Out of Bounds by Geary Leason

Ernest Smedley, a local geezer holding a well deserved reputation as the ultimate cheapskate, recently had a large chunk of his rear handed to him, all provoked by his own miserly conniving character. In a rare moment of concern for other geezers, Ernest related this tale of woe with the purpose of ( finally!) being helpful to the vulnerable geezer population that roams these woods.

One remaining item on Ernest’s bucket list was to visit his old hometown, Joliet, Illinois, a place he left fifty-five years ago, never to return or even visit. But now, with life’s shadows darkening, he was determined to end this unfulfilled longing – but only if he could do it on the cheap! He had heard from a neighbor lady about an online deal, “Economy Home Exchange,” where he could trade two weeks of someone staying in his place here in the Bay for two weeks he would have in their home, the only cost being the membership fee of $59.

Before a trade can come together, however, it is necessary to post online, pictures and all pertinent information regarding each person’s trading chip, i.e., their dwelling uni, be it a house, apartment, condo, tent, whatever. Also, it requires a match for the trade to take place: Ernest needs to find a location in Joliet, IL and for that someone in Joliet desiring to visit Fairfield Bay, AR.

After several months into the Home Exchange program, Ernest finally had a hit. At this point, each interested party exchanges more detailed particulars, such as available times, notification to neighbors, how to handle the exchange of keys, etc. Also, it is very important to spend fifty bucks to run a check on the exchange party, as all the possessions in your house will be available to your exchange partner. Ernest however, true to his cheapskate nature, passed on buying this protection, even though, he had a house full of very valuable collector items and top line furniture bought by his wife, Mildred, out of money she had inherited.

What excited Ernest was that the Joliet house as pictured online was simply fabulous – featuring a dock right on the fish-rich Illinois River and a brand new Tracker fishing boat just waiting for Ernest to use free! The exchange party was a couple named Maximo and Olga Romanov, smooth and friendly on the phone, and so excited about their two weeks to be spent here in the Bay, fishing, golf, swimming. blah, blah,blah.

Ernest and the Romanovs agreed to meet on a Friday at 1pm at the Culver Restaurant in Effingham. IL which was about half way between the Bay and Joliet on I57. When the Smedleys pulled in to the parking lot in their ‘97 Silver Grand Marquis, the Romanovs were already there, sitting in what appeared to be a United Movers Van but with all the lettering painted over. The Romanovs explained that they loved to stop on their travels at flea markets and garage sales so they need a large vehicle to transport their newly purchased “treasures.”

Ernest reluctantly picked up the check for the foursome’s lunch at Culvers, as Maximo said he left his wallet in his truck, They exchanged keys, said their farewells and God Speeds and all headed out for the joys promised in the home exchange.

The Smedleys arrived just before 7 p.m. having little trouble following the map provided by the Romanovs. The first thing Ernest did was to check out the Tracker and take it for a quick spin on his beloved Illinois River. As for the house, the Smedleys guessed it must have cost at least a million, and it was far beyond what they could imagine: elegant marble foyer, curved staircase to the upper level, black granite tiled kitchen, a hi fi music system to die for, a 70 inch flat screen TV with all the movie channels, a fully stocked liquor cabinet, and even a spread of gourmet frozen meals in the freezer. “Is this such a good deal! It is almost too good to be true!” shouted Ernest to his now unskeptical wife.

Next Week: Some deals are better than others.

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