Spring 2017

Edited by Barry Kitterman | Andrea Spofford | Amy Wright


​House for Sale by Owner

​Scott Loring Sanders


CL>new river valley>housing>real estate

October 8

House for Sale by Owner—3br, 1½ bath, charming ranch circa 1948, bathrooms renovated 2011, including ripping out rotten boards damaged by termites.  No worries, exterminator used Ultra Package.  Drilled through concrete + flagstone, injected powerful chemicals around home’s perimeter.  No termites for next 99 years--guaranteed.  Okay, so there’s that.  And roof leaks in a few spots, though a gulley-washer needed for that to happen.  There’s the hole in LR which I still haven’t patched where a rat chewed through the wall while wife watched Survivor on couch.  (3/4 inch plywood—serious walls + indication of construction quality.  They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.)  Turns out, besides rats sneaking up from their digs in the basement (partially finished, propane fireplace, bar w/ Formica countertop,) a family of them lived in the refrigerator.  No, not in refrigerator proper (that’s disgusting) but in back next to motor + insulation.  After inspection of rear of fridge, found piles of moldy dog kibble as well as acorns.  Not to mention feces.  Lord God, the feces.  (FYI, new refrigerator installed September 2013.  Sweet one too.  French doors, KitchenAid, stainless steel, no rats!)  Massive Victor traps + serious poison (think bright blue Lego blocks scattered about) took care of rat problem.  No more Norwegian rats in this stylish home, no sireee Bob.  Wiped out those bastards, including big son-of-a-bitch (two footer, nose to tail) found on basement floor while tending the woodstove one morning.  (Hell, while I’m at it, basement floods sometimes, yet here’s the cool thing:  water goes away on its own.  No idea why/how but it’s one of those, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” situations.)  Anyway, used box from wife’s Diet Coke twelve-pack to scoop up dead, poison-filled rat.  Except, and here’s the real doozy, rat wasn’t actually dead.  Started writhing + wriggling in my hands.  Felt movements through paperboard.  Freaked me the fuck out, I’ll tell you, so rat was popped straight into hot woodstove and iron door slammed tight.  (PapaBear woodstove included, alternate heat/cooking source during ice storms + power outages.)  High-pitched screeching didn’t last long, honestly, though a bit disconcerting.  And before you animal rights/PETA people start judging, it was a rat, okay?  In the house, okay?  Squirming like an eel, w/ only a thin piece of cardboard separating my human flesh from its teeth which, do I need to remind you?, had gnawed through 3/4” plywood?  Like goddamned beavers, those rats.  Poison was killing him slowly anyway, so fire only expedited inevitable.  No more vermin, no termites, no pests.  Major purchase point if you ask me.  Give a call + let’s talk.

CL>new river valley>housing>real estate

October 19

House for Sale by Owner —3br, 1½ bath, unique ranch-style home.  Central air/heat pump installed 2013.  Quiet, middleclass neighborhood.  Well, usually it’s quiet.  There was the incident at the little old lady’s house up the road.  In her mid-eighties, lived alone except for two female caregivers.  First disturbance came when my son was at park next door (renovated 2012, jungle gym w/slides galore, bball court, major perk if you have children.)  He witnessed a distressed boyfriend storm from house, yelling at caregiver.  “You’re going to hell, Tara” or something similar.  Around same timeframe, I noticed occasional odd smell when sitting on deck (rebuilt + stained 2009) drinking coffee.  Didn’t think much of it.  There’s a detail shop close by, so figured just odor from chemicals slapped on some hotrod.  Boy, was I wrong.  One day I’m pulling out of driveway (on blind curve btw, so use caution) and see cop cars swarming old lady’s place.  Turns out, the two caregivers had built meth lab in basement.  You heard right, a meth lab.  WTF? you say.  Yeah, no kidding.  Yellow police tape surrounded the place for weeks.  But here’s the good news.  Caregivers were thrown in jail.  Little old lady placed in retirement home, apparently none the wiser thank God.  New (seemingly respectable) couple has moved in.  Seriously, don’t let this deter you.  Charming neighborhood.   Drop me a line.  Great price, great house.

