Title: SINK HOLE: How James Wilson Lost a Home but Found a House (1/2)
Remark: This was inspired by the reports of sink holes in various parts of Pennsylvania.
James Wilson stood by the window in his Princeton apartment. Looking out at the street but not really seeing it, Wilson remembered the day he had moved in. It had been several months after Amber's death, but he had been so sick of living in hotels that he couldn't face another. Living in Amber's apartment had spoiled him, but now . . . now he was thinking of a home.
Even when he had been married, he had always lived in condos or something similar. The last time that he could truly remember living in a house was when he was growing up. Of course, leaving home to go to university and on to Med School had made those years relatively short. Thanks to those years, he still had fond memories of living in something more substantial, even though it was a small frame house without all the comforts of today's dwellings.
He looked around his living room. He hadn't started to pack up things yet . . . call it a superstition, but it was really happening - - in just a few days he would sign the papers which would make him a property owner and even more importantly, he would be living in a home. Wilson smiled with pleasure.
A few months ago he hadn't thought this day was possible. His life was in tatters as he grieved for the loss of Amber. The trouble was that his grief was entwined with the loss of House as well. His friend had ceased to be that. He knew he had hurt House when he had told him that he wasn't sure that they had ever been friends, but House's father's funeral had been a catharsis, and for the last few months, he had felt that friendship re-awakening.
Friendship with House was not an easy thing and never had been. It was certainly give and take, but it had always been: Wilson give and House take or that's the way it seemed.
Wilson hadn't known it at the time, but as he lingered outside of House's presence in the months following Amber's loss, one thought kept him tied to reality. Just before Wilson had walked away from Princeton-Plainsboro, House had staged his own walkaway. He had actually abandoned a patient because as he said, "Your friendship matters more to me than the patient."
In the end House had returned and saved the day, but Wilson hadn't been there to find out. Now without telling House, Wilson was moving into a home in one of the nice neighborhoods around Princeton and hoping to conduct a "normal" life. Wilson had talked extensively to Lisa Cuddy about the move, and now it was here.
He kept telling himself; this was for the best: change was good. He had told House that he might leave New Jersey, but he had returned to Princeton and had been satisfied, but the idea of a home was tantalizing, and he had found a good deal. Mortgage rates were down and when he had seen the modified ranch style home, he had been enticed.
Now he was just waiting for Morton Kendall to tell him the deal was set. Turning and walking around the living room, he was thankful that he had not acquired a great deal of furniture or extras since he had settled his last divorce. He had given Julie the condo and the furniture, and it hadn't hurt a bit. Only his TIVO and his clothes had travelled with him because he had let Amber's parents deal with everything in her apartment. He had acquired a few things since settling down, but it amounted to little.
The sun was setting quickly now. Princeton had had lots of rain lately so the evening was even gloomier. It seemed strange not to be at the hospital. He had always spent a great deal of time devoted to his job, although he had never thought of it as such. That was one of many things that he and Greg House had in common. Some days they spent an inordinate amount of time at the hospital, and many of the days they spent at least sometime in each other's company. Even the much disputed poker games had now become comfortable except now he was known as THE DOCK (House's little joke, of course).
Having already eaten, Wilson prepared to settle down for an evening of reading and, hopefully, catching up on some of the TIVO programs that he had recorded. Maybe he would even go to bed early. Then, the phone rang. Feeling a slight anticipation that perhaps this was the phone call he had been waiting for, he almost ran to the landline.
"Yes, is this Morton?"
Wilson could hear a laugh as the speaker responded, "Recognize my voice already, huh?"
Wilson smiled, recalling the short man with the wisp of hair circling his head but bald on top. "Yeah, I've certainly talked to you enough to recognize your voice. Did my lawyer get all the information to you?"
"Yes, he did, and I really appreciate his efficiency . . . and yours."
Here the man hesitated. No one had to be a psychic to hear the tension in the silence.
"Is something the matter?"
"Dr. Wilson, I had hoped your lawyer had called you first, but I have some bad news."
"What? Is there something wrong with my credit or something?"
"No, no, nothing like that . . . I guess you could call it an ACT OF GOD. It seems the neighborhood in which you were acquiring property has been having some sewer problems."
Wilson sighed with relief, "You mean that the basement backed up?"
"No, not exactly; it's worse than that."
"WELL, WHAT IS IT FOR HEAVEN'S SAKES?" Realizing that he was practically shouting, Wilson took a breath and said in a more normal tone, "What's happened?"
