Uncle Ray was really considerate. He and his girlfriend Karen offered me a place to stay. I truly appreciated their generosity. Their apartment wasn’t big enough for three, but they put me up while I looked for a place.
Real estate prices were nothing like they are now – but neither were wages. The problem was simple: I couldn’t afford a one-bedroom anywhere near the garage. But I didn’t want to give up the best job I’d ever had.
I was really surprised when my cousin’s girlfriend called me.
– “Hey dickweed.” she said.
– “The one and only.” she said. “Listen, I heard through the grapevine that you’re looking for new digs.”
– “Wow.” I said. “Word travels fast.”
– “So it’s true?” said Laurie. “Hey – Ron and I are at the Lion.” That was a pub, not too far from the garage where I worked. “Can you meet us there? Like, now?”
I rode my bike, wondering if Laurie really did have a solution to my problem. She and Ron were already there. I’d always liked the Lion. It was typical English pub: dark wood, a great selection of beers on tap, dartboards, and a collection of eccentric regulars.
– “Good timing.” said Ron. We were about to go have a look.”
– “A look? At what?”
– “At the apartment we’re thinking of renting.” said Laurie. “Ronnie and me, plus Rose – but it’s a four-bedroom. Split the rent four ways instead of three, and it’s a bargain.”
– “You’re kidding me.” I said. I had met Laurie’s friend: Rose was a big girl, but nice. If this was possible, it could solve my immediate problem.
I didn’t even order a pint. Ronnie and Laurie drained theirs, and we walked around the corner – two blocks away.
It was a massive old house – the ground floor was now a lawyer’s office. The second floor was for rent. There was a door on the side, which led to a set of stairs, completely separate from the first-floor office.
The landlord was waiting, and took us in. The house was old, but it did have some character. The stairs led into a good-sized kitchen, with a sloping ceiling. There were two bedrooms at the back of the house, with a small bathroom between them.
The main bathroom was on the other side of the kitchen, opposite another bedroom. The last bedroom was a bit bigger, and there was a living room, with a small balcony, overlooking the street.
I had never looked at a place with a mind to renting it before, but Laurie was no fool. She quizzed the landlord about utilities, noise during the day, parking, and a whole bunch of other stuff.
The landlord informed us that no pets were allowed.
– “He’s not a pet.” said Ronnie. “He’s my cousin.”
I was more concerned about how clean it was, and the water pressure in the shower (excellent). On top of that, I was trying to picture how four people could live together, without driving each other nuts.
Ronnie asked the most important question. “How much?”
The price was ridiculous – for one person. Split four ways, it was incredibly cheap. We excused ourselves, and went to talk it over.
– “Whaddya think, Joe?” said Laurie. “Could you handle living with us? And Rose?”
– “Could you guys live with me?”
I was already sold. It was two blocks from the Lion, and exactly six blocks, in the opposite direction, from Uncle Ray’s garage. I had to get out of my house – and here was a heaven-sent solution.
“Thank you, Laurie. Thanks, Ron. This looks great. Count me in.”
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