CL>new river valley>housing>real estate

November 4

House for Sale by Owner (price reduced)—3br, 1½ bath, renovated kitchen August 2013, fenced-in backyard, perfect for pets, safe neighborhood.  Well, pretty safe.  Things do happen occasionally, right?  Even the best orchard has a few bad apples.  One such apple lived in duplex next door.  Notice past tense please:  lived not lives.  So it’s all good now.  (Full disclosure:  duplex is for those on public assistance.  Woman + two sons in one half of duplex are super nice.  Practically raised those boys.  Taught them how to shoot free throws, gave scrap wood for forts, things like that.  Even secretly bought a used Wii, packed it in a box, had my son sneak over on a snowy Christmas Eve, place on front porch.  Like It’s a Wonderful Life or something.  Well, maybe not the best example—damn dark movie for a Christmas flick.  Anyway, next day younger boy came over, thrilled, wanting to borrow our games.  Said maybe there really is a Santa Claus.  I shared quick glance w/ my son.  Immensely satisfying, one of many reasons such a great neighborhood.)  Sorry for digression, back to the bad apple.  Other half of duplex has seen fair share of transients/undesirables.  Bit of a revolving door, you might say.  No real problems, though, until the day I came home to find (surprise, surprise) cops up/down street, along w/ WDBJ7 news van.  Cops tried serving warrant on the guy—thirty-something, living w/mama—guy opened door, started blasting, hitting cop before being shot himself.  Luckily no one killed/seriously injured.  Also luckily, no stray bullets hit my windows (new storm windows 2006—high-end, double paned, Energy Star approved.)  Here’s more good news:  the dude’s in prison for the next forty years, so no worries about him returning to scene of crime.  Nice new family living there now.  Single mother w/ two little girls + simply adorable eighty pound pit bull.  Things are looking up.   Send email, let’s make a deal.

CL>new river valley>housing>real estate

November 15

House for Sale by Owner (dramatically reduced)—3br, 1½ bath, short drive to Virginia Tech, ¾ acre lot w/ trees + privacy, neighbors who keep to themselves.  Most do anyway.  There is Norma.  Personally not my cup of tea, but if you like tattered American flags in the front yard, along with assorted bird baths, concrete lawn ornaments, fluorescent bug zappers, and some sort of plastic amphibian in the bushes that has a nighttime motion sensor and therefore sings “Jerimiah Was A Bullfrog” every ten minutes in the summer while you have your windows open, then Norma might just be the perfect neighbor for you.  Remember being a kid and there was that house w/ the old couple who’d go apeshit if you walked on their grass?  Or, God forbid, your Wiffle ball went over their fence after your friend Byron had some epiphany and suddenly fancied himself a switch-hitter and started batting lefty?  That’s Norma.  Mid-seventies, two times a widow.  She knocked on my door one day, demanding $75.  When I asked why, she said $40 was for scratches on her truck bumper, which, according to her, my escaped dog (Kafka, Black Lab, God rest his soul) caused after chewing on it.  After I mentioned that Kafka had never once chewed on any of my bumpers, not once not ever, she said it happened b/c Kafka was trying to get her cat hiding beneath the truck.    

“How exactly does chewing on a bumper aid in catching a cat?” I inquired.  W/O reply she handed over an estimate sheet from a local body shop.  After a quick perusal, I asked, “You said $75.  What’s the other $35 for?”

“For my dead azaleas,” she said.  “When your dog wanders over, he always pees on them.”

“We’re in the worst drought in forty years, Norma.  You think my dog killed your bushes?”


Which leads to yet another bonus of house.   Location, location, location.  Certain amenities come w/ working at/living near a college.  Example:  I called the university’s horticulture extension agent, explained Norma’s claims about Kafka’s volatile piss.  He stated if Kafka urinated five gallons on Norma’s bushes every day for a year that might kill them, however b/c of ongoing drought any urine Kafka produced only helped the azaleas, not hurt them.  So I gave Norma forty bucks for the bumper to wipe my hands clean of the crazy woman.  A “good fences makes good neighbors” approach, yet over the years I’ve cleaned out her gutters/shoveled her driveway w/o being asked.  She’s alone, her adult son committed suicide, and what can I say, I’m a softie.  Maybe you’ll look in on her every once in a while, won’t you, just to make sure she’s okay?  At any rate, give me a call.  Don’t know what the hell people are waiting on.

