The Village Idiot

The biggest house in a nearby town is a huge white Victorian that looks like a wedding cake. It has a wide front porch that runs the length of the house, three-story turrets with curved glass windows topped with witches' hat roofs. It has gables and wings and filigree and shutters and shingles. It's as if the architect thought they gave a prize for putting the most frippery on one single house. It looks as if it might be the starring attraction in Stephen King's next novel. It is bigger than Perkins' Funeral Home and the Falling Leaves Home for Seniors combined, the other two large houses on Main Street.

A young couple, Ann and Chad, bought the Wedding Cake about two years ago. I ran into Ann mowing the lawn and she told me they were going to turn it into a bed and breakfast. She went on and on about how wonderful it was going to be, that their only worry was that they wouldn't have enough room for all the guests who would want to stay here.

"This is the most perfect, quaint little town," she said. "It's not spoiled with a bunch of tourist traps and souvenir shops and outlet malls. It's like a movie set. You could shoot a movie here. Like 'The Music Man.'"

Ann and Chad, it goes without saying, were from the city. They loved staying in B&Bs. They enjoyed getting up at 10 in the morning and walking down to a dining room that looked the way it did in the 1880s, with crystal chandeliers and wall sconces and sepia pictures of the owner's relatives on the wall. They enjoyed lolling around until noon reading the paper, strolling through the local antique shops. They loved sitting in big, overstuffed chairs after dinner drinking fine wine and chatting with the other guests.

"And that's just what they tell you to do in the entrepreneur class we took at night school in the city. They say, 'Do what you know, do what you love.' So Chad and I quit our jobs and took the plunge."

Today I drove past the Wedding Cake and there was a big red "For Sale" sign staked in the lawn. It turns out that Ann and Chad did what they knew and did what they loved. And while Ann and Chad loved getting out of bed at 10 in the morning and reading the paper until noon, their guests, who got up at 7, did not. It seems they ran a very fine "B" by all reports, but they failed at "&B" miserably. Even that might have worked had there been any other place to eat in town.

The diner in town closes Friday night and doesn't open until Monday morning. Mrs. Reticule, who lives next door, said that Ann and Chad's guests were so desperate, they would see the lights on in her kitchen and walk over to her back door and beg her for coffee. She finally started putting a large coffee urn out on her back porch with stacks of Styrofoam cups and a tip jar. But she stopped doing that when she found a note in the jar one morning that said, "You call this coffee? Would it kill you to put out some freshly ground French roast? Maybe some hazelnut?"

Not that there were ever many guests to disappoint. Once you have walked around town, there is not much left to do with the remaining 23 1/2 hours in your day. Ann was right -- you could film "The Music Man" here. But you'd have to go to some other town to watch it, as the town had no movie theater.

So now a real estate agent is doing what he knows and what he loves -- selling the Wedding Cake to the next dreamer for whatever the market will bear.

(Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.)

More like The Village Idiot