"Hey, Janet," Jack said. "How's it going?"
Janet stood with her mouth slightly open, not knowing quite what to say. This was the first time Jack had initiated a conversation with her in, well, ever.
"Yeah, so anyway," Jack said. "Where did you say you found that Advent Calendar that you gave me?"
A huge smile broke across Janet's face. "Isn't it fantastic! I knew you would love it."
Jack nodded. "I do love it. I do. Where did you find it?"
Janet practically sprinted around the table to stand a foot from Jack. "I can show you. I'd be happy to."
"Nah. Just wondering where."
Janet deflated slightly, her shoulders visibly slumping. "In the corner of the attic, under that mirror."
"Thanks. See ya," Jack said, walking out of the kitchen.
Jack stood in the attic with his shirt pulled up over his mouth and nose. It was just rank up here. It was like a combination of dirty socks and rat droppings with a dash of moldy drywall. He couldn't breathe.
Plus, there was absolutely nothing in the corner, under the mirror, except some old Christmas lights and a recliner that was probably both the source of the stank and a cozy home for attic vermin.
"Hey, Dad," Jack said. "How's it going?"
"Working. Leave me alone."
Jack nodded and sat down in an overstuffed chair across from his Father's desk. "So did Janet tell you about that Advent Calendar she gave me?"
"Yes, she did," his Father said, typing away on his laptop. "Go away."
"She said she got it out of the attic. Do you know where it came from?"
His Father sighed and looked at Jack for the first time. "The previous owner left a bunch of crap in the attic when he moved out. I meant to toss it all, but I haven't had time. Because I work. From home. Like now."
"Do you know who the previous owner was?" Jack asked.
"Why do you care?"
"I don't know," Jack said. "You know, houses, the history of homes. Houses. I don't know, it's interesting."
"It's not," his Father said. "Besides, you don't buy houses from the people that own them, you buy them from a realtor. I never even met the guy that owned the house."
"Don't you have paperwork or anything?"
His Father squinted at him. "Don't you have homework or anything?"
"Fine, all the paperwork is in a file cabinet in the garage," his Father said. "I'm not sure what you're up to, but as long as you leave me alone, I don't care."
"Great," Jack said, getting up to leave.
"Don't sell the house without asking me first," his Father said.
Jack couldn't believe how much crap was in the little, two-drawer file cabinet. And it took him quite a while to find the documents from the purchase of the house. They were all legal sized and wouldn't fit in a regular file folder, so apparently his Father just figured he'd throw them at the bottom of the file cabinet, hidden under all the hanging files.
Jack flipped through a couple pages before he saw it: "Seller: Jebidiah Guthrie."
"Jebidiah?" Jack giggled. "You've got to be kidding me."
Jack typed in "Jebidiah Guthrie" on Google. Too many entries, too much chaff.
So he tried "WhitePages.com" and got a few hits. One was Jack's house - that was an old one - and the other was across town.
Jack got his bike out of the garage.
An old lady - an OLD lady - answered the door. She looked like she was built out of five thin sticks and about two yards of well-worn leather. In fact, Jack had seen saddles that looked more lively than she did.
"What do you want?"
"I was wondering-" Jack started.
"I ain't buying anything from you," the old lady said. "I bought some magazines from a kid a few months ago. Well, I don't know if he was a kid. More like a young man. Said he was selling for his church. I never got no magazines. I think he ripped me off."
"Probably," Jack said agreeably.
"What do you want?" the old woman asked again.
"I'm looking for Jebidiah Guthrie," Jack said. "Does he live here?"
The woman snorted up something big and wet. She looked around like she was finding a place to spit it. She glanced at Jack's shoes. Then she swallowed.
"He's dead," she said.