A California Closing: A Novel

A California Closing: A Novel

by Robert Wintner

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Big M OK Used Car–magnate Michael Mulroney never set out to be heroic. He lives at the top, naturally, thanks to instinct, wit, and the will to win. Insolvency is not the same as poverty; poverty is for poor people. And a man of proven dexterity is not poor. He beats the practical challenges of life in the golden state—of fickle markets, lowballers, long-toothed real-estate women, name droppers, fitness compulsives, sexual-molestation charges, and the ten-percent grade up Hazel Dell on a bicycle four days in a row—at sixty!

Samson slew a thousand philistines with the jawbone of an ass. Michael Mulroney may be more deliberate in sussing out a situation, measuring a mark for front-end warmth, background development, schmoozing up and hosing down. But soon he’ll step back in deference to his inner Samson, who will swing away, going in for the close.

If the ledger won’t balance, give it a few days with some hustle and scramble and judiciously placed phone calls. That’s the difference between a poor man and a man of the worldly class.

Skyhorse Publishing, as well as our Arcade, Yucca, and Good Books imprints, are proud to publish a broad range of books for readers interested in fiction—novels, novellas, political and medical thrillers, comedy, satire, historical fiction, romance, erotic and love stories, mystery, classic literature, folklore and mythology, literary classics including Shakespeare, Dumas, Wilde, Cather, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631580949
Publisher: Yucca
Publication date: 07/26/2016
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 292
File size: 765 KB

About the Author

Robert Wintner has written twelve novels, including In a Sweet Magnolia Time. His most recent works include Brainstorm: A Memoir of Love, Devotion, and a Cerebral Aneurysm and 1969 and Then Some. He is an avid snorkeler, diver, and marine photographer, and is the founder of Snorkel Bob’s Hawaii. He resides with his wife in Hawaii.
Robert Wintner has written twelve well-reviewed novels, including In a Sweet Magnolia Time, which was nominated for both a Pulitzer Prize and a PEN/Faulkner Award. He is an avid snorkeler, diver, and marine photographer, and is the founder of Snorkel Bob’s Hawaii. He resides with his wife in Hawaii.

Read an Excerpt


It's Not like I Didn't Tell You

"We got one of two things going on here. Either they can't afford it, and there's nothing we can do about that but wish them all the best because living at the top of the hill isn't for everybody, and if they don't have the resources this year, well, maybe they'll be able to step up in the next few years. We'll be pulling for them.

"Or it's a lowball. A lowball isn't just a low offer, over and out. A proper lowball follows a setup, like they're doing right now. Yeah, they found another place for only a million nine ninety; it's a shitbox levitation act, cantilevered out the cliff face and hanging in thin air on four-by-fours. If it doesn't slide down the hill, it's still a dump. That's efficient. Isn't it? It has what they call 'bang for the buck' in your economy-minded market. It's a three-bed, two-bath Cracker Jack that'll suit six adults with teenage kids about as well as Victoria's Secret would do for a hippopotamus. You ever see a hippo take a shit? I have. They had one on TV a few nights ago. Underwater. Jesus ... For a weekend beach retreat? Get the fuck outta here. What happens when the prunes and bran kick in? That'll make for some great beach weekends. They can drive up here to sunshine country and have a lovely fucking time. When the toilet clogs they can just cut a hole in the floor. Why not? Shit rolls downhill, Marylyn! Haven't you heard? Let 'um buy it for chrissakes. They'll only boost the market."

"We shouldn't have to worry about them much longer. Nick promised they'll do something in the next two days."

"Worry? Fuck 'um. You tell Nick to tell his clients that the seller knows they got the cash. Or the borrowing power or whatever. We are well within their budget. They're shaking me down on a desperation check, to see if they might steal some money the old- fashioned way and really have a great weekend. I saw it coming. I sense this shit in my bones. I know this stuff. It comes out my pores. I feel it on my skin. They'll come in around two point two."

"That would be nice."

"Nice? What would be nice about it? It won't fly!"

"Once they put an offer on the table, people are usually willing to come up a little bit. I always think it's nice to get them emotionally involved."

