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Second Time Around

Chapter 29

By Arli J

Edited by Radio Rancher
Based on Characters from Pinochle, by E Walk

We were tired, but happy, when we returned to our room. Gregg couldn't stop going on and on about the meat loaf at the Parthenon. He finally wound down, and we went to bed. We were both tired from a long and busy day, so we went to sleep almost immediately, and slept soundly until our wake-up call roused us.

Joey wasn't in the restaurant, when we went in for breakfast, so we were served quickly and efficiently, with a minimum of conversation. When we finished, I left a tip for the waitress and went out to the front desk to pay our bill. We had a different desk clerk this morning, too. He was friendly, but not as friendly as the clerk from yesterday. I asked about the other clerk. The clerk paused a moment.

"Oh, Bill? He'll be on about nine o'clock."

I thanked him, collected Gregg, who had struck up a conversation with one of the maids dusting the lobby and straightening it. We went back up to our room, reviewed the brochures and made our plans for the day. Our first tour was to be Sedona, which is not only the most northern of the Prescott complex, but is in a different county from the other towns. We were intrigued by Sedona's reputation throughout the country as a center for paranormal studies.

We double-checked the brochure and made sure that we were at the bus stop at the right time to catch the tour bus. Soon we were off on our inspection of what we hoped might be our new home.

The next four days were rather a blur of scenery, small towns that blended into each other and the general feeling of a way of life that was totally foreign to either of us, but which drew us both like a magnet.

Tuesday afternoon, as we were touring the little town of Camp Verde, nestled among the mountains and watered by the Verde River, I noticed something, as we passed. I quickly called Gregg's attention to it.

"Gregg, look! The little house with the 'For Sale by Owner' sign. That's a cute little place!"

"Oh, yeah! Can't you see us living there?"

"Well, I can see us looking at it, if we can get Bill's cousin to show it to us. But how are we going to find it again?"

My question answered itself a couple of blocks down the street. As we pulled up for a red light at the intersection of two major routes, I noticed a large motel, 'Days Inn & Suites, 1640 W. Finnie Flat Road.'

"That's it, Gregg, Finnie Flat Road! Now, if Bill's cousin can find the listing for the house..."

"It probably won't be listed, Harley. The sign said, 'For Sale by Owner.' So he wouldn't have a listing of it."

"Well, we can ask Bill, when we get back to the motel. Maybe his cousin will check it out for us."

He grinned. "Can't hurt to try! And it really isa cute little place, just the right size for two old codgers." I just glared at him.

We really weren't paying a lot of attention to the passing scene for the remainder of our tour. We couldn't wait to get back to the motel and talk to our friendly desk clerk, Bill. He greeted us, when we returned to the motel.

"Well, gentlemen, how was your tour this morning? Did you see anything interesting?"

"We sure did!" Gregg was really excited. "We saw a house, and it looks just perfect for what we need. It's in Camp Verde, and..."

"Did you get the address?"

"Well, not exactly, but it's on Finnie Flat Road, a couple of blocks from the Days Inn motel."

"Are you guys going to be around this afternoon, or are you off on another tour?"

I finally got a chance to join the conversation. "No, we're planning to have lunch here in the restaurant, and we thought we'd just chill out this afternoon."

"I'll give my cousin a call and see what he's doing. If he's free, maybe he'll come over and talk to you about the house this afternoon. If he's busy, I'm sure he can be here tomorrow morning."

"Either one will be fine with me. I'm planning to rest a little. We've had four days of tours, and I'm looking forward to sitting in a seat that doesn't vibrate or bounce." Bill chuckled.

"I can understand that! So, let me give him a call and see what he's up to."

We went over to the front windows and stood looking out, admiring the Southwestern architecture of the buildings and the unhurried pace of traffic, both motor and pedestrian, on the street. I glanced over at Gregg, and he was smiling at me.

"Harley, I've got a really good feeling about this. Everything has been falling together so neatly for the last couple of weeks. I think that we're finally coming home."

His mood was catching. "I think you may be right, Gregg. It does feel really comfortable here, doesn't it?"

"Yep, and they've even got meat loaf!" His grin was contagious; I had to grin, too.

