A Real Estate Purchase
For most of his adult life, Marker had wanted to Be English. Now he was about to buy the house that Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited in--how could you get more British than that? For the sum of 450,000 pounds--a lot, but manageable --the house was his--his! He sat down with the Real Estate Agent, which of course, was called something different and foreign because he was In England.
"You will find all in order, Mister Marker," the Agent told him. He sounded like one of those English inspectors you always see on Mystery or one of those other British TV shows on PBS. Marker was thrilled.
"Looks good to me," Marker said, without looking at the contract. Hmm, he mused. Maybe I'll buy one of those checked jackets and a funny hat. Be an English country squire. But I'll go to the pub and drink with the ... what would you call locals? Serfs? Workmen?
"You need to sign here," said the Agent, pointing to a line on the table in front of them.
The table, and the rest of the office, was a disappointment to Marker. He wanted one of those, well,
English offices, with barrister book cases and lots of wood and shiny miniature brass canons stuck on the shelves for decoration. Sort of like Jeremy Brett had when he played Sherlock Holmes on the BBC. But this office, with its particle wood furniture, white paint, and vague mass-produced paintings on the wall could have been any place in any city anywhere in the States. He wanted to sign papers in an English looking office.
He signed the paper, again without looking.
The Agent looked at him expectantly. Marker looked back. The Agent raised his eyebrows. At least his eyebrows are bushy, Marker thought. Kind of like that
Inspector Frost guy.
After a bit more staring and silence, the Agent finally said, "Sir, there's the matter of, well, payment."
"Oh. Sorry." Marker was vaguely embarrassed. Of course the man wanted payment. Only fair. Business is business. He took out his cheque book and began writing. "I checked with my bank back home," he said. "They said this would be good over here. Across the Pond, I mean."
"We have, of course, verified funds. There should be no problem," the Agent said, looking deferential.
Marker kept writing, excited because his lifelong
dream was about to be fulfilled. He's slaved away as a software engineer for a large firm in the Pacific Northwest area of the States for years, plowing through lines of code, mindlessly making faster e-mail programs and more invasive web browsers and more versatile word processing programs. At first, he'd done it for the money, which was good, and then he realized that he didn't care. He didn't have a goal. He didn't like his life. A wife came. A wife left—not all that uncommon, not all that sad because she, too, was a software engineer.
But before Janet departed, she had hooked him on Downton Abbey. It had sent him into raptures, and, for a while, had given his something to talk about with Janet, who wrote operating systems, and, therefore, had little in common with him.
Downton Abbey had been the gateway drug, the first dose of what had led him down the path addiction to British costume drama.
Night after night, he's watched British TV--his favorite shows were those set in the nineteenth century.
He'd delighted in the accents, envied the stiff, formal proper clothes, yearned for women with Gibson girl hair and hoop skirts and parasols. He'd fallen in
love with movie images of the English coast and of English cliffs. He loved English place names, and English food, which was bland enough for his dyspeptic digestive tract, and English music, and English whiskey with English sounding names.
Then, he'd discovered rebroadcasts of Brideshead Revisited, the old, massive 1980s TV miniseries that faithfully covered virtually every word of Evelyn Waugh's famous novel. Oxford just after World War I, with its elegant rooms, elegant young men, and elegant motor cars. And he was glad that Charles couldn't have Julia, because it didn't make him, Marker, feel like quite such a loser at love, which was a terrible thing to be if you were American. He realized that, if you were British, you could be sadly alone and vaguely tragic and not married and still not have everyone think you were gay.
As the closing credits closed on the rebroadcast of Brideshead, he decided, right then and there, that he was going to move to England. Not right away, but before he was too old to enjoy himself.
So he redoubled his efforts at writing intrusive web browsing programs, bought all the stock he could. His company lost an anti-trust suit, which made the stocks'
value plummet, sinking him into Anglophilic despair. Then, the Supreme Court intervened and made the judgment against his company toothless, and the stock value shot back up and eventually split and now, at age 42, the same age Evelyn Waugh was when he wrote Brideshead Revisited, Marker was worth a cool million dollars. Not a huge amount but, if he bought a home, invested carefully, and spent cautiously, he could move to England and try and live the life of a country squire.
And then, through a quirk, the house at Chagford, the very one Evelyn Waugh had written Brideshead in, had come up for sale, and he'd pounced on it like a cat going after catnip. And now, as he signed his check for $450,000-- a whole lot for a house, but he could manage on the rest--he realized it would be hid.
So happy he didn't know whether to laugh or cry, he slipped the check across the blond particle board desk top to the Agent, who coughed again.
"Sir," he said. "The check should be in pounds, not dollars."
"Huh?" Marker asked, confused. "There's a difference?"
"Just a bit," the Agent replied smoothly. "A British
pound is worth one dollar and eighty cents of your currency."
Marker suddenly didn't feel all that well. Anglophilic joy gave way to nausea. "So that means I owe you ..."
He fainted when the Agent told him the amount in dollars.