"Emotionally involved? Give me a fucking break. I know these guys. I grew up with these guys. You want to talk emotional involvement? Line up a couple three strippers, outcall, with some decent liquor, and a bag of buds. Make it a playoff weekend and leave the wives at home. Now you're into touchy-feely country. Emotional involvement? Fuck. These guys need to come up a whole lot more than a little bit to get me emotionally involved."

"You sound emotional to me."

"Yeah, well, I got this pounding sensation in my asshole. Okay? So I get emotional. Call it self-preservation instinct. You want me to get lovey- dovey on a so-called deal? We need fair market value instead of what we got, which is zip. This ... Is ... A lowball. I could take it in the ass, but I think I won't, if that's okay with you. That leaves me to counter, and the deal will die if I do because we're starting too low. You know what happens. With too much gap between the ask and the offer, the negotiation goes on too long. It breaks down to personalities clashing. It gets personal and it goes past money and value, and people take it personally. They get pissed off. Too much friction. The deal dies. They need to come in closer to two point seven five, or we're looking at a long slog across a frozen fucking tundra. I know this game. The deal will die."

"Let's just see what happens."

"Yeah, right."


We Have an Offer

"Two point two. Two point shmoo. I told you: it's no good. We have no alternative but to stonewall it or go high enough to blow it away. I see no reason to prolong the agony. We stand our ground or attack. We do not die in retreat."

"Die in retreat? It's a four hundred grand difference on an asking price of two point seven five million! What are you dying over? Finally, we have a place to start talking!"

"I'm dying over four hundred thousand dollars. I'm in it two point seven five. It's worth the price. Do you think I could go out today or tomorrow or all of next week or most of next month and make that money back? No. I can't. And I will not walk away from that money."

"Look. We have an offer. It's more than we had yesterday or last week or at any time in the last three months. We need to show good faith. You know what they say: as long as you're talking the deal is alive. Alive is different than dead. We need to counter. You said you knew these things. Besides that, Michael, you are not in it two point seven five. You're in it two point four."

"Oh yeah, Miss Smarty-pants. Take that two point four and stack another point two on top for the roof and the hot tub. Then ask yourself, 'Hmm, do I need to get paid on this?' Well, do ya, punk?' I don't mean you're a punk. You just set me up for that line. But do you want to get paid?"

"You bought at the top and you want to sell on the way down. That. Costs. Money. Michael. If you want to sell your house for more than it's worth, then you're wasting my time."

"Fine. Counter at two point seven four nine nine nine."

"You want to drop your price by a dollar?"

"Yeah. In good faith."

"That's not good faith. That's an insult."

"An insult to whom? Don't forget the party of which you represent here, after yourself of course. It's me and my interests. Two point two is a lowball. Some people would call a lowball an insult. Some people would take it personally. Me? I'm showing good faith. Why are we arguing here? You got two choices: you counter at two point seven four nine nine nine, or you ignore their offer. I won't discuss it further."

"You said before you'd go to two million seven hundred thousand. Let's counter with that."

"No. I'll go to two million seven if they offer it. I won't counter with it because you know as well as I do where things go from there. You want faith? Counter a dollar lower. Let's see how good their faith is."

* * *

"Okay. They got your counter and said thanks very much and want you to know that they really love the place, so they want to make a counter to your counter. They came back at two million two hundred thousand and one dollars."

"They came up a dollar? Beautiful. Now we're getting somewhere. You know: the seller wants to sell, and the buyer makes like he wants to buy. That sort of thing. Go back with ... let's see, our very best good wishes, our, uh, fondest hopes that they do see the value here and our expressed intention to do everything we possibly can to come to terms on a deal. So, in the spirit of compromise, we'll drop to two million, seven hundred forty-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-eight."

"You think I'm going to rewrite this contract in dollar bites a half million times?"

"Nah! Just ink in the numbers. I'll initial."

"That's stupid. Besides, why don't you just split the difference? Come down to two million five, around in there. You want to sell the place or get stuck in a ... a ..."

"A pissing contest?"

"Yes. You said it."

"We're pissing real dollars here. Not your dollars. My dollars. I want to sell. He who dribbles first loses the money. Let 'um come up to serious intention levels. Then we'll talk about splitting differences and closing deals. Okay? Is that okay?"

"It'll die. You said it first. Too much back and forth with no progress. It'll die, and you know it, and you'd rather let it die than give in."