Bill finished his phone call and called us over to the desk.

"I just talked to my cousin, Art, and he said that he was free today and would be over to talk to you guys around lunch time. If I know Art, he's planning to buy your lunch to make you think he's a good guy." He chuckled. "And he is; don't let him fool you!"

I looked at Gregg and back to Bill. "Well, then, we'll just go up to our room and wait until Art gets here."

"Great! I'll call you, as soon as he arrives, and you can have lunch and decide what you want to do about the house."

We went back up to our room and relaxed for a while in the comfortable chairs. A little after two, the phone rang. It was Bill, letting us know that Art was here and ready to go to lunch.

We took the elevator down to the lobby. A very tall, slender man was standing at the desk, talking to Bill. As we approached, Bill called to us.

"Hey, guys, here's the man! Don't let him intimidate you, just because he has to duck to go through a door." They both laughed, and the stranger stepped forward to shake hands.

"Hi! I'm Art Mooney, and, sadly, I'm related to this nut case. And you guys are...?

"I'm Harley Gordon, and this is Gregg Garrison. Bill tells us that you're a good real estate person, and we need one. We're relocating here from the cold North, and we saw a house on the bus tour that caught our attention."

"Great! Let's go in and get some lunch, and we can talk about it." He led us to the restaurant and caught the maitre d's eye. We were soon seated and studying the menus.

Gregg was visibly excited, but also a bit nervous.

"We had the soft chicken tacos for lunch yesterday. I'm not used to Southwestern food, but they were really good. I think I'd like to try those again."

Art grinned. "Good choice. The chicken tacos here are really good! How about you, Harley?"

"That sounds good to me, too. And both of us got hooked on the 'carbonated prune juice.' That's what Joey said they call it here."

Art laughed. "Yep! That's Joey!" He looked around. "I don't see him at the moment, but I'm sure he'll be around in a couple of minutes."

Almost as if he had been called, Joey appeared at the table. "Sorry, guys! I was in the kitchen and didn't see you come in. Have you decided what you're having today?"

Art grinned at him. "You must be a pretty good salesman, Joey. We're having the soft chicken tacos and 'carbonated prune juice.' I assume you're talking about Dr. Pepper."

"Yeah, that's what all the kids call it, and it really does have a sort of prune juice flavor." He paused and grinned at all of us. "So, gentlemen, if you've decided, I'll go put your order in. We're not too busy at the moment, so it shouldn't take too long." He hurried off toward the kitchen.

Art cleared his throat and began. "So, you've seen a house you might be interested in?"

Gregg was almost bouncing in his seat. "Well, really, Harley saw it and called my attention to it. It's a cute little house, just about the right size for two old guys who don't want a lot of work and upkeep."

"OK, and did you get the address?"

Gregg gave me a blank look, so I answered Art. "Not exactly, but it's on west Finnie Flat Road, a couple of blocks from the Days Inn. There's a 'For Sale by Owner' sign on the lawn."

"Well, that shouldn't be too hard to find. I'll go and check it out, and I'll try to talk to the owner, to see if we can come in and look at it. If you guys aren't planning anything special for this afternoon, I can call you and set up a time to go look at the house."

"That would be great! We've been touring for the last four days, and I'd just love the chance to sit and do nothing for a while."

Joey brought our lunch, and we enjoyed the chicken tacos, maybe even more than the first time, because we knew what to expect, and we both put a little of the red salsa on our tacos. Art looked amused.

"Didn't take Joey long to get you to try the salsa, did it?"

"Well, he did warn us to go easy on it, until we were used to it. It's a bit hotter than what we're used to, but the flavor is great!"

When we finished lunch, Art made it clear that lunch was his treat today. "I'll get it back in my commission!" He gave us a big grin. Then he left to find the house, and we went back to our room to relax. Neither of us was in a talkative mood, so we settled back in the comfortable chairs, and I was just drifting off to sleep, when the phone rang.

It was Art. "Hey, guys, if you want to see the house this afternoon, I can pick you up in about twenty minutes." Did we want to see the house? Oh, yeah!

