The Fixer-Upper

They had lived in the house for eleven years.  On the one hand, time had flown by.  She never once expected they would stay that long, and yet here they were, entering their mid-thirties.  On the other hand, time had dragged on.  She hated the house.

When they were just newly-weds, an apartment had seemed insufficient.  It was a cramped studio on Hayworth, the dingy side.  They had complained about the four-flight walk up, the noise, the linoleum and all that damn beige.   She wanted to paint the walls.

The house wasn’t perfect, but they’d found it at the end of January when the cold weather had brought her mood to an all-time low.  The owners were willing to throw in closing costs, so they’d agreed.

Everyone had warned them not to buy it.  “It’s too much responsibility,” they’d said.  “You’ll grow to resent it.”  But they hadn’t listened.  It was a rite of passage, wasn’t it?  To buy an old fixer-upper in your early twenties.  They thought they could beat the thing.  Hell, they thought it’d be fun.

She remembered driving out to the old house after they’d signed the papers.  It was all exciting then; sliding the key in the lock and knowing it was their door now.  They’d wandered through the empty rooms and imagined where they’d put what, and then she’d sat on the teal counter top in the kitchen and they had laughed.  Actually laughed!  

“Look at this old counter top,” she’d said.  “It’s so ugly.”

“We’re going to replace it, baby.  You’ll see.  It’ll be the house we always dreamed of owning.”

That felt like a whole life-time ago.  Before they’d discovered the rotting floorboards and leaky rooftop.  If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.  

Their neighbor was always coming over and sitting on the porch swing, telling them about how he’d bought “the money pit house.”  She’d laugh in a friendly way, all the while thinking how much better his house was than hers.  She had bought the money pit house.  Her hard-earned funds were being sunk into the front yard as they spoke, down there with the busted pipes that had to be replaced so four-year old Sammy could use the upstairs toilet.

If it felt like a drain on her, it was far worse for her husband.  He’d come home from work in the evenings and get right back to work, adding insulation or re-wiring an electrical outlet.  She’d married a handy-man alright, and thank God.  Otherwise they’d never be able to survive this house.

The man who had originally built the thing was not a handy-man.  Or, perhaps, a contractor.  He had rendered surprise useless.  What?  The ceiling just collapsed?  Naturally.  The fact that her windowsills were four inches wide on the right-hand side and only an inch on the left was telling enough.  She’d fashioned an unfavorable opinion of the idiot mere hours after moving in.

“Honey, look at this!” she’d yelled on moving day.  “We can’t put the desk here because the entire floor slants downhill.  It looks like a Dr. Suess house!”  And then she’d stood back and laughed again.

Last week, however, she’d said something more like this: “A mouse pooped in all my kitchen cabinets.  I hate living here.  We have to move.”

It was true, the house was slowly killing her sense of humor.

Time and again, her husband would console her, do his best to mend the situation, and then the whole thing would fade into the background because a newer, bigger problem would emerge.  Sometimes they'd laugh at that, too, but it wasn't the same kind of laughter.  It was this desperate laughter, like admitting that the house was taking them to the loony bin in a hand-basket. 

Just a few months ago he’d gotten a raise.  They began talking about putting the house on the market and renting an apartment again.  An apartment sounded so good.  They had no offers yet, but his optimism gave her hope.

That evening was different, though.  She could tell he was beat when he came home.  He said nothing; just took a cold beer out of the refrigerator and stood there.  He had that tired look in his eyes that worried her.  She didn’t tell him that the dryer was broken again.

Instead, she pulled herself up onto the counter behind him and rubbed his shoulders.  Then she said, “It’s all going to be over soon.”

He laughed.  This short, dry sound that sort of hung in the air between them.

“What?” she asked.

“I’ve told you that so many times and you always get mad.”  

He was right, of course.  She’d get mad because it was never true.  But she needed him to believe it now.  For both of them.

“We can’t give up yet,” she said.  “Not just yet.”  They embraced; this brief, block-out-the-world kind of embrace, and then she slipped off the teal counter top and left the room.

Written by Lauren Holgate.


  1. I love that show, its so fun

  2. Beautiful. The ending...the teal counter...nice touch.

  3. the teal counter :] you managed it well, i think.

  4. Wow, beautiful! I certainly hope this is purely fiction, and not based on any experiences of your own *hugs*

  5. This story should be tucked in a card to anyone considering home ownership. lol. :)

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