Gus Moody

     Three years into what they thought was a well-deserved early retirement, Mr. and Mrs. Jarrus found that they had been a bit too optimistic about how long their savings would last. It was the house’s fault, really. It was a grand turn of the century home with an address that matched – 100 Acorn Avenue. Even before their two children moved out, it was too big for the Jarruses. The house had six bedrooms, four baths, and a number of common spaces spread throughout its two floors – not including the attic. The house was a generous wedding gift from Mrs. Jarrus’ grandmother. The nuptials themselves even took place in the front yard of the home, and the newlyweds spent their wedding night not in each other’s arms, but running excitedly through the hallways and rooms that they now owned. Their wedding was a celebration of the couple’s union to the house as much as it was a celebration of their union to one another. 

     However, time proved that what Mr. and Mrs. Jarrus did not pay in the cost of the house, they would pay in maintenance. The first floor’s 13-foot-high ceilings – which Mr. Jarrus always boasted about to guests – meant a steep gas bill come winter time. The small yard lights lining the long, winding, driveway burned a hole in the Jarruses’ wallet every time the electricity bill came in. Wooden paneling rotted away, 19th century plumbing leaked and burst, and gallons of paint were bought in an effort to maintain the home’s baby blue appearance. If they simply sold the house and moved – as their two children frequently encouraged – they would easily have enough money to allow themselves to live comfortably until their dying days. However, they had invested too much of themselves into their home. Mr. Jarrus took on a part-time job as a grocery store clerk on weekends to pay for the installation of a new patio in the 90s. Mrs. Jarrus had spent many nights sleepless as she ensured the house was rid of any dust. The two of them chose to pass on their honeymoon and instead pay for an overpriced set of dining room furniture. The Jarruses were the type of people who cared more about their house and its well-being than their own. Alternate options had to be considered. 

     It was Mrs. Jarrus’ idea to start taking on subletters. “We never even step foot in half the rooms of this house, anyways,” she argued. 

     “A stranger? In our home? No. I can’t imagine that,” Mr. Jarrus quickly dismissed the concept. 

     “It could be good! Maybe we’ll make a new friend out of it.” 

     “Or someone will let mold build up in the grout, or forget to dust their bedroom’s shelves, or drag a chair across the floor and leave a scuff mark.” 

     “We’d meet with them first, to make sure they’re a good candidate.” 

     “What if they spill a glass of wine on our dining room chairs! The ones you newly upholstered last year!” 

     “Well!” Mrs. Jarrus exclaimed, silencing her husband. “That’s why they sell Woolite, right?” Mr. Jarrus nodded meekly. His wife continued, “I know you’re worried about the house, I am too. But unless you have any other bright ideas, there won’t be a house for us to live in sooner than we expect.” 


     The first potential subletter knocked on their door two days after Mr. Jarrus hung up flyers advertising the room openings. Her name was Imelda Reyes, she was 25 years old, and she greeted Mrs. Jarrus on their porch with a tupperware of snickerdoodle cookies in hand and two large duffel bags next to her. 

     “Oh, we thought we could do a tour and interview with anyone interested before they move in…” Mrs. Jarrus said gingerly.

     “Well, if all goes well today, knock on wood—” she quickly rapped her knuckles three times against the wooden doorframe, “—this will save everyone a great deal of time!” Imelda quickly won the Jarruses over. She raved about how orderly the couple kept the state of their home. Every time she discovered a new organizational quirk — ordering the spice rack by the spices’ color, taping down the edges of carpets so they wouldn’t fold over, separate and labeled dishware for the two of them — she would exclaim, “I swear, being in here is like touring a hotel!” But beyond that, she complimented the house’s architecture and style. She was in awe of its high ceilings, and gasped when she saw the view of the side yard from the bedroom that would be hers. Four hours after she arrived on their doorstep, Mr. Jarrus was helping Imelda move her duffel bags into the upstairs room at the end of the hall. 

     “Guests are fine, just clear it by us before anyone stays for an extended period of time. Washer and dryer are in the basement. And, I think that’s it, right?” Mrs. Jarrus asked her husband. The two of them sat on a couch opposite Imelda in the living room. 

     “That’s right! And rent should be paid by the first of the month, if that works for you.” “Totally! Is it okay if I pay in cash?” Imelda said as she began counting a variety of bills onto the coffee table between them. 

     “I, uh,” Mr. Jarrus glanced at his wife, “I don’t see why that should be an issue, right?” Mrs. Jarrus nodded in agreement. In Imelda, the Jarruses found someone who could love their home just as much as they did, and that’s what mattered most. 

     Three days after Imelda moved in, Mrs. Jarrus ventured to the kitchen at 4AM to fetch a glass of water. There, she found Imelda – dressed in fishnet stockings, a busty corset, and high heels that left her feet practically vertical – eating out of a bag of goldfish over the sink. “I hope you don’t mind,” she explained, “I always get hungry after work.”


     “Do you remember what Imelda said she did for a living?” Mrs. Jarrus asked her husband the next morning. 