We went down to the lobby and chatted with Bill until Art arrived. We drove through the city and out into the desert. As we moved closer to Camp Verde, the landscape became greener, and in some places almost lush. I had to ask Art about it.

"Well, you're in the lower Sonora Desert here, but Camp Verde is surrounded by mountains that keep the cold winter winds off and trap the rain, so they have a lot more moisture than most of the area around here. I don't know if you knew that 'verde' is the Spanish word for 'green.'"

"Well, it certainly fits. I think the desert is beautiful, but we come from a part of the country that is green all year, except for winter, so I think I'd feel a little more at home with some grass and shrubs around us."

By now, Art was pulling up in front of the house. "This the one, guys?"

There it was, a small, cream-colored house, with chocolate brown trim and a green roof. It was set in the middle of a neat lawn, with shrubs around the base of the house and a couple of medium height trees in the back yard.

Art nodded toward the lawn and said, "At least, here you can have a lawn without having to water three times a week. We're in the middle of the desert, but Camp Verde is in a ring of mountains that catch and hold the passing rains, so it's probably closer to what you're used to than anywhere else in Arizona."

He paused a moment. "The lady who owns it is elderly, and just lost her husband a few months ago. She really wants to sell the house and go live with her sister in Tucson, so I think we can get a good price on the house."

Gregg spoke up. "I don't want to take advantage of anyone. If we can afford the house, that's one thing, but I don't want to cheat the lady!"

"That's one thing I never do." Art seemed almost insulted by the suggestion. "I know what real estate values are in this area, and I try to get the best price possible for my clients, but I'd never cheat an old lady, just to get a better price on the house. She's asking a reasonable price, but we can talk to her, and see if that's her bottom offer. If it is, then you have to decide if you want it and can afford it."

We got out of the car and went up to the house. The door opened as soon as Art knocked. A small lady with white hair combed back and rolled up in a bun stepped back and welcomed us into the house. I took a quick glance around.

The lady, Mrs. Morton, looked to be somewhat older than I am, possibly in her late 70's or early 80's. She was wearing a cotton house dress and slippers, and she carried a lace-edged hanky clutched in her left hand. She welcomed us with a warm, sweet smile that reminded me of everyone's favorite Grandma.

"Can I get you gentlemen a glass of iced tea? Or, I could put on a pot of coffee, if you would prefer."

Art smiled. "Don't fuss, making coffee for us, but a glass of tea sounds good. It's getting warm out there."

She went to the cupboard and got out four tall glasses. She filled them from a big jug of iced tea she had taken out of the fridge. Then she set the jug back and brought the tea to the table.

"Please sit down and be comfortable, gentlemen. We can talk while we're having our tea." She sat down at the table, and we joined her. She gave us another of those warm smiles.

"We've loved this house. Clinton and I lived here almost twenty years. We bought it after the kids grew up and moved out. We didn't need a big house any more, and we didn't need the work and expense of keeping up a big house. This one has been just perfect for us. But now, with Clinton gone," she dabbed at her eyes with the hanky she had wadded in her hand, "I just can't keep up with it. My sister in Tucson is a widow, too, and she has invited me to come and live with her." She paused to regain control of her emotions.

Art picked up the conversation, telling us a little about the house. Then he asked her how much she wanted for it. Gregg and I just looked at each other in shock, when she told us the price. We were used to housing costs in the North, and this seemed ridiculously low, even for a small house.

Mrs. Morton gave us a rather shy and uncertain smile. "Do you gentlemen have furniture? Since I'll be living with my sister, I have no need for the furniture here, and I was hoping to sell the house furnished."

"How much did you want for the furniture?" Gregg asked.

"Oh, I had included that in the price. If you don't want it, I can dispose of it somehow, and we can discuss the price of the house alone."

"Then that is the price of the house and the furniture?"

"Well, yes. Is that more than you wanted to pay?"

"No, that price seems very reasonable. Harley and I will need to talk it over, of course, and we will need to call a friend in Nebraska who is holding our funds for us. Harley just sold his house in New York, and I sold a business building there, so we are expecting the checks for those. They should have arrived by now."

You'll want to go through and look at the house. It may not be what you're looking for."

