signal. Cli-click, cli-click, cli-click it repeated. He looked in the rear view mirror. The young, short trees would mature. He wondered if he would? Mature means old, right?