My name is Peter, and I’m renting a house up in the mountains of Arkansas.
I’ve been here for about a week and have so many things I admire about the place. The view is breathtaking, the peace and quiet are a nice touch, and the lack of people around is soothing, to say the least. What caught my eye in the first place about the home was the price. It was only $500 a month. I was aware this was because the previous renter went missing not too long ago.
The real estate agent told me how the knowledge of this spooked most people off, but I told her that it didn't bother me. The previous renter was just some old lady, so I figured she went into mountains and couldn’t find her way back. The old bat should’ve brought lassie with her. She lost out on a great deal. Better for me I suppose. But that’s not why I’m writing this story. No, this about what I found the other day.
I was moving some old shit around and stepped on a loose floorboard, damn near breaking my ankle. I went to put the plank back in place, then I noticed something underneath the space between the floorboards.
A yellow and black book like the ones for the DIY dummies guides.
Now I myself have never needed anything like that because I'm not an idiot who needs some bullshit Dr. Seuss kind of book trying to explain life to me like I’m some toddler.
However, what caught my attention about the book was not the wording, but lack thereof. The most noteworthy thing about the cover was the title,
House Building for Dummies: A Guide on Home Construction and Renovation. I scoffed. It was just a stupid self-help book. I picked the book up off the floor, brushing the dust off the cover.
Was this that old lady's book? Or maybe the person's before her?
Opening the book, I noticed how the first page had creases all over and was starting to turn a yellowish-brown around the corners. I read the words on the page out loud. "Welcome to your how-to guide for home construction and renovation. If you are reading this it means you have been selected for the Homegrown Society’s how-to for home exterior and interior design". Flipping to the next page, I saw the words, "Be Bold! You are now a member". I had to admit, I was a little intrigued. I put the floorboard back and took the book to my bedroom then laid in bed and continued reading.
"For starters, here are 10 easy steps for foundation and exterior construction:
Step 1 – Pump Those Brakes!
The first thing you want to do is to draw up a detailed blueprint for your desired home. Or if it better suits you, you can hire a member provided architect.
Step 2 – Bottoms Up!
Choose a lot with a strong, solid foundation. Preferably a flat, as not to have any undesirable mishaps discovered.
Step 3 – Framing 101
Construct a rough frame for your home. Be sure to amount for any sloping or cracks that could lead to potential leaking.
Step 4 – If They Can Do It, So Can You!
Complete rough plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. Make sure to account for unsightly future odors that may build up over time in your home.
Step 5 – Winter is Coming, So Why Not Prepare For It!
Install insulation and take time to ensure you properly surround your home. Soundproofing is also a viable option if in a populated area."
I stop reading and thought to myself about just how fucking terrible this guide is. There’s no way anyone could actually build a house using this. The steps are too unclear for someone to accurately construct a home. Still, I wanted to know where this book was going so I continued reading.
"Step 6 – Safety Squares
Complete the process of placing drywall up and around the full exterior of your home; add the finishing touches to the surrounding foundation.
Step 7 – What’s Walls without a Roof!
When it comes to roofing, any kind of style would suffice; do take care to avoid the addition of a chimney or attic, as not to risk the possibility of disturbing neighbors with loud sounds or banging.
Step 8 – More Than For Just Storing Junk
The addition of a garage would be wonderful for various useful tools and equipment; avoid storing equipment that may cause nosy individuals to take notice.
Step 9 – These Pipes Aren’t Just For Jumping
It's important to choose solid pipes for your home and well insulate them to prevent leaking or total deconstruction, so you can avoid the need for outside help and risk unsightly discoveries being made. For all your pipe replacement needs refer to page 47."
I turned to page 47. The only thing on the page was a phone number. The area code was from Missouri. I thought about calling it. But decided to read more of this book first.
Step 10 – Where Old Relics Collect Dust
If you desire to have either a basement or attic in your home, please take the following steps. For an attic, keep the area well ventilated, but insulated and soundproofed for any occupants inside. For the basement, keeping the area well ventilated and insulation doesn’t have to be a priority. Additionally, windows are not needed but recommended to avoid prying eyes. Certain steps could be taken if your neighbors are the nosy type. The best method to combat these neighbors is strategically placing objects such as plants or flowers around windows.
