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The clapboard exterior makes the house look uneducated, Nell thought as she kneed open the screen door and brought the mayonnaise jar inside one of two bags she carried in her arms down on the thumb depressor of the front door handle which caused the door to pop open and the living room in all its polluted glory to burst into view.
You’d never know a psychiatrist lived in a place like this, she said under her breath.
Nondescript would be an overstatement. Undescript would better describe the single family home with its wide unpainted porch that sported a dilapidated swinging chaise and broken photocopying machine, until you got inside, she thought as she crossed the threshold. Inside it was too small, the place was just plain cramped and crammed with the detritus of a lifetime. Correct that, four life times if you counted the boys who were just barely in their teens.
Even though it was broad daylight outside, it was cave dweller dark inside and it took a few seconds for her pupils to dilate, time she did not want to waste standing there with the groceries in her arms and the phone answering machine light winking at her like a devil’s red eye while a dozen other compelling reasons to get quickly into the kitchen rose from different parts of her mind at the same time.
Freud had it right, she muttered. The unconscious really is wide awake when you least expect it.
She crossed the room in the half light left over after the front door came to and banged her shin hard against a short table that had not been there when she left for the supermarket two hours ago.
“Damn!” she said and almost did a header, righted herself as she allowed one bag to slide gently down her hip to the platform at her feet. A playstation joystick was stuck to its surface in gooey ice cream melt down.
“Oh, hi. Didn’t notice you come in,” Zack said from a few feet behind her on the couch. It would be impossible for a normal person to have missed her entry. The room must have lit up like a movie set and never mind the sound of the opening and slamming door. Zack sat on the couch hunched over the coffee table which was literally within an arm’s length of the front door and five feet from where she stood rubbing her shin. “Danny left that out. Sorry. Um, need some help there?”
She wanted to make a sarcastic remark, like, well, duh, but kept her lips shut. She knew he was going way out on a limb offering that much and when she saw the sheaf of papers and the hand calculator on the table in front of him, she knew where he had been. No sound, not the television, stereo, computer speakers or any other appliance reached her ears except the rising and falling hum of the refrigerator in the next room. He would not have heard even that susurration in his concentration.
Zack’s head was highlighted in the drawn curtain behind him and she marveled at the incredible quantity of thick black hair he sported after all these years.
Still, he had not taken the hint and risen from the couch. At last, she swung the remaining grocery bag at him and he came up like Jason Kendal ready for a tag at home plate and took the sack which bumped with a slap into his sallow chest making the sound of a ball hitting a mitt. “Ooooof,” he said expelling his breath.
He followed her into the kitchen where the bags were deposited on the cluttered, salt and pepper and bread crumb covered table. Methodically, she searched out the perishables and began filling the refrigerator while Zack stood slack jawed nearby.
At last he said, “Y’know, I’d kind of feel better if we gave it all away.”
She never stopped fishing boxes and jars out of the bags, opening cupboards and depositing the items where they belonged in her culinary filing system. She let a moment pass before she said, “Well, technically, it’s yours to do with as you please. You created it.”
Zack mused on that a moment. “No, technically it’s both of ours. This is a tenancy by the entirety state and whenever I did a deal I had you sign as joint tenant. Remember? That gives us each the right of survivorship.”
“Well, how many are we talking about getting rid of?”
“Ten or eleven.”
“How many do you, uh, do we own?”
“Twelve if you count the house on Long Island.”
She closed the pantry door and turned to him with her arms folded. “So that would be almost everything. And how much money are we talking about?”
“Well, without paying for a new appraisal on them all, just putting them on the market I’d guess thirty or forty, depending.”
“Depending on what?”
“On the market which is affected by seasonality, pent up demand as well as prevailing interest and cap rates.”
“You want to pay capital gains? You know, we don’t exchange, we pay capital gains.” She had learned that much during the years they had been signing papers together.
“Yah, I’ll check with Julie, but I think we gotta pay capital gains if we do this giveaway thing.”
“You’re sure you want to do this, Zack? I mean, it’ll mean living off my practice which is really only part time, what with the kids and the housework and all.”
“We’ve essentially been doing that all along. No change there. Maybe I can help around here more to free you up to get a few more clients.”
“Yah, I could do that.” She took a tentative step toward him, stopped and said, “You’ve been thinking about doing this charity thing for a long time, Zack. Your friends talked you out of it when you brought it up last summer. I tried to talk you out of it. Barry who’s your best buddy told you not to do it, said you were nuts.”