"I don't know any such thing. What is this give-in bullshit? Who's not giving in? Your client or your client's adversary? Be very careful here, dear. You don't know where this will go. You can't very well call two counters a pattern and think the pattern will hold dollar for dollar to halfway on a five hundred, seventy-five thousand spread. I'd hold firm before it got anywhere near that low anyway. I think it works in my favor to get the paper inked up on another dollar drop."

"Fine. If the deal dies, it's because you killed it."

"Deal? What deal? We got a lowball. I never saw a deal."

"Oh! Dirkson's here! We're on the air! Please don't use foul language."

"On the air? We're not on the air. We're off the air. Can't you see that? Jesus Christ. Whatever happened to reality?"


We're on the ir!

"We will be on the air. If you think and behave like we're on the air now, then it'll seem more natural when the camera starts rolling."

"Is that what you've been doing? Fine. We're on the air. I don't have to be in this, do I?"

"It helps tremendously. We actually get a Nielson rating, you know. People want to see who you are. Let's face it, a house at this price level, at this position in the neighborhood, reflects substance and, in some cases, personality."

"They're not buying me. Are you always on the air?"

"Oh, but they are."

"Get Allison in here. They'll buy her."

"Yes. She is much nicer."

"And prettier," Michael Mulroney smirks at the retort. "Little bird! Get in here! We're on the air!"

"Why do you call her little bird?"

Mulroney shrugs. "Because she eats like a little bird? Better than calling her fish face, isn't it?"

"What? Hello. On the air? Us?" Allison Mulroney enters as regally as a hundred-pounder can, pausing in the doorway for framing, the fingers of her left hand lighting on the jamb gently as wren's toes on a twig. Of her total weight, two percent is hair in a bouffant to the mezzanine. "Hello," she says again to everyone in general, waving her free hand slowly as Miss America at the millions of viewers watching just behind one-eye. She emotes for the camera, rather for the cameraman, who at that point is removing the camera from its carrying case. As the lens cap comes off, she elaborates, "I'm Allison. Welcome to our home."

"Oh, fuck." Mulroney seems untenably dour and thinks he has cause.

"I asked you not to do that," the agent chides.

"She's sloshed," Mulroney points out.

"I am not sloshed," Allison denies.

"Look, Allison. Come over here. Stand next to me." Allison meanders over and leans on her husband, who turns to the cameraman. "How long till you get the camera ready? Let's get this over with. Allison's good for another two or three minutes."

"Then what happens?"

"Yeah. Then what happens?" Allison would also like to know and, in fact, won't budge until she's told. The wren's fingers now grip her husband's arm like raptor talons, securing her claim on stability and domestic bliss.

Mulroney fondly covers her hand with his own, informing Ms. Moutard on the issue of what happens next: "She assumes a horizontal position and goes to sleep, not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily without a fuss."

"Dirkson, are we ready?" Dirkson is the talent, on camera.

He says, "You bet we are. Scotty?" Scotty is the cameraman.

"Rolling." Scotty plants the viewing cup onto his eye socket and focally ranges in and out — close on Dirkson, long on Allison — freeze! "My God! Where have you been all my life?"

"We've been waiting on you," Marylyn erupts, regretting her impatience, but nonproductive banter with talent and tech and hot product on hand that should have sold but remains unsold just makes her want to scream — not that she would actually scream, but she might whine. Who wouldn't?

"Not you. Her." Scotty zooms on Allison, into macro intimacy, to pores, tiny hairs, and perfection. "What skin tone. What poise." Scotty pans the alabaster complexion. Could this be Norma Jean revisited, not past her prime but still in it, gracefully aged?

Allison invites the scrutiny with a smile and a writhe, though her attempt at seductive warmth suffers a slight wobble. "I'm here," she says. "I have always been here. But you have not been here. Now you better hurry. We're moving to the tropics."

"Keep moving," Scotty enjoins, getting the footage he's been after.

"Scotty. Please. Places," Dirkson directs.

Scotty turns to stage right and holds.

"Hello, there. I'm Dirkson Duquesne — looks like Du-kezney but it's not. It's actually du-káne — and I'm not a local anesthetic! Ha! Gotcha. Hey — we're back again with this week's episode of ... What They're Doing Today in Heaven. Here we are at ... Wait a minute. What's the address here?"

"One Summit Nest."

