The Last One Out – Season Finale

The Last One Out

February 21st, 2001

By 10:45 AM, the van was loaded, and the rental
car Carole was driving was filled with pillows, blankets, kids and dogs.

The sheriff, the realtor, the locksmith and the contractor were coming in fifteen minutes, to forcibly remove anyone from the premises, inspect the house, and lock us out forever.

The one thing I begged Carole, was that none of us were around to see it go down.

We took one quick run throughout the house to see if we forgot anything important. Each room flooded us with three years of memories. The Christmas tree in the living room, where the kids unwrapped gifts we couldn’t afford, was knocked over on the floor with only “milestone ornaments” removed from it… Every crayon mark in the kid’s rooms that grew taller each year… The attic, where Christina had planned to convert into a loft bedroom for her college years… The dining room, where family came up to celebrate Thanksgivings with us… The master bedroom, where Carole and I shared our hopes and dreams, and even had our fights that should have ended up in a bitter divorce countless times…

… all about to be gone in a matter of minutes.

Left behind were all the kid’s bikes, clothes we probably haven’t worn in years, bedframes, desks and tables that couldn’t be taken apart in time…

… and “Betsy”. The four-cylinder 1987 Chevy Celebrity that faithfully rushed Erika to Schneider’s Childrens Hospital in the nick of time, to and from Flea Markets and catering gigs all over Queens. The car we moved up here in… and died from all the mountains and mileage.

Spanky, and Ashley’s black cat, Cujo. Both buried in the back of our property. Well, you really didn’t think I was digging them up, did you?

Carole sobbed hysterically as she started the car. “All my grandmother’s money… for nothing.”

According to the kids, she cried the entire ride.

Steve secured the last of the stuff on top of the van, and started the engine up. I took one final look at 1145 Timber Drive… Its half-completed sunroom; The cement block that Sharp Image filled for the kids to put their tiny handprints in, as a present for their mommy, with “Brooks Kids 1999” scrawled on top.

I’m angry, exhausted, queasy and bitter at all the bad decisions we made.

What could have been….

I flicked my cigarette at the garage door and muttered: “Last one out… put a fucking match to this place.”

With all the feeling of a television “season finale”, we drove out of the driveway. Past the half-dozen “FOR SALE” signs throughout Candlewood Estates.

Eric Brooks

Musician, Programmer, Graphic Designer, Evil Clown - A thorn in the Internet's side since 1997 with no intention of stopping any time soon.

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The Last One Out – Operation: Evacuation

The Last One Out

Tuesday February 20th, 2001

After a legal snafu with the original December eviction, we were re-served and eviction set for Wednesday February 21st. No excuses. No more stall-tactics.

I worked a half-day at the Pocono Record and had the next day off.

As Carole picked me up, I barely spoke. Everything was set, and I had a sickening feeling something was about to go wrong.

“What can go wrong?” Carole says, as we’re on I-80, “Allison is talking to Joe about renting a U-Haul and we’ll spend the day loading it. They’re coming by to pick up our dryer & refrigerator, then Joe’s coming back with the U-Haul.”

Joe showed up for the dryer and fridge we were giving them. He saw a house totally disheveled and ransacked, as we were sorting what’s going and what’s staying…

…It was too much for his “Felix Unger-like” lifestyle, as he opted to wait with his wife in the pick-up truck until I brought the appliances out by myself.

There was no mention of a U-Haul, obviously Allison never mentioned it to him.

This was the “something wrong” I knew was coming.

When Carole sent me out there to ask about the U-Haul, I knew it was a lost battle. Allison sat there with her fake plastic smile, “Joe, Eric has a question for you.” He already had a “Sorry, I can’t do it” speech prepared.

Fucking judgmental holier-than-thou church people! Our house was a mess, so I guess they decided we should lose everything we own.

Memo2me: Make a bumper sticker that says “Christians aren’t perfect, just a bunch of judgmental bastards that think their shit don’t stink!”

I’d make a million bucks. Yeah.
You’re welcome for the dryer and fridge… dickheads.

I can imagine my conversation with God. His response would most likely be: “Hey… don’t even try to pin them on me! I gave up on that ‘Chosen People’ crap a millennium ago!!!”

The kicker was the fact that my entire paycheck went to them a week ago to get their home remodeling project started, or else I could have rented the damn truck myself.

I’m not mad at God. Just religious people, the real plague of society.
Think about it.

It was 2PM. We still had 20 hours to think of something.

We called friends across PA and NYC, somebody had to have money or a truck somewhere. Finally one friend from NY wired money, and another in PA offered a van to move an entire house full of stuff. By the time the money came. The U-Haul rental place was closed and wasn’t opening until 10AM. There was no way in hell we can get back and load a truck before 11. Steve showed up with his van at 10:30 PM.

Times like these, are when you find out who your REAL friends are.

This was going to be an all-nighter. Loading the van, driving 45 minutes, lifting couches and dressers across an icy driveway, pushing the van out of whatever ice & snow patches it was stuck on, driving another 45 minutes back to load the van with whatever Carole & Christina can take apart with pliers and a screwdriver. Steve’s stepson and I, stayed sane by taking catnaps on the long, dark drives back and forth. Carole, Christina and Steve functioned on pure adrenaline.

