Mother: Did you find out anything interesting from the owner of our house when he visited today?
Daughter: Lots of interesting things. For one thing, when the owner bought this house he bought it unseen, from an elderly bag-lady type of woman, whose relatives had persuaded her to sell the house. She moved out of the house reluctantly, leaving behind such a terrible mess that when the owner came to look at the house for the first time he was unable to open the front door because of the overwhelming amount of rubbish filling the hallway. He said that the stench of rotting food was terrible.
The whole house was in such a filthy, neglected state that it took a whole year's work to make it fit to live in.
Mother: The owner did a really good job of renovating this house. It's now so nice and pleasant inside that it seems that no trace of the bag lady has been left behind.
Daughter: The owner of our house also told me that when the man next door bought his house it was in an even worse state of neglect, disrepair and filth than his house had been. Two elderly brothers had lived in the house all their lives, without electricity, or a bathroom. Their parents had owned the house from the time it was built, until they died.
Mother: When the man next door once told me that he had managed to get rid of the termites, fleas and bedbugs in his house, I didn't realise that they must have been there when he bought it. Now he seems to have got rid of the rats too. I would sometimes see a rat climbing up an electric cable, and into his house through an upstairs window.
Daughter: I used to see rats running along the tops of fences.
Mother: And I once saw a rat climbing over the bars of one of our windows, trying to find a way in.
Daughter: Who knows what decay and grime, and evidence of the lives of the elderly brothers, the man next door has had to contend with.
Mother: Maybe the ghosts of the elderly brothers remain in the house. You can imagine them, clinging to the house, filling it with their presences, both before and after the men's deaths, resisting any change, and hampering the man next door's efforts to renovate the house.
Daughter: The ghosts must really resent new people in the house, particularly women, and all the noise, and activity, and drinking, and loud music, and drumming, and the banging, and knocking, and destruction that has been going on next door.
Mother: Now I can see that the man next door has been knocking the shit out of his house, and has had to almost destroy it, in order to try to get rid of all traces, and influence, of the brothers and their ghosts.
No wonder it is so hard for him to make progress on his house.
There's a battle going on. And now he seems to have given up the battle for a while, the way he is away from his house for weeks at a time, and when he returns with his girlfriend they only stay there briefly.
Daughter: He must have got sick of living in chaos, struggling for so long to renovate his house, but with so much work left to do.
Mother: Have the ghosts in fact won? Or will the man next door eventually make another assault on them?
Who will win in the end?
Daughter: Talking about ghosts.... I wonder what other ghosts there are in the houses in this street.
Mother: I'm sure there are quite a few, hanging onto times past, in this long row of terrace houses.
One is the ghost of the mother of the extremely fat man who lives a few doors up. One day he told me about her as he stood out the front of his house. You know how he stands there occasionally, arms wide apart, as he leans forward on his cast iron fence, his body so large that it is not possible to take it all in, in one glance.
He has lived in that house all his life. His mother spent all her life there too. She was born in the house, and she died there too, while he was away on holidays overseas.
On his return he saw her ghost in the house, dressed in a nighty, brushing her long hair.
It must have been after this that he grew so fat, because he once worked as a doorman at a big, posh hotel in the city, and he must have looked very presentable then.
Daughter: You know, the houses in this street are starting to give me the creeps.
Mother: It's a good thing we are each going out tonight. Maybe the trouble is just that it's boring around here, while the man next door is away.
A WEEK LATER
(There were lights on next door, loud music was playing, and lots of very loud banging was shaking both houses alarmingly.)
Mother: It sounds as though the man next door is back with a vengeance!