"Well . . . to be very blunt, your house is gone."
"Gone . . . gone . . . you mean someone else bought it?"
"No, I mean, it's literally gone. A large . . . extremely large sink hole has appeared in that neighborhood, swallowing up two garages, three sheds and three houses. One of those houses was the one that you were planning to buy."
Silence reigned as James Wilson stood there stunned. He couldn't be hearing correctly. This had to be a nightmare.
"Dr. Wilson, are you still there?"
"I . . . I . . . don't know what to say."
"Well, you are very lucky that you hadn't closed the deal yet. You can imagine how the present owner is feeling."
Not really feeling any sympathy with the present owners and feeling slightly antagonistic to a realtor who had put forth this unwanted advice, Wilson managed to collect himself and ask, "What happened?"
"Well, as best as I can understand. The water authority had been replacing some of the pipes in the area. The rain that we've been having along with some "previously undiscovered geologic anomalies" weakened the soil structure in that area . . . and the dwellings . . . just sort of slid into the rather large hole that developed."
What ensued for the next several minutes bordered on the ridiculous and hysterical. Finally, Wilson couldn't endure it anymore, hanging up on Kendall because he had tired of the whining sympathy. It didn't help him; now he was without his home.
Wilson stripped off his clothing and headed for the shower. He stood under the scalding water until it turned cold. He kept hearing House's sarcastic comments when he heard about the recent events. He knew that his friend would say that it was what he deserved for trying to change.
Wilson threw himself on the bed. Lying in the dark, a headache began to invade his thoughts. Willing himself to relax, he told himself that he was lucky that he hadn't signed the papers because the disappearing home would now be his responsibility. He knew he was lucky, but what was he going to do now? Should he just stay in this apartment? He couldn't do that. He had already informed his landlord of his departure.
James Wilson lay there for hours until suddenly he set straight up in bed. This was a message. Staying in New Jersey was not a good idea. He needed a complete change.
He would still have his home, but it would be in a different state, a different city, and he would get a new position!
Realizing that he was really jumping the gun since there was so much to be done, he tried to tell himself to relax, but sleep wouldn't come. The next day was his day off; he could spend the day making plans.
Waiting until the "decent" hour of 7:00 am, he called Lisa Cuddy, telling her of the disaster and his plans for moving. Needless to say, she tried to talk him out of it, but realizing that he was serious she did the next best thing and gave him some solid advice on what to do next. More importantly, she gave him the name of a realtor who dealt with property in several surrounding states so that, if Wilson was serious, he would not have to contact Morton Kendall again.
Wilson thanked her, ringing off soon after. Now that he had decided what he was going to do, he was anxious to start making plans. Staring at the piece of paper with a telephone number that might change his life, Wilson decided to call Simon Cantwell and talk to him about the possibility of finding a property outside of New Jersey. While the phone rang, Wilson pushed Cuddy's parting words to him to the back of his mind, "You better tell House about what you're thinking of doing."
After about 15 rings Wilson was just about ready to give up when a deep baritone voice answered, "Simon Cantwell, realtor."
Thankful that he could begin the process right away, Wilson cleared his voice and said, "Mr. Cantwell, I'm Doctor James Wilson. I'm thinking about changing my practice to another state, and I would like to begin looking for a suitable home."
"I see. Do you have any place in mind?"
"Yes, I'm thinking of practicing in the New York City area (knowing that Bill Cheevers had offered him a job in Oncology, he figured that he'd start there). I thought perhaps somewhere in the Middletown or Newburgh area."
"That's a good area. Let me look things over. My office is in Trenton, but I'll be happy to come up to Princeton and show you what I have. How does that sound?"
"Great, I'll be waiting to hear from you." After telling the unseen man his telephone number, Wilson rang off, feeling exhilarated. He felt that FINALLY he had taken control of his life.
Calling Bill Cheevers, Wilson talked to his long time colleague who was indeed interested in having the renowned oncologist come to New York. Feeling a thousand percent better, Wilson enthusiastically began to organize his apartment for a possible move. He knew that tomorrow he would need to see Cuddy and make arrangements for a few days off to go to New York, but otherwise everything seemed to be going well.
Most of the time James Wilson was a realist, but this time the oncologist scarcely realized the furor that was soon to be released in the form of one Gregory House, bestest buddy, and resident practitioner of sarcasm par excellence.
End of part 1