It was 4AM at the beginning of the third trip. I couldn’t stop trembling from the cold. It was 10 degrees out, I was exhausted and begging Carole to “Just leave the rest of the fucking stuff here”.

She and Steve figured four trips will get most of the stuff out of here.

I could swear I heard a few chuckles from the television audience off in the distance.

I slept through the sunrise on the way back. It was almost impossible to walk through the first floor of the new house. 70% of a four bedroom house crammed in one room. Do or die, this was going to be the last trip.

Eric Brooks

Musician, Programmer, Graphic Designer, Evil Clown - A thorn in the Internet's side since 1997 with no intention of stopping any time soon.

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The Last One Out – Whose money is it anyway?

The Last One Out

Summer, 1999

I worked around the clock, doing websites, print jobs… anything to bring money in, working at home. Carole worked for Sharp Image Home Remodeling Company. She made decent money, but the company was ailing.

The two partners were aware of our situation, and a scheme was concocted to solve all our problems. If Carole and I could get financing, they could build an addition to our house, the added equity can help us refinance and save the house.

The additional money would make Carole a third partner and save the company. Sounded good on paper right?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save Sharp Image, as they closed their doors in January 2000. Both partners were never to be seen again, and our sunroom was never finished. The bank began foreclosure proceedings, as my earnings were nowhere near enough.

With the leftover equipment, contacts, and clientele, Carole formed Do It Right Construction with former construction supervisor John Rose, and a handful of now-unemployed construction workers, three weeks later.

But it was too late. A string of bad business decisions, including buying out a bad company from a con-artist, there was nowhere near enough money to save the house.

On top of a legal nightmare, our house was one of many sold by the Sheriff in June 2000.

Game over.

Eric Brooks

Musician, Programmer, Graphic Designer, Evil Clown - A thorn in the Internet's side since 1997 with no intention of stopping any time soon.

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The Last One Out – Community of the Damned

The Last One Out

February, 1998

Carole & I walked nervously into Eagle Valley Homes’ main office. We hopped a bus from Port Authority in NYC straight up to Brodheadsville, PA.

The whole bus ride, Carole swore we were going to be turned down for financing… “We’re making this trip for nothing”.

We had a cashier’s check for $30,000. It was money left to Carole by her grandmother for her to buy a home one day. It was our down payment for our slice of the American Dream.

With big smiles, the sales rep greeted us with the good news. “Of COURSE you were approved for a mortgage, we wouldn’t waste your time, or ours, by making you come all the way here. I already consider you guys Pennsylvanians! Come on, I’ll show you guys your community.”

Eagle Valley's Executive IIIAs we drove into Candlewood Estates, several dozen homes were in various stages of construction. The future site of 1145 Timber Drive was already being excavated for its foundation. In between the framed structures of our future neighbors.

“See? Once you were approved for financing, we began to break ground this morning.”

“It’s the perfect place for kids.”, the sales rep explains on the drive back to the office, “There is a zero crime rate in these area. The state police had to break up a fight in the high school last year, that was it.”

There was lie #1. Not two days before that, a teenage girl was raped and her throat slit, less than a mile from our community. A Ku Klux Klan chapter was formed and rallied here in Blakeslee (because the rapist was black). The Klan had also threatened to burn our community down as the majority of people that Eagle Valley Homes was putting in the community were inner-city blacks… so it was a tense first year of us living there.

We also found out that Candlewood Estates should have never been built. The area was wetlands, and a major gas pipeline runs through the area underground. Longtime community residents recall dump trucks, full of dirt, in the middle of the night, and one day, the area was approved for building. No one can explain how this was possible without Eagle Valley greasing someone’s palms in Tunkhannock township.

“Your house will double in value, within a year, everyone will refinance their homes for a better rate.”

Lie #2. We paid $169,000 for our homes, and they appraised on average of $115,000. They knew this all along. Families counting on a lower mortgage, barely keeping their heads above water, now realized they were totally fucked.

By Spring of 1999, the steep mortgages were becoming too much for many neighbors to handle… and the foreclosures were starting in a chain reaction.

Eric Brooks

Musician, Programmer, Graphic Designer, Evil Clown - A thorn in the Internet's side since 1997 with no intention of stopping any time soon.

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The Last One Out – Too Stupid To Live

The Last One Out

While I’m exhausted, and had planned to go to bed after this dress was found, Now I have to stay awake and wait for her to either come home, or call from Monroe County Correctional Facility to let me know how what her bail is.

I thought about how close they were to leaving, how I risked being arrested… and I came to one conclusion, as I passed the time by cleaning & packing.

“We’re all too stupid to live….”

To further enforce my theory that life is now some surrealistic television show… the two constables ended up being real practical jokers that enjoy busting peoples chops, getting Magistrates out of bed with people they’ve arrested, and ringing people’s doorbells at all hours of the night to drag them to court.

“Nah, we were never gonna arrest your husband”, one confesses, “we thought keeping him outside to freeze his ass off for a half hour was fun enough….”I can almost hear the “Laugh Track” going off during this.