We got up from the table with Art; Mrs. Morton remained seated with her tea, occasionally dabbing at her eyes with the hanky. We walked around, looking at everything. I made a mental note that the furniture, while far from new, was sturdy, comfortable and attractive.

It was a small house; the living room and kitchen were actually one room, with the kitchen an alcove at the far end of the living room. The dining table formed a divider between the two rooms. The living room floor was hardwood, and the kitchen floor was covered with a worn linoleum. The kitchen was smaller, since the bathroom took up one end of the space. The bathroom, too, was very small, with a toilet and shower stall on one side and the sink and a large cabinet on the other side. We discovered that the water heater was in the cabinet, along with shelves for towels and supplies. The bathroom was a sort of hall, leading from the kitchen to a bedroom. The back door of the house was in the bedroom. There was another door leading to the front bedroom, which opened into the living room. Gregg looked at me and grinned.

"Well, we've got a track, if we decide to run races through the house!" Art gave him a strange look. It would take him some time to get used to Gregg's sense of humor.

We passed through the front bedroom and back into the living room. The house was cozy, but not cramped. The Mortons had furnished it with just enough pieces, so that the rooms were comfortable, but uncluttered.

Then we walked outside to look around. The yard was small, but attractive, and there was a small storage shed behind the house. A covered porch shaded the large front windows from the hot desert sun.

We went back inside. Mrs. Morton was still sitting at the table. She looked up, as we walked in. "So, what do you think?"

I looked at Gregg before I answered her. "Well, I think we're definitely interested, but there are some things we have to take care of, and a few questions we need answered, before we can make a final decision. May we call you in the next day or two?"

"Of course," she smiled, as she got up from the table and found a piece of paper and a pencil. She wrote something on the paper. "Here are my name, address and phone number. I'd prefer that you not call late in the evening, because I usually go to bed early."

"We'll be sure to keep that in mind. We would probably call sometime in the middle of the day."

"That would be perfect."

"And we'd like to thank you, Mrs. Morton, for allowing us to go through your house—and for the very welcome iced tea! We'll be calling you, probably tomorrow or the next day." She offered her hand, and we all shook hands with her, said our goodbyes and left.

We got back into the car, and Art turned to us. "Well, guys, what did you think of it, now that you've had a good look?"

I looked at Gregg, who sat there almost holding his breath. His eyes were shining, and his grin threatened to split his face. "I think we like it. I'm going to have to make a phone call tonight, to see if we can get our money down here soon."

"OK. Have Bill give me a call in the morning, and we'll get going on this right away."

The drive back to Prescott was pretty quiet. Gregg and I were lost in the passing scenery. When we crossed the mountains surrounding the Rio Verde valley, we were definitely back in the desert. The difference was amazing.

Back at the motel, Art dropped us off, and we promised to get in touch with him in the morning. Bill was grinning at us, as we walked into the lobby.

"So, did you find what you were looking for?"

"Sure did! We've got to make some calls to get things moving, but it looks as if we may be buying a house!" Gregg was almost bouncing with excitement. I got the impression that he rather liked the little house. Well, of course, so did I!

We went upstairs to our room, and I put through a call to Beau and Becca. Becca answered. She sounded a little surprised, but happy to hear from us.

"So, Harley, are you enjoying your trip? Do you like the area? Is it someplace you'd like to live?

"Yes, yes, and yes! We just love the area here! The people are friendly, the scenery is great, and, Becca, we lucked onto the perfect house for us! That's why I'm calling. I'm hoping that the checks for our property in Ithaca are there."

"They arrived day before yesterday. We've been holding them, waiting to find out what you wanted us to do with them."

"You could send them to us here at the motel." I gave her the name and address of the motel. There was a pause, while she wrote down the information.

"Got it! Oh, and what is the phone number there, in case we need to call you?"

I gave her the number, and she wrote it down. "I'm so happy for you both, and I know that Beau will be, too. We'll get the checks right out to you."

"How's Beau handling retirement?"

"He's going crazy, and he's driving me crazy! But we're able to spend a lot more time with the kids, and they seem to enjoy that."

