THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
To start, I do not even like the name of a town called Fumel. It is ugly. It makes me think of vile fumes and smoking, since the verb ‘to smoke’ in french is fumer.
I am also reminded of purchasing my first home, in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
Like any house hunter, we combed real estate listings, that at that time, were in little magazines outside of grocery stores. No internet searches to be had….oh how times have changed.
We contacted brokers via a phone call, imagine that, instead of an email enquiry, and made arrangements to see things in our price range. I recall the realty office of the day, back then, was Weichart.
We wanted to see a little cape cod, in the area, in our price point. And so it was arranged. Until it wasn’t. Because I refused to live on a road called ‘Grubb Lane.’ But I digress.
So, it was with mixed emotions that we set off, from Monflanquin, with Dana riding in the rear seat, to Fumel. Just to refresh, we were still on an embarrassing budget…
We followed our broker and pulled up on to the sidewalk on the corner of the house. Sidewalk parking is tolerated in France. We three, along with our broker and her husband, went to the gate at the driveway, to be met by a barking dog, milling family members that included children, and a smoking couple. The very first thing we learned was that the dog was a truffle hunter.
Love it. What are the odds?
The second thing we learned is that the house was very close to what I am guessing was a ‘college’ and the sounds of young adults could not be missed, quelled, disguised. Our broker reminded us that each house would have concessions to be made…I know she wanted to say ‘in your price point.’ And I would not be able to find fault with that.
The tour commenced with smoking wife (not as in ‘hot wife’) taking us in to the ramshackle garage, AKA holding tank, of all items imaginable from decades and decades of collection. I will mention the floor was dirt and I am positive the roof had holes, many.
The property was large, indeed. Many mature trees, some trying to block the industrial ambience surrounding the house. Colleges in France are not the ivy covered brick buildings that we know in America. The two I have seen are ugly, practical concrete blocks that look like barracks, or tasteless Russian apartment buildings.
There was a working well. A true commodity, here in France. Many water their gardens with these wells, and I have learned that you can be almost certain the water is pristine. Good to know. There was also an ancient fish pond/in ground aquarium that I assure you I did not have visions of renovating. Add to this some areas of cracked concrete, lumpy earth, uncut grass and weeds, falling fences, et all….
And as was our experience with the first house we saw, the owners and children trailed, smoking and informing our ‘estate agent’ of things I know not, and did not need to know.
It was decided we would see the basement first. We entered from the outside, had to duck our heads, and landed in what is best described as an ancient underground apartment kitchen. Definite signs of a sink, counter tops, some cabinets. Clutter everywhere.
We then passed through a utility room housing a large oil furnace and pipes. And then we entered the ‘apartment’s’ bedroom. And I cracked under pressure….
A dim single lightbulb in the ceiling was the illumination. In the deep, and yes, dark corner, there was an enclosed shower stall. A double bed in the center of the room. If there was any other furniture, I did not process that. Somewhere, swimming in my brain, I heard french and english, that if there was a toilet, what a great space it would be…
I cracked again. My mouth was dry, my heart started to pound. I recalled a basement, with a deep well in which a woman and a small white dog that she had coaxed over the edge with a rotten chicken bone, were imprisoned. The woman, kidnapped for the source of her skin. To make a human dermis suit.
Where was my inner Clarice Starling when I needed her? There was a sick villain stalking me with infrared glasses on. I could not find my bravery or my Jodi Foster. I fled.
Outside I paced and inhaled while the others finished up in the death trap. I needed those few moments to myself. I was truly queasy. And when they all emerged, the owner asked: Madame a’t-‘elle pour des araignées?
Is Madame afraid of spiders? The nerve of that woman.
The rest of the showing was a blur. I recall black mold, a baquette and some oranges, many more dark spaces. Throughout the viewing I was reminded, with each house I would need to make concessions. But not on this one.
Dana summed it up best. She got in the backseat, buckled up, and pronounced, I HATED IT.