I never really connected where I’ve seen them before, but they did remember me from a previous encounter. One where her former business partner, John Rose, called and warned us the constables were looking for her at his house. They ended up serving me the court papers.

“Oh yeah…”, one recalled, “Rose was so scared shitless that he gave us directions to your house…. even drew a map with shortcuts! What a pussy!!!!”

Fucking sellout piece of shit….what a shock.

In the courthouse in Tobyhanna, the constables explained a few quick things. Most importantly was the fact that the Magistrate’s wife had recently died, and that he takes his dog everywhere now.

So an entire court proceeding went on, and everyone had to ignore the fact that a Golden Retriever was sitting in the witness stand the entire time.

No… really. You can’t make this stuff up.

Carole returns home, skipping to the door and laughing at the entire episode. My stomach has been in knots for the past three hours, thinking of the worst case scenarios.

Glad she had a fun night.
Only four more days of the insanity of Monroe County.

Eric Brooks

Musician, Programmer, Graphic Designer, Evil Clown - A thorn in the Internet's side since 1997 with no intention of stopping any time soon.

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The Last One Out – The Visitors

The Last One Out

Saturday, February 17th 2001…

Kids are sleeping in the family room. Carole and Christina are tearing the house apart; Looking for a black dress to wear to a wake in Queens tomorrow. I’m beginning to pack for “Project: Evacuation”.

We’ve stalled the lawyers and the Sheriff’s department long enough. We have until Wednesday to be out.

The doorbell rings at 10 PM. We have no clue who it is at this hour.

I open the door, and a flashlight is immediately put in my face. All I can see is the silhouette of two men.

“We’re looking for Carole Brooks.”

ConstablesThat pretty much clarified the mystery of who these two men are with the flashlights in my eyes. They weren’t Troopers or Sheriffs, they we’re Constables. But Jeez, at 10:00 on a Saturday night? This can’t be good.

“She’s not here”, I tell them.
“Would you mind telling us where we can find her, we have a warrant for her arrest.”

Aw fuck. I knew it.

“She’s hanging out at her friend’s house in Penn Estates.”
“Do you have their address, so we can go pick her up?”
“Uhm…. not offhand, no.”

They talk amongst themselves, and decide that the guy in their back seat, that they dragged out of bed, was enough for the Magistrate tonight. It’s close to 20 degrees outside, and I’m out there with no coat, trying to get rid of them as soon as possible…before something goes wrong.

“We’ll come back for her Monday, sir…”, one of them tells me, “will she be here, or at work?”

“She’s doing work in Penn Estates… she should be home by 6.”

“Let her know we’ll be back”, one tells me as they head back to their car… at which point, two of our dogs start barking inside, and they hear Carole yell “HEY! QUIET!!!”. Carole has no idea what’s going on, who’s outside, or that I’m out there freezing my ass off, trying to protect her.

They whip back around, and again the flashlights are in my eyes.

“Who was that sir… that was a grown woman’s voice. Is Carole inside?”

“No. That’s my sister. She was babysitting until I got home.”

“I should explain to you, Mr. Brooks, that you may be committing a felony. If we find out that you’re lying to us, and Carole’s in there, we’re gonna arrest you too…. now I’m going to ask you again, is Carole in there?”

“No she isn’t…”, I try, with my best poker face to see past the flashlights blinding me, and look them in the eyes, “she’s in Penn Estates guys, I swear.”

At this point, Christina peeks through the door curtains, as she hears the voices outside. The constable questions me again. I can barely hear him over my chattering teeth.

“That was my daughter”
“She looked like a grown person to me sir… why don’t you have her come outside.”

“Christina, can you please come outside a second?”
“Sure dad…”

After a few minutes, out pops Christina… with Carole! I roll my eyes, and exhale slowly as we’re totally busted. The flashlights are then turned toward Carole.

“Carole!!!”, One of the constables exclaimed…
“Yeah, what’s the matter guys?”

My eyes roll again….

“We have a warrant for your arrest.” They both look right at me.

“Hi honey…” I say, with my teeth clenched together, lips turning blue from the cold… “when did YOU get home???”

“Oh… about a half hour ago. I went straight up to the attic to find my dress.” She explains further to them, “We have a wake to go to tomorrow in New York.”

In my head, I’m screaming “Carole, PLEASE shut the fuck up??!!?? They’re arresting you, and you’re talking about leaving the state… can you say ‘FLIGHT-RISK’???”

We opt to finish this up inside, and get out of the cold. Carole apologizes for the mess, and explains that we’re moving in a few days.

If they don’t tell her she has the right to remain fucking silent… I WILL.

They put the cuffs on her in front of me & Christina. “Aw no… will I be coming back?”, she asks.

“Sure, you just have to enter your plea with the Magistrate, and he’ll set a court date.”

As they take her away, I’ve decided that my life is a TV sitcom… There’s a million TV’s tuned in to watch what’s going to happen next.

Eric Brooks

Musician, Programmer, Graphic Designer, Evil Clown - A thorn in the Internet's side since 1997 with no intention of stopping any time soon.

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