The young man stands on the concrete porch stoop fingering the key he has just placed onto the fob with his usual keys. He sees that some of the asbestos siding shingles are cracked. He remembers that such siding is legally classified as hazardous material.
He grasps the storm-door’s handle with the left hand and presses the button with his thumb. The storm-door appears to be a relatively recent improvement to the tiny house; its finish is clean, glossy, and white. This is in contrast to the wooden main door that it protects. The wooden door is of obsolete design. There are three horizontal panes of glass at the top half of it. The bottom half has three wood veneer panels; the middle one is fractured, probably by the last tenant.
At last, the young man inserts the key into the worn doorknob and turns it clockwise. He hears and feels a muffled clunk and the door opens just a crack. Here is the moment he has been anticipating during the preceding week. At last it’s time to survey the interior of his new home.
The first thing the young man notices is how compact the living room appears. There are two sets of windows, one on the west and one on the north, next to the main door. Each window is half-covered by yellowed vinyl pull-down shades. The southwest and northwest corners of the ceiling have swag hooks. Did the last tenant have two hanging lamps or were the hooks used for hanging flower pots?
His eyes follow the ceiling to the south wall. Half the wall intrudes into the room to accomodate the walk-in closet for the bedroom. The other half is for the bedroom door. Immediately to the east is the opening to the kitchen. The top of the narrow opening is arched. It’s one of the architectural details that attracted the young man and featured into his decision to sign the lease.
The next room is divided into a dining area and a kitchen area. A set of windows, the same size as those in the living room, grace the east wall in the dining area. They too, are half covered by yellowed vinyl pull-down shades. The kitchen area features mass produced cabinets and cupboards. The faux walnut doors each have “u” shaped handles in their centers. The cabinetry was clearly designed in the early 1970s. The cupboard door for the unit next to the window looks to have been violently torn away. It leans, shattered against the east wall. The landlord has promised a prompt replacement.
The north wall of the room is covered in the same off-white, aged matte paint as the living room. At the left-center is a “Honeywell” circular thermostat, next to it is the bracket for an absent wall-mounted telephone. At the kickpanel below is the square, decrepit phone jack. The very left part of the wall has a doorway that opens to a second bedroom.
The young man decides that this second bedroom will become his music room. The walls have windows, configured like those in the living room. They also have half drawn dirty yellow pull-down shades. Except the shade for the east window. It’s unrolled on the floor of the room. At the south wall is the second walk-in closet. It has a double panel door that pulls out and folds outward to open.
The room’s walls had been covered in wallpaper. Some of it is wrinkled and one area appeared to have been torn. Whoever prepped the room didn’t bother to remove the wallpaper. The horizontal surfaces had been hastily painted over with the same paint used in the other rooms. Even the light switches and electrical outlets are covered in thick coats of the paint. The switch plates now show the accumulated oils and dirt from the hands of the previous tenant. These will have to be replaced.
The young man backtracks into the kitchen then to a very short hallway that leads to the bathroom. It’s larger than one would expect. The toilet, the sink, and the bathtub are of different, unfashionable styles. So are the water faucets. The mineral buildup will require much scouring to remove.
Next to the toilet at the south wall, is a small entryway to a closet-sized room. The entry is arched at the top like the entry to the kitchen. On the south wall of the little room is a tiny, square window. At the right, a dented sheet metal cabinet. To the left is a ceramic light socket, half removed from the wall. The walls in the tiny room and in the bathroom are dirty and flaked. There’s some black mold, too.
The young man returns to the little hallway and turns to the door that goes to the basement. Just to the south of two wooden steps is a landing and the house’s back door. At the left side of the landing is a set of grey-painted uneven wooden steps to the cellar. The young man has to crouch to avoid hitting his head on the spider webbed floorboards above him.
Directly in front is a rusty, tan-brown Lenox furnace and a dirty white water heater. Stacked on the basement floor are the ductworks for the furnace. So this must be the reason the landlord mentioned that the house is difficult to heat. At the middle of the west wall of the basement are a pair of concrete half-walls that bookend the floor drain and a makeshift shower faucet. At the top of the west wall of the shower stall is a boarded up window that leads to the crawl-space beneath the other half of the house.
The young man notices stucco has fallen in slabs from the basement walls onto the cracked concrete floor. Then he crouches as he walks to the steps and climbs back to the tiny hallway upstairs.
On the west wall of the hallway is a window the same size as those in the kitchen, bedrooms, and living room. This window doesn’t have a pull-down shade. Through it, the young man contemplates the narrow back yard that runs parallel to the small, shallow river. This is the feature that convinced the young man to sign the lease.
The time has finally come to begin work on the little fixer upper.