CL>new river valley>housing>real estate

November 19

House for Sale by Owner (priced to sell)—3br, 1½ bath, cozy family home, landscaping overhaul 2012, driveway resurfaced 2009, large windows offer abundant sunshine/panoramic views, especially from massive LR picture window (all windows replaced 2006, bullet-hole free, see previous post.)  Windows are wonderful way to see goings on of neighborhood.  Example:  two days ago I’m sitting on couch when I hear distraught screams.  “You fucking asshole.  I hate you.  I fucking hate you.”  I decided that was worth getting up for.  Cattycorner is Travis’s house.  Twenty-ish young man, bearded, overweight, something of a wannabe Harley dude.  Known him since he was a kid when he’d come over to play w/ my son in rat infested basement (see previous post, no longer infested.)  Always felt sorry for him b/c his mother was never around +/or when she was around always had a different boyfriend.  Regardless, Travis now lived alone.  On this particular morning it wasn’t Travis but some other twenty-something doing the yelling, standing in driveway, ranting, and I watched (somewhat amused I must admit) as he paced by Travis’s car:  beat-up old thing of some make/model I’m not familiar w/.  Distressed guy raised his arm, hand grasping something, and came down full force on the windshield.  Three times.  Smash, smash, smash.  Then tossed whatever it was, hammer maybe? into adjoining neighbor’s yard + walked quickly down the road.  I ran from small window to picture window to continue observations.  Only then did Travis come out, talking on his cell.  You’d figure cops, right?  Wrong.  Cops never showed.  Don’t know if it was romance gone south (never pegged Travis as gay, but who knows?) or maybe a bad drug deal, but whatever, he sure didn’t call the police.  Regardless, point is this:  now-deeply-discounted-home offers 360 degree views.  Buyer’s market, motivated seller.   Great investment opportunity.  Wait too long, this baby’ll be gonzo.

CL>new river valley>housing>real estate

December 9

House for Sale by Owner (absolute rock-bottom price)—3br, 1½ bath.  Revived downtown only three minute walk.  Farmer’s market on Thursdays.  Spacious, comfortable home in thriving neighborhood on rebound.   Speaking of which, you + your children need not worry about neighbor, Michael, who last Wednesday was arrested.  I’d just gotten home when Norma yelled for me (yes, truck bumper lady—please see earlier post.)  “Scott, come here,” she said, beckoning from her doorway.  This was odd, this never happened, Norma and I didn’t talk.  After I crossed the street, she half-whispered, “What happened at Michael’s today?”  I had no idea what she was talking about, but I must back up for a second.  Michael’s a bit of an odd duck.  Mid-forties, skinny, balding, walks slightly hunched.  Might say scarecrow-ish.  Works as bagger at grocery store (Kroger, btw, only a half mile away.  Bonus.) 

Norma continued, “Police cars were all over the place this morning.  Cops dressed in full armor, guns drawn, two of them holding a battering ram.”

“A battering ram?”

“Yes.  You think it’s drugs?”

“Norma, I have no idea.”

“You know, he was arrested a few months back.”

“Arrested?” I said.  “Michael?”  Clearly I hadn’t been paying as much attention to the neighborhood as I’d thought.  “For what?”

“Sex with children.”

“What?  In our nice little neighborhood?” I said, blown away though I had to take pause and consider the source.  After all, this was the woman who accused my dog of assaulting her bumper.  The woman who once sold my five year old son a plastic juicer at her garage sale (piece of junk worth less than a dime) for five dollars.  He wanted something for his mom for Mother’s Day, sweet + wholesome gesture, but old bat charged five stinking bucks.  He used his saved Tooth Fairy /Christmas /birthday money, but that’s not the point right now.

“Mmmhmm,” she said.  “You think it’s computer sex or something?  How can we find out?  They took him away in cuffs.”

“Norma, I have no idea.  I’ll let you know if I hear anything.”

That was one week ago.  Since then I’ve scoured the internet looking for info.  Found nada til today.  Norma wasn’t too far off actually.  Possession + distribution of child pornography.  Also small indoor marijuana growing operation.  Hmm, Michael, who knew?  Have you ever seen interviews w/ neighbors of serial killers who are in utter shock and say they never saw it coming?  “He was a nice guy, quiet, kept to himself.”  Yeah, well, I saw this one coming a mile away.  Michael’s a weird son-of-a-bitch.  Not shocked at all.  But again, he’s locked up now.  So what great news for you, prospective buyer, knowing that a pedophile’s been eradicated from the neighborhood.  Thanks to him, I’m lowering price to well-below current market value.  My misfortune=your gain.  Bad news for me=good news for you. 