     “Something in nightlife, I believe?” Mr. Jarrus mused over his cup of coffee. “Interesting,” she replied. She took a bite of an english muffin and looked out the window at Imelda’s red station wagon. “Do you think she could be a stripper?” Mr. Jarrus placed his coffee down on the table between them. “Now what makes you think that?” 

     “I saw her in a very,” she paused and considered her wording, “revealing outfit last night.” 

     Mr. Jarrus rolled his eyes. “She works in nightlife, hon. I know it’s been a while since we’ve gone out, but that’s what they wear nowadays! Bartenders, waitresses, servers. Sex sells! Don’t jump to any conclusions.” 


     The following Sunday, Mr. Jarrus went downtown to pick up the newspaper early in the morning. To his surprise, he found Imelda in his favorite corner store ordering herself an egg sandwich. She wore a large fur coat and stood on heeled leopard-print boots that stretched above her knee and crept up her thigh. 

     “Imelda! What are you doing here?” he asked. 

     “Mr. Jarrus! Good to see you on this fine evening. Or morning now, I guess.” She laughed. “It’s hard to keep track.”

     “Right, of course.” Mr. Jarrus laughed along, unsure of what exactly the joke was. “I just wanted to say, it’s been lovely having you around. I must admit, I was more trepidatious than my wife was about letting someone move in.” 

     “With a home like yours, I can imagine,” she added. 

     “But it’s been lovely. You’ve been a great house guest.” 

     “Miss,” the man at the cash register called out, “your change.” Imelda took the two dollars from him and stuffed them down the top of her right boot, which Mr. Jarrus couldn’t help but notice was already filled to the brim with other assorted bills. 

     “It’s a mobile wallet! Convenient, really,” Imelda commented. 

     “I can imagine,” Mr. Jarrus replied. “Fun outfit you have on today.” 

     Imelda groaned, “It’s for work.” She said it as if she was wearing a Wendy’s uniform. “I know I can rock a pair of heels, but by God do these things give me blisters. I’m sure you’ve been there, right?” 

     “Oh, uh, no, I haven’t,” he stammered. “I’ve never worn high heels before.” Imelda leaned her head back as she laughed. “Of course you haven’t! I was just joking, Mr. J.” 

     “Oh!” Mr. Jarrus forcibly laughed. “Right, of course.” 

     “See you back at the house?” she asked as she took her sandwich from a man behind the counter. 

     “Yes,” Mr. Jarrus smiled, “see you back home.” 


     “I do think Imelda might be a stripper,” Mr. Jarrus stated as he and his wife sat in bed that night. Mrs. Jarrus sighed and placed her book down over her legs. “I saw her this morning,” he continued, “when I was getting the newspaper. She had all of these bills stuffed down her boot…” He trailed off. Mrs. Jarrus nodded in agreement. 

     “What do we do?” she asked. 

     “I mean, she’s a stripper, it’s not like she’s a prostitute.” 

     “No, it’s not like that at all.” 

     “And it’s the 21st century,” he stated. 

     “It’s a very progressive time,” she agreed. “and the house…” 

     “…The house has been beautiful lately.” Mr. Jarrus finished her thought. 

     “This week of her staying here, I feel like the house is just fixing itself.” 

     “The front steps!” he exclaimed, “They’ve stopped creaking when you walk up them!” “And she keeps everything so clean,” Mrs. Jarrus added, “she values this house’s beauty.” “More so than our own kids,” Mr. Jarrus agreed. 

     They sat in silence, staring at the wall in front of them across the room. Mrs. Jarrus was the first to speak. “I think we agree, right?” 

     “Oh, I think so,” Mr. Jarrus said, nodding. They both picked up their books and continued to read. 


     “I was thinking,” Imelda said a few weeks later as Mr. and Mrs. Jarrus cooked dinner, “Are you two still looking for more subletters?” 

     “Well, we do have four other bedrooms to fill,” Mrs. Jarrus said to her husband, “Has anyone else responded to the flyers, hon?” 

     “Uhm—” Mr. Jarrus pondered. It was getting colder out, and the thought of the winter gas bill loomed over him. “—no, not that I know of. Do you have anyone in mind?”

     “Three girls from work are looking for a new place to stay. They were actually here last week! Remember I had some friends over for lunch?” 

     “Oh, they were lovely,” Mrs. Jarrus recalled. Three beautiful young women, all about Imelda’s age, visited last Wednesday. They took control of the kitchen in the few hours that they were here, but their cooking filled the house with some of the most delicious aromas Mrs. Jarrus had smelled in quite some time. They even made a meals’ worth of leftovers for the Jarruses, and left the kitchen in a cleaner condition than they had found it. Most of all, however, Mrs. Jarrus was genuinely flattered by the kind words Imelda’s friends had about her home. They greatly admired Mrs. Jarrus’ choice in wallpaper, and each took a turn to compliment how she made each room’s decor perfectly complement the wall’s color scheme. 

     “Aren’t they just the best!” Imelda agreed. “Anyways, they adored the house, and when I told them you might have some rooms available, they all pounced on me, begging me to put in a good word for them.” 

     “And you trust them?” Mr. Jarrus asked, “They’re good people?” Mrs. Jarrus eyed her husband from across the room. 

