It was much harder than they ever expected. In the Cadillac, scouting the five Grosse Pointe (the Park, the City, the Farms, the Woods, the Shores), my parents saw FOR SALEsigns on many lawns. But when they stopped in at the realty offices and filled out applications, they found that the houses suddenly went off the market, or were sold, or doubled in price.
After two months of searching, Milton was down to his last real estate agent, a Miss Jane Marsh of Great Lakes Realty. He had growing suspicions.
"This property is rather eccentric," Miss Marsh is telling Miltonone September afternoon as she leads him up the driveway. "It takes a buyer with a little vision." She opens the front door and leads him inside. "But it does have quite a pedigree. It was designed by Hudson Clark." She waits for recognition. "Of the Prairie School'".
Milton nods, dubiously. He swivels his head, looking over the place. He hadn't much cared for the picture Miss Marsh hadshown him over at the office. Too boxy-looking. Too modern.
"I'm not sure my wife would go for this kind of thing, Miss Marsh."
"I'm afraid we don't have anything more traditional to show at the moment."
She leads him along a spare white hallway and down a small flight of open stairs. And now, as they step into the sunken living room, Miss Marsh's head begins to swivel, too. Smiling a polite smilethat reveals a rabbity expanse of upper gum, she examines Milton's complexion, his hair, his shoes. She glances at his real estate application again.
"Stephanides. What kind of name is that?"
"Greek. How interesting."
More upper gum flashes as Miss Marsh makes a notation on her pad. Then she resumes the tour: "Sunken living room. Greenhouse adjoining the dining area. And, asyou can see, the house is well supplied with windows."
"It pretty much is a window, Miss Marsh." Milton moves closer to the glass and examines the backyard. Meanwhile, a few feet behind, Miss Marsh examines Milton.
"May I ask what business you're in, Mr. Stephanides?"
"The restaurant business."
Another mark of pen on pad. "Can I tell you what churches we have in the area? What denomination areyou?"
"I don't go in for that sort of thing. My wife takes the kids to the Greek church."
"She's a Grecian, too?"
"She's a Detroiter. We're both East Siders."
"And you need space for your two children, is that right?"
"Yes, ma'am. Plus we have my folks living with us, too."
"Oh, I see." And now pink gums disappear as Miss Marsh begins to add it all up. Let's see. Southern Mediterranean. Onepoint. Not in one of the professions. One point. Religion? Greek church. That's some kind of Catholic, isn't it? So there's another point there. And he has his parents living with him! Two more points! Which makes - five! Oh, that won't do. That won't do at all.
Discreetly, Miss Marsh now draws a tiny "5" next to "Stephanides" and circles it. As she does so, however, she feels something. A kindof regret. The point system isn't her idea, after all. It was in place long before she came to Grosse Pointe.
"Tell me more about this Hudson Clark fella," he now asks. "Clark? Well, to be honest, he's a minor figure."
"Prairie School, eh?"
"Hudson Clark was no Frank Lloyd Wright, if that's what you mean." "What are these outbuildings I see here?"
"I wouldn't call them outbuildings, Mr.Stephanides. That's making it a bit grand. One's a bathhouse. Rather decrepit, I'm afraid. I'm not sure it even works. Behind that is the guest house. Which also needs a lot of work."
"Bathhouse? That's different. You don't have to show me any more. Decrepit outbuildings or not, I'll take it."
There is a pause. Miss Marsh smiles with her double-decker gums. "That's wonderful, Mr. Stephanides," she...