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The Rental

The Rental by bf oswald
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Al Murphy is a schemer and a scammer, a man of limited intelligence and even less conscience, who becomes a key player in the lives of several disparate and sometimes desperate people.

Although many of the principals involved are from different parts of the country, their destinies and desires eventually lead them to rent one of the two mobile homes Al Murphy constructed on lots that he carved out of the scrub on the Lake Wales Ridge in Highlands County, Florida.

One or the other of these rentals provides a haven for a family in need, a hide away for lovers, a convenience for a drug dealer, a sanctuary for an abused wife, the end of the road for a troubled world famous fashion model, the final resting place for a tyrant, the den of a seductress, and others.

And in the end Al Murphy’s sudden death is the catalyst that leads to the preservation of a tract of ancient land with a violent history.

SynergEbooks; June 2011
188 pages; ISBN 9780744320152
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: The Rental
Author: bf oswald

“Who’s that?” Jason said in a sour voice.

“Your neighbor, Al Murphy,” replied the lawyer. “He doesn’t clean up much better.”

“He looks mean.”

“Not unless you cross him. Most of the time he minds his own business.”

“Is there a Mrs. Murphy?”

“Yes,” Raymond replied shortly, then called Jason’s attention to a mobile on his right, cattycorner across Holly from Al Murphy’s. “That’s Murphy’s rental.”

Jason gave it a cursory glance and grunted his acknowledgement of the information.

When they reached the end of Holly Lane there was no cul-de-sac as Jason had seen at the end of the other drives. Instead the shell rock ended at a patch of sand surrounded by scrub. In the distance to the east Jason could just make out the third and fourth stories of The Palms Condominiums. Immediately in front of his startled expression as well as to his right and left were piles of aluminum siding, stacks of windows and doors, rolls of rubber roofing and trailer frames all partially obscured by the native flora.

“What’s the story here?” Jason’s consternation was evident on his face as well as in his voice. “Is that more of Murphy’s crap? What in the hell am I supposed to do with it?”

Raymond hesitated for several seconds before he responded. “What you see is the result of several things happening at the same time. When the change over from manufactured to stick homes began on Live Oak and then spread to Cyprus and Hickory, Al Murphy was a local handy man, just married. He had a large truck and little else, but he was smart enough to see there was a potential gold mine in removing the original mobiles for the new property owners. He was paid for some removals, for most of them he did it for the trailer. The ones in better condition he restored from cannibalized parts and sold at a reasonable profit. The three we passed are what remain of his handiwork.

“With his new found wealth he bought three lots from your grandfather, then began storing the remains of his salvage on them. When he put up his three mobiles, he stashed the scrap on the vacant lots around him. Around the same time Skip had his stroke and your mother developed MS and your dad had to settle affairs for your grandfather and help care for your mother. He neglected the Holly lane properties and Al took advantage of that.

“At first Murphy had every intention of repairing as many of the Kropfs as possible because there was a considerable market for used manufactured homes at the time, and Kropfs were among the best. Then he hurt his back and began drawing disability insurance. In order to help with finances, his wife Amy who had been working on the mobiles with him took a job as a housekeeper at the Way Inn just after the motel opened. She is still there as far as I know, I think as assistant housekeeper.

“During the months after his injury Al got kind of used to doing next to nothing; it suited him. So aside from some maintenance on his home, his daughter’s next door, and the one across the street – the rental, Al has been taking life easy. The few times your father ordered Murphy to clean up his mess he pleaded his back. Your dad got more and more preoccupied with your mother’s condition and let this slide.”

Jason asked why the county hadn’t made Murphy clean up the lots. Raymond explained that because the Murphy’s were the only residents on Holly, and they weren’t complaining about the mess, and neither was your father, the zoning inspector didn’t, or maybe couldn’t, do anything.”

“Jesus,” was the only response Jason could make.

As they drove slowly back toward Live Oak Drive, Jason looked more closely at Murphy’s rental, a doublewide Kropf sitting in the midst of knee high grass and weeds, obviously unoccupied. It looked in only a little better condition than the two across the street from it. Jason’s gloom deepened.

On the way back to town he sank into a dismal mood. He was going to end up the properties one way or another; that he could not avoid. He would want to unload them as soon as possible but that might be a problem due to the condition of the area. He couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to live in proximity to the Murphy’s.

He briefly entertained the prospect of taking Al Murphy to court, force him to remove his junk, but that might cost more money than he could make selling the lots. And he could not afford the cost of cleaning them up. For the time being he was stuck with Al Murphy and his enterprises.

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