I stopped reading again. I was now suspecting there might be more to this "self-help book". The lack of sunlight coming from my window alerted me to how late it is. I'll definitely read the rest tomorrow. I closed the book and left it on my dresser.
I woke up the next day at around 2 pm. Later than I wanted, but not too much of a problem for me. I'm currently unemployed, but thinking about going into real estate. I have enough savings left over to invest in such a thing, so it's a possibility. A thought comes to me. It's kind of ironic that I found a how-to guide for house building. This, in turn, gets me thinking about that book.
"10 Easy Steps for Interior Construction and Wiring
Step 1 – Keep Your Hardhats Near!
On the interior, trim down any protruding wood planks and remove the excess debris to maximize possible living space. This method can also be deployed to create an adjacent room one wishes to remain undetected by guests.
Step 2 – Knock on Wood!
Install hard-surface flooring and countertops; flooring should be made out of hard solid material, one which can sustain heavy thrashes: try to avoid carpeting floors as they can make it difficult to remove any unwanted stains.
Step 3 – Bright Ideas!
Light fixtures are a necessity for homeowners, but yours can offer special optimization to control switches from varying distances. This is extremely useful in keeping others from activating them and preventing guests from entering private rooms.
Step 4 – Safety First!
People need an outlet and so do houses. For a safer home, it is recommended to invest in GFIC outlets to keep any occupants from accidentally harming themselves or you."
A loud pounding at my front door made me jump a little out of my skin. I rushed to the door and peered out the peephole.
A man in a suit stood on my porch, a brown briefcase in his hand. He looked like one of those traveling salesmen. I yanked the door open.
"Good evening, sir." He greeted me in his boisterous salesman voice.
"What do you want?" I asked before he could finish whatever corporate bullshit was about to come out his mouth.
"Oh, sorry to bother you." His skin looked flushed. "I-I came here to discuss that empty lot of yours in Missouri."
I glared at him. "Yeah, what about it?"
"Sir, I'd like to come in and discuss it further with you."
"No. What do you want with my property in Missouri?"
He straightened out his tie and put on a nervous smile. "Well, I’m a real estate agent. I thought I could help you sell or rent out the property to someone."
"Yeah, no thanks, man."
His smile faltered. "Well, if you change your mind"--he pulls out a white card from inside his jacket--"here’s my card." I snatched the card away from him. It was a cheap-ass business card with his name and a phone number under it.
"Have a good da-"
I slammed the door in his face.
I threw his card in the trash then sat back down and continued reading that strange book.
"Step 5 – Life Wiring
Wiring a house is a big task for anyone, but we’ll explain it to you as simply as possible. Take careful time to properly set up the wires throughout the house; attach separate wirings to any adjacent private room(s).
Step 6 - A Clean Home is a Happy Home
Sinks are a much-needed staple for any home, but are especially useful for members, as they can be used to wash off any leftover messes; garbage disposals are also useful for disposing of large amounts of waste.
Step 7 – Don’t Forget To Wash Your Hands
The bathroom is where duty calls so to speak, but for members, it’s much more than that. It’s a place where guests in your house can relive themselves with supervision if needed; the room is also great for larger cleanups that can't fit down a garbage disposal. Please make sure to properly clean up after disposal is complete.
Step 8 – Self-Reflecting
Mirrors are the window to the soul as some say but for you, they are to make sure you’ve cleaned up well and look normal to any guests that visit your home.
Step 9 – Watching Paint Dry Has Never Been So Fun!
The color of your house is the first thing others will see upon entering. Choose a color that will best cover stains or prevent them from being seen by the naked eye.
Step 10 – Hard Work Pays Off!
Do one more thorough sweep of your home to be sure it meets standards. Keep security up to date to prevent any unwanted guests from entering or leaving as they please; for additional help refer to page 66 for a member supplied contractor.
