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Book Cover for The Death of All Things

The Death of All Things, edited by Laura Anne Gilman and Kat Richardson


Climbing Lightly Through Forests: A Poetry Anthology Honoring Ursula K. Le Guin, edited by R. B. Lemberg and Lisa M. Bradley

Flash Fic: Morgan Starr, Home Inspector

This week’s fic challenge is “real estate“.



Nice to meet you.

I’m sorry, I’m Morgan Starr, were you expecting someone else?  Oh, no, of course, I know there aren’t many women in the field, it’s no problem.

Please, don’t apologize, let’s just have a look at this house, all right?  You say you’re buying it from flippers?  I’ll keep my eyes peeled, then, flipped houses are always so interesting to inspect.

Hmm?  Well, you see, they tend to try to do a bunch of cosmetic things to hide whatever major issues made it cheap enough for them to think it was worth buying to flip – oh, you say the septic failed?  That might do it.

Now, that’s suspicious, isn’t it?  That board there.  One moment, let me have a look – and there we go, that’s termite damage.  You’re going to want to get the cost of dealing with that knocked off, my dears.  That’s the sort of thing I mean.  Have you bought a house before?  That’s something that you have to keep an eye out for, the things tacked up like that, but it’s particularly bad with flippers.

How did I know to check?  Well, I have a sense for these things after all these years, you know.  “This smells a bit off,” if you know what I mean.  All right, here’s the furnace, that’s an interesting place for it, isn’t it.  Oh, they put it in new, did they?  Well, that will be something to check out as well.  Let’s go into the rest of the house and have a poke around.

Hmmm, hmmm, this is a new radiator?  Seems all right here, though putting it in a laundry room does strike me as a waste of effort.  It’s not like you’re going to be doing much out here other than taking your boots off, are you?  And what’s this window?  It looks out onto the porch?  Oh, houses, you’re always so full of surprises.  So how do we get onto the porch?  Through the kitchen?  Let’s do that.

Oh, oh.  This looks very nice, but can you feel that?  Listen to how unsteady it is here.  They say it’s selling as-is?  That means “tear it down,” honey, I’m sorry.  I’ll write up something more specific about the problems.  It’s a shame, though, it has a nice view of the back.  I’d like to take a walk back there when we’re done if you don’t mind.  No, not for the inspection, I just like the woods.

Let’s go through the kitchen.  Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, all right, the seal on the sink isn’t sealing, and that cabinet door is a mess.  Where’s the circuit box, is it the one we saw out in the laundry?

How many does this have?  All right, we’ll have to play hide-and-seek with them and see what they do.  What’s this?  An intercom?  Oh my, that made a dreadful noise, didn’t it.

No, it’s not haunted.  Some sort of electrical miswiring, I suspect.  Flippers, you know.  No, ghosts don’t sound anything like that, and they don’t care for speakers.  But, hmmm.  Come on, let’s have a look ‘round the bathroom.  Here’s the other door, and the idiots put in the radiators so you can’t open the door all the way, look at that.  Oh!  I’ve found the basement stairs.

This water heater is pretty old.  Keep that in mind, it seems sound enough but you probably only have a few more years on it.  Oh, hello, there’s a leak in a pipe here, look at the discoloration on the ceiling tiles. Could be the kitchen or the bathroom from what I can see.  Smells a little damp, and you’ll miss some of that under this carpet, so keep that in mind.  Basements are tricky.

Let’s have a look upstairs.  I’d like to have a peek in the attic and then I’ll go through the bedrooms, all right?  Oh, just a feeling.  You get those if you’ve been in enough houses.

Oh, this ladder does creak dreadfully, doesn’t it?  Whoof, hot up here.  Oh no, look there.  You see the way that sags?  I’ll have to poke around down there and see what’s going on.  Let’s see some more… I’ll want to get up on the roof, of course, and get a closer look, especially now I’m seeing the discoloration on these boards.  You might have mold under the insulation there.

Okay then!  I’ll be sure to put that in the writeup.  Let’s go back to the room at the end of the hall, I want to see that ceiling.  Oh, it’s not so obvious here, is it?  Not half as obvious as the ghost, I thought there was some funny business in here.

I told you the intercom didn’t sound like a ghost, you think I was just making a funny?  Look, if it bothers you, gives you bad dreams, put out clean water by the bed at night.  You might have to asperge or use some incense to drive it off.  No, that doesn’t go in the report, people gave me such funny looks when I did.

You should figure out what that lightswitch does, by the way, because it seems like it’s doing nothing here and there’s still a spark happening in the wall.

You just know things, working with houses long enough.  Are we done?  Still all right if I go out back for a bit?


That’s pokeweed you’ve got back there.  Terribly poisonous, pokeweed, and it’ll just keep coming back.  Forest’s angry on this side.  Getting the impression a bunch got hacked down for a development over that way, it’ll keep giving you poisonous berries until you make peace.  Try planting some holly.  Still poisonous, but not as bad as the poke.  Compromise is important.

What do you mean, am I for real?  Of course it’s real.  That’s why they call it real estate.  All of this transient, moveable stuff, it doesn’t matter to the substrate.  It’s realer than you and me, it’ll certainly outlast us.  Best to make peace with it before it drops a branch on your roof.

I mean, you could call an arborist too, that wouldn’t be a bad idea.

2 comments to Flash Fic: Morgan Starr, Home Inspector