"Well, that's good—for you, and for the kids. So, we'll be watching the mail for the checks. I wish you guys could see the little house; it's really just perfect—andit comes furnished!"

"Well, at least that would save you a lot of time, trouble and expense, having to get furniture."

We talked a few minutes more, and Becca had to leave. One of the girls was upset about something, and she needed to straighten out the problem. After I hung up, I told Gregg about the call and what Becca had said. We decided to call Mrs. Morton after dinner and tell her that our money was on the way.

We had just settled back in our chairs, and I was beginning to doze, when the phone rang. It was Beau, and he sounded excited.

"Hey, I hear you've found a house you like! Got a thought to run by you. It will sort of kill two birds with one stone. We're trying to spend more time with the kids, do things with them."

I sort of interrupted him, "Yeah, that's what Becca said."

He continued, "We were talking, and I got thinking that we could come down to visit you guys and see the house. We can bring the checks, and you'll have them sooner than if we mailed them. We'll leave Friday, as soon as the kids get home from school, and we'll have the weekend there. We won't have to leave until Sunday evening. Can you get us rooms in the motel where you're staying?"

"Yes, I'm sure I can. It's rather quiet here right now, so I'm sure they have extra rooms. And you won't need to rent a car. The motel provides transportation to and from the airport. All I'd need to know is what time you'll be arriving."

"OK. You find out about the rooms, and we'll make our plans from there."

"I'll check with Bill at the desk, and I'll call you back."

"I'll be waiting for your call. And it will be good to see you guys again."

He hung up, and I called the desk. When I told Bill what I needed, he suggested that the family should take the executive suite on the top floor. It had enough rooms for all the family members, and it overlooked the whole city. Since it was a slow season, he could give them a break on the price. I refrained from telling him that Beau could buy the motel, if he decided to do that.

I called Beau back to give him the information about the suite. He was very pleased, and told me that he would call as soon as they figured out when they would be arriving in Prescott.

I called Bill at the desk to reserve the suite, and I told him I would let him know what time the Bensons would be arriving. He promised to have the van waiting at the airport to pick them up.

After all the phone calls, I decided that I was too keyed up to try to take a nap, and, since it was about dinner time, I asked Gregg if he would like to go out for dinner. The look on his face gave me his answer, before he opened his mouth.

"Could we, maybe, go to the Parthenon for dinner?" There was that little boy look again. I couldn't help grinning.

"Is someone going into meat loaf withdrawal?"

He blushed and ducked his head. "Sort of."

We went to the Parthenon for dinner. Gregg was in heaven; he had his meat loaf. I decided to try something different, so I ordered the baked chicken. It was fantastic. We decided to have baklava for dessert again.

When we got back to the motel, we were both full and worn out from our day. I called Mrs. Morton to tell her that we would be having guests from Nebraska, and to ask her if we might bring them to see the house. She was willing for them to come in, so we set a time for us to visit.

When I hung up the phone, I looked at Gregg. "I don't know about you, but I think I've gone about as far as I can go today. I know it's early, but I think I'm ready for bed."

"Me, too. It has been a long day, hasn't it? I'm tired out, too."

We undressed quickly, turned out the lights and slipped into bed. We cuddled together, and we were asleep in minutes.

Editor's Notes: Things seem to be going very well, don't they? I suspect that Mrs. Morton is the salt of the earth. I can tell that she misses her husband very much.

Harley and Gregg are having a great time, and I think they will do very nicely In AZ.

We spent some time in Arizona one year, and we were on our way to a convention in Los Vegas. We noticed that Summer there is very hot, over 100 degrees, pretty much all the time. They don't bury the water pipes very deep at all and when the sun beats down on the ground, there is no such thing as cold running water.

I guess the nice temperature in the Winter could probably make up for how hot it is in the summer.

One thing that I really didn't enjoy hearing from almost everyone there, was, "Yes, I know it's 120 degrees outside, today, but it's a dry heat." One day, someone said that and I answered, "Yes, that is true, but, so is an oven, and you wouldn't want to spend very much time in one of those, would you?"

I am certainly ready for another chapter of this wonderful story.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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