After reading that last step, I found myself in a state of disbelief. There was obviously a bigger purpose for this odd book than just providing home construction tips. I think that’s what intrigued me the most about it. I needed to read more and find out information on the person or persons who wrote this book. Flipping to the next page, I was met with blank paper.
Flipping through the remaining pages yielded the same result. I looked in desperation for a copyright stamp or any names and phone numbers. I wrote down the two I ran across before. Searching the web for phone numbers led me nowhere. I felt completely unsatisfied. As a last resort, I tried calling the numbers from page 47 and 66. Page 47's number just kept ringing and the number on page 66 was disconnected. I felt like a rat hunting for cheese in a maze.
Desperate to find answers, I scanned through the book again. This was futile as I had already done so many times before. I stayed up all night wondering how the hell I could get the answers needed.
The next morning, I dialed the number of the real estate agent who sold me the house. She professed to not know anything about the book. I neglected to divulge any more details about it, so I found myself at yet another dead end.
Then I thought about where I first found the damn book. The floorboards! Of course. Maybe there's another book or something else that can give me a way to contact the author of it. I sprinted into the kitchen and removed the loose floorboard. Hoping to find something. Anything. All that greeted me was dust and a huge sense of disappointment. The same kind of disappointment you’d feel if you find out your closest friend was a genuine fan of Nickelback.
But upon further inspection, I noticed what looked like a flashlight under a thick amount of dust. I snatched it up and flipped the switch. No, it wasn't a flashlight. It was a black-light. Something about it reminded me of one of those cliché detective movies. Then an idea crossed my mind. I grabbed the book from nearby and shinned the light on the blank pages of the book. Viola! Hidden words appeared. There were new instructions that offered way more clear and concessive methods for this book that appeared to be a home renovation guide on the surface. Flipping to the other pages, I noticed something very odd. On page 49, there were more steps for home construction. These were visible to the naked eye. Strange I missed it. I thought I was more thorough. But I brushed it off and read the steps.
"Bonus: 5 Easy Steps for Home Décor
Step 1 – Introductory
Furniture is the heart of the home, so make sure to not let your frugal side take priority over providing your guests with applicable sitting arrangements. This will make them feel comfortable enough to let their guard down; wrapping plastic over your furniture is ideal to prevent any hard to remove stains leftover from guests.
Step 2 – Cleaning Service
As for more on page 47, if a call has been placed, whether answered or not, all occupants of the residence should vacate the home within 48h hours to allow a proper cleanup process to be carried out. Any occupants still inside the premises will be considered part of the cleaning process.
Step 3 - Unsuspecting
Install driveways and walkways outside your home with careful thought put into the appearance of each. This will help to lead others into a false sense of safety and the illusion of security before entering your home.
Step 4 – Spitting Image
You are your home, so try to model the house after yourself. Decorate with the intention of conveying the person you want others to see you as; avoid having décor or objects that could prematurely reveal an unsightly side of you.
Step 5 – Sharing is Caring
Pat yourself on the back! After all that elbow grease and hard work you've put into constructing the house of your dreams, it's finally time to take a look at the finished product. If you are interested in sharing your hard work with the other Homegrown Society members; refer to page 92. We strongly advise you to consider conducting a final walkthrough with the supplied contractor; refer to step 10 of Interior Construction for information on this."
Reading the next set of pages required the use of the black light. I shined the light over the pages and read several more steps, including one about renting houses to others. As I now considered myself a member of the Homegrown Society, I feel it's only fair to the other members to spare the details of those pages. What I will say is that I retrieved that real estate agent's card from the trash. It said his name was Carl Greenberger. Unsurprisingly, looking up his name and business information led to no real results. This was the first time I felt good about coming up with zero results.
I called him later that evening and asked him to help sell my home in Missouri. After I construct and renovate it with the help of this book of course.
I finished my phone call with Mr. Greenberger and laid down in bed pondering if I could really go through with this. Then after I saw a young woman jog past my window.
I think to myself.
Maybe this housebuilding thing is for me after all.