Chapter 10. I Must Scream
The best way to sum up my life from 2016 to 2018 is as a rollercoaster ride to hell. Although I'd done my best to work on the house, even if only in a limited fashion, my efforts were often cut short by the weather, health issues, or deep depression.
Meanwhile, the commercial property situation remained unresolved. Back when things first started going sideways, I consulted multiple lawyers, realtors and other professionals, and more recently I consulted a highly-respected local criminal attorney. He drew the same conclusion as everyone else: I was legally bound by the contract and could not cancel it without immediately being sued. The fact that my life was being ruined was irrelevant; there was no sign of any illegal action or malicious intent on the buyers' part.
So, in December 2017 I agreed to yet another extension, since the alternatives were far worse. What choice did I have? It meant nothing could happen with the house until September 2018 at the earliest. Or, quite possibly the following year, after yet another extension. There was no knowing anymore. However, there was also no knowing what shape the house would be in by then—it might be rotted beyond repair, in which case it would be all over for me, because I could never afford to rebuild it.
But it wasn't a simple matter of just patiently waiting for the closing to finally take place, because it was impossible to make it through any given month without some sort of crisis. Every time I thought things couldn't possibly get any worse, they did.
January. My monthly advance contract expired, but I couldn't renew it because both lawyers were AWOL.
February. Both lawyers were still AWOL, leaving me high and dry with a car that was in the shop almost on a weekly basis.
March. In violation of a written agreement, the buyers failed to pay the commercial property taxes. I wasn't aware of this until I received notice from some attorney that I had thirty days to pay off a $17K lien for overdue taxes, or else the property would be foreclosed by the lien holders.
April. A lien was also placed on my personal property to the tune of $10K because the buyers, who had agreed to assist with them as well, once again failed to do so. To complicate matters further, my lawyer went into the hospital for a health emergency right in the middle of the crisis.
May. The thirty-day warning I'd received in March went unheeded by the buyers, and not only was a foreclosure in the works, I was named as a defendant in a lawsuit drawn up by the lien holders because the open contract prevented them from immediately taking possession. While I'd received assurances from both lawyers that everything would be resolved, my confidence in anything they might say had dropped below zero. I was millimeters away from a complete meltdown.
June had a bumper crop of bad stuff. Within days of the three-year anniversary of the property sale, the buyers were suddenly anxious to close, in spite of the fact that they still didn't have all of their permits. I suspect it was because they were named in the same lawsuit I was, and they needed to steer clear of legal issues to avoid losing municipal contracts. And so, in a strange ironic twist, my bad news actually gave me the upper hand over them. But they were going to leave me responsible for mopping up the tax mess they created; I told them in no uncertain terms they had to make everything right before I'd let them have the property. Much legal haggling ensued.
Meanwhile, I was served a second summons. This one was beyond belief, because a number of other David Smiths owing massive sums of money (up to seven digits) to various businesses and agencies across the state were inexplicably rolled into the lawsuit as well. Assurances from both lawyers that everything would be fixed failed to assuage my fears; once again, I was millimeters away from a complete meltdown.
And then there was my sick cat, who required two emergency surgical procedures to save his life. I'd been saving my pennies to have permanent electric service installed, and that plan went right out of the window (without hesitation or regret, I hasten to add). Plus, a close friend betrayed me at the very worst possible moment, and sent me into an emotional tailspin. Thus June ranked up there as one of the worst months of my life. Amazing, in retrospect, that I managed to survive.
July. Not surprisingly, as the closing neared, things began to unravel. For starters, two days before closing I received a third summons, this time a 20-page document chock full of scary "IT IS FURTHER ORDERED" legalese. Then a form arrived with a notice that closing could not take place until it was returned, along with a $50 check, and that it would take 10-20 days to process—and the form wasn't even meant for me! It was meant for the buyer. So, naturally the closing was postponed. Until the following month. And to top it all off, I was hit by a nasty summer flu that left me feeling worse than something I'd scrape off my shoe. There were times I was hoping for a fatal heart attack.
A line from Harlan Ellison echoed in my mind the whole time: I have no mouth and I must scream.
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