The Evolution of Man

By: Skye Warren

Dear Christopher,

Enclosed you’ll find a formal offer to purchase the land and building of Bardot and Mayfair Development Parcel A, formerly known as the Tanglewood Library. Enclosed you will find terms equal to the last sale price plus interest. I hope you find this more than reasonable for a property that’s currently sitting unused and half turned to rubble.

PS. And you know a library will help the community and revitalize the west side of the city.

Dear Harper,

I regret to inform you that the asking price of the property has increased significantly, due to recent media interest. A famous artist sparked a citywide protest that had its own hashtag. In fact looters were able to sell pieces of painted concrete for up to five thousand dollars online. As such Bardot and Mayfair cannot accept less than two billion dollars.

PS. I wonder how much concrete you’d have to sell to fill the library with new books?

Dear Christopher,

Twenty times what you paid for it? I hardly think the presence of some random painter with an Instagram account can possibly raise the value that much. Besides the fact that anyone will have to pay to reconstruct the entire front of the building, due to your wrecking ball.

PS. You are the most self-centered, arrogant bastard I’ve ever met.

Dear Harper,

Enclosed you’ll find copies of the purchase offers this company has received in the months since we stopped development on the property. As you can plainly see, the presence and painting of a world-renowned, extremely talented artist has made the property invaluable.

PS. Don’t sell yourself short.

“What do you think?” the real estate agent asks, smiling bright-white teeth with a smudge of red lipstick. I can’t blame her for being a little faded. We’ve been all over Tanglewood looking for the perfect house. There are Victorians and chateaus and three-story high-rise condominiums. There was a beautiful mid-century modern that I probably would have chosen.

This decision isn’t up to me, though. Mom’s the one who chooses.

She’s the one who has to live here. And she’s the one who has to die here.

I wander up the steps toward the white columns that line the front. “It’s definitely big.”

That’s an understatement. Most of the houses in our price range are mansions, because we need the privacy more than the space. Large houses mean large grounds.

“Twelve bedrooms,” the real estate agent assures me.

Mom leans to smell a wide, blooming hydrangea. “What are you going to do with all that space?”

“They’ll be useful when we throw wild sex parties,” I say lightly, because it’s easier to pretend everything’s fine than falling apart. “When people want privacy, they can go upstairs and leave a sock on the doorknob.”

The real estate agent can’t seem to figure out whether we’re joking. She fumbles with the lock for a moment, trying to juggle her phone and a folder with notes about the house. “Five acres,” she tells us. “And you saw the gate when we entered. The security system is completely updated.”

She finally gets the door open, and we step inside.

Mom sucks in a breath. “Oh my God.”

A large staircase covered in an antique rug curves up to a wide balcony. A chandelier made of crystal drops shimmers from the sunlight we’re letting in. Elaborate wood paneling covers the wall, made especially intricate around an archway.

The real estate agent nods. “It’s like the plantation house from Gone with the Wind. You can almost imagine that Scarlett will come running down the stairs with her sisters.”

The movie was actually filmed near where we lived, in the backyard of the filming studios, the house left to rot away once it had served its purpose. In contrast this house seems vibrant. It’s fitting that we would come from somewhere pretend to the real thing.

“Could you give us a minute?” I ask the agent.

When we’re alone, my mother lets out a blissful sigh. “It’s perfect.”

“Will you be comfortable here?” I ask because that’s all there is right now. Not time. Sand whips through the funnel at an alarming rate. There’s only comfort, and how much my trust fund can buy.

She gives me a rueful smile. “Now that I’ve seen this, I can’t imagine being comfortable anywhere else.”

I look at the staircase dubiously. It’s beautiful but not really practical, especially for someone who has stage four cancer. “Maybe we can have an elevator put in. Or one of those chairs that zooms along the balcony.”

A horrified look. “Don’t even think about it. You will not do anything to destroy these stairs. It would be a travesty. They’re so beautiful, Harper.”

“Oh fine, I’m sure we can rig some kind of pulley system.”

She laughs a little. “There won’t be enough time to worry about it.”

How can she laugh about this? It’s one thing to be flippant in front of the real estate agent, but when we’re like this, being honest, all I want to do is break down. My stomach flips over, and I have to look away through the arched doorway. “God.”

“I’m sorry,” she says, immediately contrite. “I know this is hard for you.”