"What's the street number?"

"One. I said one."

"Nice address. Okay ... Rolling ... Here we are at ... One Summit Next ..."

"Summit Nest!"

"Try again. And ... Okay. Here we are at ... One Summit Nest, and believe you me, it is."

"What? It is? It is what?"

"Let me do my job, please. Scotty. Did you get it?"

"I got it."

"Okay. And ... Marylyn Moutard is here today to show us her listing and introduce us to the sellers, Michael and Allison."

"We sure are, Dirkson. Hi, everybody. I'm Marylyn Moutard. This is Michael and Allison, and they're going to hate giving this place up. I can promise you they're really going to hate leaving that hot tub behind too. We'll go out to the fabulous sun deck in the rear of the home in just a minute. But first, I'd like for Michael to tell us what he loves most of all about this place."

"What do I love about the place?" Michael shrugs. "It's a nice place. What's not to like?"

Marylyn drops the microphone. "Michael. We need to effervesce here. Emote. Give. Convey. Don't worry. Nobody will think you're frilly. You need to sound enthusiastic. This is sales. A pitch. Do you know how to pitch?"

"Okay. I got it." Michael looks down, going to character. He looks up. The camera rolls. "What do I love? About the place? That's easy. For starters, I love the view. Who wouldn't? You got the whole ocean out front. You know, the Pacific Ocean is the biggest ocean in the world, and from here it's easy to see why."

"The view. That's so important. Tell us about living here."

"Well. It's nice. It's really nice. We get up in the morning. You know. I'm thinking of getting a new bicycle, you know. Yeah. It's terrific riding around here. Some of the best in the world. I see guys older than me out there humping it. So I figure ..."

"That's fabulous. That's sooo healthy-lifestyle living. Come on. Let's take a look at the gourmet kitchen. Two sinks!"

"Three sinks, Marylyn," Michael corrects. "Don't forget the wet bar. It's smaller, for your ice and drinks, but it's still a sink."

"Three sinks! Even better! And a six-burner chef stove! I can't wait to see that fantastic master bath."

"Yeah. Me too. Allison. Wake up."

"Wha ... Oh. Hi. We're moving. We're moving to Hawaii." Allison speaks to the camera, but it passes her on its way to the fantastic kitchen. "I can't wait," she calls, practically shuddering in anticipation of tropical warmth. "You can hear the wavesh. And palm treesh."

"Yeah," Michael chimes in. "Your shirt sticks to your skin. You got heat ripples everywhere and racism, gridlock, and water shortage and fucking insects that look like fucking dragons and humidity to bend your fucking knees. And ignorance. Did I mention the ignorance?"

"Why are you going then?" Marylyn asks, shooing the camera away.

But Scotty keeps it rolling, so Michael tells it: "Because Allison wants it. And what Allison wants long enough, Allison gets. She breaks you down. She gets her way. Capiche?"

"How lovely." With a dismissive flourish, Marylyn moves flamboyantly onward. She would like to ask why he keeps Allison around or allows her to get her way, but instead she sweeps a hand majestically yonder, beckoning the marvelous entertainments in store for you, your family, and friends in this dream kitchen come true. "Now this! Is a party house!"

"How'd ... I do? Howdy Doody." Allison ponders silly wordplay and its deeper meaning, which isn't so deep, and so she shrugs. But recalling her childhood TV pal, she also remembers simpler times. Nobody relates but Mulroney, who watched Buffalo Bob and the whole gang along with the rest of the peanut gallery. He pauses in a rare moment of reflection, wondering where all those kids are now. Dead, some of them must be.

He laughs. "Dilly Dally. Clarabell. Phineas T. Bluster. Too bad, we never got to watch together. We could get a DVD, but that never works out."

"What are you talking about, Michael?"

"Nothing. You doody fine, dear." With an arm around her for affection and balance, he leads the way down the few steps to the sunken atrium on the way to the bedroom. "Now go lie down, so we can get this done."

"I'm not sleepy."

"That's okay. Just lie there, close your eyes, and breathe slow. Give it a minute. I got this for now. Then in a while you can get up and join the living — I didn't mean that. I mean you can get up and we'll ... have dinner and watch a movie."

"No. I'm not sleepy."


Excerpted from "A California Closing"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Robert Wintner.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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