They were perfectly happy in their house on the crossroads. Perfectly happy until the rumours started.
‘They’re going to widen their roads.’
‘They’re going to be diverting traffic down here to take it away from other towns.’ ‘They’re going to let anyone move here.’
‘There’s going to be no left turn or straight on, so it’s going to be harder for you to leave the house.’
At first they ignored the rumours but soon they were talking about it at meals, in the morning and in the evening.
Neighbours began to worry and ask questions. ‘Are you sure this is going to happen? Why haven’t we heard anything from the authorities?’
Then one day the Estate Agent came and talked to them. ‘You should sell your house now before any of these things happen. You’ll make a fortune and you’ll be able to choose wherever you want to live. You’ll be free to do whatever you want because everyone will want your house.’
The people at the crossroads asked ‘but all the rumours have been denied, haven’t they? They say it’s not going to happen.’
The Estate Agent gave a wry smile. ‘Well they would say that wouldn’t they? I can guarantee you, promise you, that you will never get more for your house than now. That’s why they don’t want you to sell.’ He showed them a piece of paper with a figure on.
They all gasped. They had never imagined they could get that much. The Estate Agent winked at them. ‘You’ll probably end up with much more, but I wouldn’t want to tempt you. I can however promise you this much’ he said, pointing at the figure. ‘I’ll leave you to chat together for a moment.’
The people at the crossroads looked at each other and spoke.
‘He thinks we could get more.’
‘He said we’ll never get a better price.’
‘He says all those rumours are true.’
They looked at each other and said, ‘let’s have a vote’.
Once they’d decided that those who rented a room couldn’t vote and neither could the children, they took their vote. It was close, very close, but just enough to decide to sell the house.
The Estate Agent returned. ‘So, what’s your decision?’
‘It was very close,’ they said, ‘but we will sell.’ One of the residents began to cry from a real sense of loss.
‘You won’t regret it,’ said the Estate Agent, ‘it’s straight forward from here, all you have to is decide on is which is the best offer.’
‘But what about the state of the roof, the damp, the wiring?’ asked one resident who was nervous about selling their home and the future.
‘Those won’t be problems unless you keep bringing them up,’ said the Estate Agent. ‘It’ll be on the market by this afternoon’.
When the house went on the market they sat back and waited for the offers to flood in. It became increasingly hard to get hold of the Estate Agent. All they got from his office was ‘don’t worry it’s all going to plan’.
Months and months later they hadn’t had a single offer and some who had decided to sell began to talk about their concerns. The one who had been really keen to sell would shout over them, ‘This is exactly what the Estate Agent said would happen!’
One afternoon some friends of the Estate Agent visited the house.
‘Look at the roof,’ they said, ‘and the damp’.
‘And the wiring,’ said another, laughing. ‘Somebody’s going to make a killing and it might as well be us.’
Later that week the Estate Agent came round. ‘Well, we’ve got an offer, it’s not quite what we hoped but it’s a good offer, the right offer, and it will finally, finally, get you out of here’. He showed them the offer.
Most of them gasped, ‘but it’s nothing like what you said we’d get, it’s less than we paid for it, much less’.
‘Well,’ said the Estate Agent, ‘I never promised you anything’.
‘You said we’d get …’ and then they realised he’d never given them the paper with the number on.
One of loudest of them said ‘but at least we’ll finally be out of here’.
‘But we didn’t really want to leave until the rumours and then this man turned up with his promises,’ another said. There was real anger between the people in the house at the crossroads.
The Estate Agent just smiled and said ‘you’d better take this offer, it’s the only one you’re going to get’.
‘But it’s from your friends,’ said one of the children who hadn’t been allowed to vote. ‘Just shut up!’ said an older resident, ‘let’s just sell and get it done’.
‘But where shall we live?’
They all stared at each other as the Estate Agent spoke. ‘You can worry about that later. The main thing is to get the sale done. Then you hold all the cards and can make the decision you want, free from all this.’ He pointed to the house on the crossroads.
And as they stared they saw his friends putting up road signs stopping people being able to turn left or go straight ahead. A man with a truck with a giant ‘For Sale’ board drove up. ‘Not yet!’ shouted the Estate Agent, ‘they haven’t quite made their decision’.
The people who lived in the House on the Crossroads stood and looked at each other and knew … they were at a crossroads.