Hell House

About 4-5 years ago, my father-in-law moved to another state to live with my sister-in-law. He needed someone to help him as he is elderly and disabled, and she had an extra bedroom. He kept his house though, in case he ever felt “well enough” to come back, or if either of his two sons (MJ and his bro) ever needed a place to live. It’s paid for, but it was still a burden on an old man who lives on retirement, because he was still paying all the taxes and utilities and upkeep of a house he wasn’t living in.

Three years ago, MJ and his sister convinced the old man to give up the house. Or at the very least, let us clean it out and get it ready for sale. We cleaned most of it out, but he still wasn’t quite ready to make that leap of getting rid of it entirely. Recently, someone broke into it and carried off a bunch of (worthless) shit from the house. This spurred MJ’s siblings to FINALLY come out to the house and take the rest of their stuff that they’d been dragging their feet on removing. The thieves also caused considerable damage to three of the doorways. This was the impetus it took to make my FIL see the light, and decide it was time to get rid of it.

Now, this entire time that we’ve been working on this eventually, the real estate market tanked. It still hasn’t recovered, at least not in the area of town my FIL’s house is located. Additionally, the house is a pit of despair. The walls are actually falling down in a couple of places, the floor boards are fucked up in the living room, the staircases are narrow and scary as fuck, every single carpet/tile/linoleum in it needs replaced, and the walls haven’t had a fresh lick of paint since 1965.

The coup de grace of this place is that the furnace is also incredibly ancient. Older than MJ and myself for sure. A couple of months ago, the city had to replace some of the gas lines, and ever since then, we’ve been unable to get the fucking thing to come back on. I mean, I know I’m awesome and shit, but heating and cooling is not my forte. Or MJ’s. At first we didn’t worry about it too much, since it’s vacant. We didn’t realize it wasn’t on through the worst, coldest part of the winter, and the pipes didn’t freeze. And we weren’t planning on having the house by next winter, so who gives a shit if the furnace works when we were just going to:

A) Give it away to someone who wanted it.
B) Sell it to a slumlord.
C) Give it to charity; or
D) Go into default on the property taxes and let the city have the dump.

First, my little brother Donovan said he wanted to buy it. But he had the better part of 6 months to come up with the money, knew he’d have to get a job to do that, and didn’t. He’s been jobless for over a year now, and it’s obvious, that’s not going to happen. We could have just given it to him for free, since that’s what we’re doing with it now (foreshadowing), except we knew it would just become a burden for my mother, because in order for Donovan to fix it up and rent it out (which is what he wanted to do with it) he’d need money and as we already concluded – NO JOB = NO FUCKING MONEY, DIMWIT. I’m sure he’d expect my mom to front him the cash. No way are we contributing to his stupidity. No house for you!

We then found out that my sister-in-law’s (Laine’s wife) parents were going to lose their house to imminent domain. The city has to tear up the sewer underneath their street, and replace them, so they are going to demolish all the houses. They will get some money for it, but both of them are sick, her mother is disabled, and that money will be for them to live on the rest of their lives. We showed them the house, and it’s such a dump, THEY didn’t even want it, and they’ve been living in a semi condemned house for 30 years. They gave us the phone number of a friend of theirs who buys houses in bad shape, fixes them up and rents them out. (This is the slumlord option.) However the night before he was supposed to meet us over there, he got arrested for receiving stolen property. We decided not to go with plan B, and didn’t ever try to call him back.

We thought we were just going to have to go with plan D and abandon the fucking thing, when a friend of mine told me she was losing her house. I told her about my FIL’s house, and that it was in sorry shape, but livable, and if she didn’t have to pay a mortgage, then maybe she could fix it up. At the very least, it’s a place to live until she can afford something better. I took her over to see it, and she was THRILLED. This just goes to show you, that when you are destitute, anything can look like a dream house.

Back to the furnace. We decided we needed to at least get it turned on. My friend has no idea when she has to be out of her current house, but we didn’t want her to have to worry about the heat first thing. I told her that we’d do whatever was humanly possible to turn the heat on, but if it meant replacing the furnace, that was not going to happen. But we’d at least try to get it to come on.

So MJ called Sparky. If you don’t know who Sparky Superstar is, you can read about him here and also here and a little bit here and he’s totally the hero of this story too, but if you are only going to read ONE of these, make it this one. Even I had no idea how much I’d actually written about the man. He’s running around with a fucking bullet in his leg, and he’s still got more kindness in his pinky finger than most of us asshole’s got in our entire bodies.

We went back over to the house on Saturday to finish removing anything else that we wanted, and MJ called to see if Sparky could come over and check it out for us. He arrives, tells me he was reading my blog because he had nothing better to do (hmmmm, ummmm, uhhhhh, not sure what to say here, I thought he checked my blog every day because he couldn’t get enough of my incredible wit and talented writing) and follows MJ down the stairs into the hole some people call a basement. I didn’t go down, but I stood at the top of the stairs. I missed the visual, but the conversation goes a little like this:

Sparky: Oh, you want me to fix this?
MJ: Yes, please, oh master.
Sparky: OK (pushes in a button) KAPOW
Furnace: *click click click* HEAT, bitches!

Well, ok, so not exactly like that. But that’s really all it took, the touch of a genius like Sparky, and it came right on. Ahem. So sue me. Neither one of us knows anything about a gas furnace, and at least we’re smart enough to know when to call an expert. And Sparky wouldn’t take a dollar for his time, or even a quick handy in the kitchen.

As he was getting ready to leave, Melissa and her kids showed up to help us clean (which didn’t happen, but that’s another story for another day). So, Sparky, when you get around to reading this the next time you are bored, if you didn’t realize it at the time, that was HER, and you probably didn’t realize it. Thanks again for coming over and fixing shit up for us! What would we do without you??