CL>new river valley>housing>real estate

December 16

House No Longer for Sale (please stop emailing snarky comments)—Nearly Christmas, fed up.  Michael incident (see previous post) destroyed property values.  Don’t know what’s wrong w/ you people:  couldn’t find a better deal if the house smacked you in the face.  I’ve been honest + forthright.  Would you rather if I sugarcoated it?  Lied?  Regardless, house is off market, so please stop bombarding me w/ snide remarks.  Especially you, JMV12444355. Up yours buddy.  How original:  “The whole neighborhood should be firebombed, like they did in Philly that time.”  That’s funny.  Know what, JMV12444355?  You have no soul.  I bet you were adopted.  I simply wanted to sell my house.  No, check that.  Not my house, my home.  I raised my son here, several dogs, two buried under the pines near the wisteria vine which covers the handmade gazebo.  Absolutely gorgeous in spring.  The closet door in the extra bedroom chronicles my son’s growth, where my wife measured him each year, ever since he was five.  His marks are alongside those of the children raised in the house prior, dating back to 1970s, including progression of their son who sadly committed suicide (not inside house, far as I’m aware.)  So the home has seen happiness/sadness.  It’s known anguish + pain, all the while sitting stoically on the hill as hardwood floors absorbed the tears, it keeping the owners safe + warm + comfortable as best it could.  There’s the monster oak in the backyard watching over the home, where twice I almost died falling from its branches while building my son’s treehouse.  Oh, what that tree has seen.  Even more than the house, I bet.  Maybe it observed Indians (okay, Native Americans) resting under its shade in the now fenced-in backyard.  There’s a garden + compost pile, also a strawberry patch, asparagus plants.  The recycling of life, each + every year.  The covering of lettuce + peas w/ tarps when late mountain frosts invade each spring.  Do I trust just anyone to mulch my blueberry bushes every autumn?  To tenderly care for my babies?  Hardly.  My home shouldn’t be hocked on craigslist just to avoid an agent’s 6%.  The neighborhood has quirks, yes, but I love it and I’m not leaving.  No damn way you’ll get me out of here anytime soon.  Well, unless the price is right.  Drop me a line, let’s talk.

CL>new river valley>housing>real estate

July 15

House for Sale by Owner—URGENT—RELISTED—3br, 1½ bath.  Man, life can throw some curveballs, can’t it?  Writing this post from Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Wife just landed job at Harvard!  Freaking Harvard, can you believe it?  My little rockstar from the Blue Ridge Mountains, going to the hollowed halls of Harvard.  From Christiansburg to Cambridge.  From the poison ivy to the Ivy League! (I’m being told it’s “hallowed” halls …my bad.)  Outrageous rent up here. 700 sq. ft. apartment.  One month rent = three mortgage payments back home.  Needless to say, house priced to sell.  During month before move, I gutted entire basement (June, 2015).  Fixed flooding problem (see previous post) which involved heavy duty machinery including badass concrete saw that will rip through anything.  Spread mortar outside, sealing gaping crack between foundation + patio.  Ripped out water/termite-damaged wall.  You should’ve seen bonfire I built w/ that discarded paneling in the outdoor fireplace (how did I not mention this before?—giant stone fireplace, complete w/grill and spit). Basement masonry block painted w/10 gallons of DryLock.  Goopy, thick shit, let me tell you.  Arms sore as hell.  Tore out (asbestos) floor tile. Used questionable/sketchy/probably illegal disposal methods.  Contemplated the word ‘mesothelioma” and all its potential hazards far more often than I would’ve liked.  Good news for you, floor no longer a possible cancer causer.  Hung drywall on ceiling, primed/painted it, mounted fluorescent lights.  Place looks amazing.  On night before move, wife absolutely insisted I remove closet door (which chronicled son’s height—see previous post) b/c she wanted to take it w/ us to Boston. 

“But then the closet won’t have a door,” I said. 

“I…don’t…care,” she said. 

I popped hinges, set heavy son-of-a-bitch on floor, started reading what wife had documented over past sixteen years.  Earliest entry was of previous owner’s child: Christopher 3’9” 4/9/73 5yrs 11months.  Earliest mark for my son: Mason 8/8/99 5yrs 10 months 3’10”.  One of the final entries read as follows: Mason 8/22/12 (night before leaving for college) 6’4”.  I must admit, got a little teary eyed.  Next day, loaded door on U-Haul.  Carefully.  Plan:  make table out of it, preserving measurements with shellac/veneer/or something.  The wife, as usual, made right call.  Unbeknown to wife + son, shortly before saying good-bye to beloved house, I entered that door-less closet + wrote a note w/Sharpie on back-facing wall, high up in corner.  Who knows if new owners will ever find it.  But it might be a cool hidden treasure for someone to discover one day.  It read:

We loved this home from 5/98~7/13/2015

We hope you do too!

-The Sanders-

Scott, Jocey, + Mason




Scott Loring Sanders is the author of two novels, The Hanging Woods and Gray Baby, as well as a forthcoming collection of essays. His work has been included in Best American Mystery Stories and noted in Best American Essays. He’s a frequent contributor to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and has also had stories published in Thuglit, All Due Respect, and many other crime/mystery publications. His essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Sweet, and other literary journals. Learn more about Scott at https://scottloringsanders.com/.

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