This is the only short story I’ve had published. It came out in the 2011 edition of Emerald Coast Review. I’ve had multiple rejection slips from numerous publications and of course a story that I spent the least amount of time on is the one that gets published. It was an experiment with Flash Fiction. Wanted to see if I could write a complete story in less than 1,000 words. I also experimented with writing in the first person. I’m always hesitant to write in the first person because I’m worried people will think I’m the character. I know I shouldn’t worry about those things. The only thing that matters is writing a good story. So here it is. Feel free to let me know what you think. I can take all forms of criticism.
Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes; or The Bubble
I bought the condo for $132,000. Ten percent down that I didn’t have. But a rich cousin did and understood the investment opportunity. She encouraged me to go for it. “Real estate is the one solid investment. Housing will only continue to go up. Especially in South Florida,” she said. That’s how everyone was thinking at the time. I quit my job and moved down there and was given a no document loan. Banks were just throwing money around to anyone with enough balls to take a risk with a near impossible chance of losing.
The first month down there, the condo below me sold for $172,000. Same exact floor plans and not remodeled like mine. It still had the 1966 bathroom tiles. Mine was sleek and modern. I applied for a line of credit to live on while looking for a job. No problem. Two months later, Hurricane Wilma hit. The condo complex needed a million and a half in repairs. All new roofs. Too many busted windows to count. An assessment. Not a favorite word among condo owners. Eight grand in a lump sum or spread out over three years with incurring interest. I paid for the first few months. Then said, “Fuck it.”
A year later, I owed three grand in back pay. But condos like mine were now selling for $199,000. Words of wisdom told me to live in a house for at least three years to turn a profit, yet the way things were going I could pay off the assessment, pay back my cousin, pay off the equity line which was now $25,000 and still walk away with fifty grand.
I was now checking IDs at a night club. Living the South Beach lifestyle. Sleep until noon or one, hang on the beach for few hours and then go into work until four in the morning.
I told myself I would do it for one more year before cashing in and move back to Pensacola with my winnings. I would pay everything off, including credit cards that I now started to build up and still have thirty grand to put towards a new home.
A year came and went, and I put the condo on the market and moved back North. I set the price at $209,000. The price of the last one to sell.
First month, two offers. One for $189,000. What an insult! The next offer, even worse. News reports started talking of a housing bubble burst. Stocks started to tumble. Foreclosures were on the rise. Four months and no offers. I had to rent it out.
I was given a loan in Pensacola for another house. Just in time before the banking industry made major changes to predatory lending practices. I bought a short sale. A family of four out on the street, but I made a great deal. They only owed $54,000 on a three bedroom, two bath, Downtown. Walking distance to the Entertainment District.
The condo next to mine in Miami went into foreclosure. I was threatened by the condo’s attorney for the assessment fee. I threw the letters in the garbage. I stopped paying the mortgage on the condo and my credit cards which were now up to about thirty grand. I didn’t pay on the equity line. I still collected the rent to pay for the Pensacola house. I was beating the system, but it was beginning to collapse on me. I had to find an escape. I talked to a lawyer. Chapter 7, no problem. I filed. Still collected the rent. Included my cousin as a debtor. I tried telling her I still planned to pay her back. She didn’t want to hear it. Called me names. I said “Okay, I won’t pay you back.” Haven’t heard from her since.
Received an email a few months later from my tenant in Miami. She was being evicted. The condo was in foreclosure. Her mother had just died, she was raising a two year old and caring for a sick, elderly grandmother. I wrote back, “Sorry.”
I was forgiven of close to $275,000 in debt. I bought a new car. 22% interest, but after six months would be able to refinance and get my interest payment down. Rented out my house for way more than what I owed a month and moved into a cheaper efficiency apartment to wait for the housing market to correct itself. It always does. And if not, it was a fun ride while it lasted.