     Imelda chuckled. “They’re as good as they come, in my opinion.” 


     By the beginning of December, 100 Acorn Avenue had three new houseguests – Glory, Bette, and Anne. Just like with Imelda, Mr. and Mrs. Jarrus occasionally saw them leaving the house late at night or wearing an article of clothing that Mrs. Jarrus didn’t even know existed. And just like Imelda, they were wonderful house guests. They cleaned up after themselves, didn’t make any loud noises at night, and everyone’s eating schedules naturally fit together so that the kitchen was never too crowded. They were young and beautiful, so the Jarruses were never surprised if they noticed a young man staying over for the night. But whoever stayed over was always gone by the morning, and the visits were so tranquil that the couple found no issue in them. 

     They grew closer with their guests, too. Mrs. Jarrus went shopping with the subletters one Saturday afternoon, and after trying on an outfit that Bette recommended, she found herself amazed with how she looked in the dressing room mirror. After much persuasion from the group, she returned home with an ensemble that managed to reignite a fire between her and Mr. Jarrus that hadn’t been found since the early days of their relationship. Mr. Jarrus, on the other hand, was able to bond with the subletters in the kitchen. Their mutual love of cooking allowed him to elevate the flavors of his favorite dishes and allowed them to learn cooking techniques from someone with decades of home cooking experience. 

     The house itself was flourishing. The sink stopped dripping, there was no more awful howling sound on particularly windy nights, and with all the help around the house, Mr. and Mrs. Jarrus barely had to do any chores. Mr. Jarrus was speechless when he received the gas bill after the first month of winter. 

     “It’s lower than it’s ever been!” he exclaimed to his wife. 

     “Maybe it’s all the extra warm bodies in the house,” she rationalized. But they gave a knowing glance at each other. Not only were they saving money with the new subletters, but they had never paid less in maintaining the house in their entire lives. The house just didn’t need fixing anymore. It was happier with the subletters in it, and they were too. 


     Three months after the three additional women moved in, Mr. and Mrs. Jarrus received a notice in the mail from the city board.

     “‘We are writing to inform you that your residence at 100 Acorn Avenue is in violation of the Brothel Law,’” Mr. Jarrus read. 

     “The Brothel Law?” Mrs. Jarrus replied. 

     Mr. Jarrus nodded before continuing, “‘The Brothel Law states that no more than four unrelated people may live in one housing unit. Failure to comply will result in immediate eviction.’” 

     “Immediate eviction!” 

     “There’s more,” Mr. Jarrus interjected, “‘You have 90 days to make a decision. We urge you to reconsider your current living situation. If not for yourself, consider the morals of the city at large. Thank you, The Board.’” 

     Mrs. Jarrus leaned against the kitchen counter. “Are they home?” She whispered as she gestured to the second floor. Mr. Jarrus shook his head. “It’s just a name, right? The Brothel Law? They aren’t actually suggesting that we…” She trailed off. 

     “No, they… well…” Mr. Jarrus scanned over the last sentence of the notice once more. “It’s interesting that they bring up morals.” 

     “They wouldn’t bring up morals if this was just a nit-picky housing law, would they?” “No, I don’t think they would,” he agreed. 

     Mrs. Jarrus looked up, staring straight through the ceiling into Imelda’s bedroom above the kitchen. “They’re strippers,” she argued, “it’s not the same thing.” 

     “Not at all,” Mr. Jarrus said. 

     “Let’s think on it for a week,” Mrs. Jarrus suggested. 

     “Let it marinate,” her husband added. 

     They reached for each other’s hands and gave one another a squeeze.


     Imelda, Glory, Bette, and Anne walked past the living room the following Friday afternoon, where Mrs. Jarrus was completing a sudoku. 

     “Oh!” Mrs. Jarrus called out, “Just the people I wanted to see!” The group gathered across two couches, attentively listening. “My son just called, he’s actually around your age, but he’s coming through town and will be staying with us for the weekend. He told me he’ll be spending the evening at a friend’s, but he might still come here late tonight to sleep. I just wanted to give you all a warning so you don’t get scared when he shows up!” 

     “Sounds good!” they chimed in unison. 

     Mr. and Mrs. Jarrus spent the day preparing for their son Michael’s arrival. There wasn’t much cleaning of the house itself that needed to be done, considering it felt as if the house was in a perpetual state of clean recently. However, they transferred much of the boy’s belongings from where they had been stored in the attic into the last open room to make him feel at home. In doing so, the couple came across old photo albums from when they initially renovated the house. That, and a few glasses of wine, and the two of them stayed up until 10PM just laughing and reminiscing on the couch. Naturally, they were drunkenly thrilled when they heard their son walk through the front door earlier than either of them had expected. 

     “Michael!” Mr. Jarrus beamed. He and his wife began making their way out of the living room. 

     A woman’s voice, intermixed with Michael’s, trailed through the house from the mud room. “Who’s that with you?” Mrs. Jarrus called out, “Is that one of your friends?” Mrs. Jarrus came to a halt as she and her husband rounded the corner. “Oh! Imelda, you’re back from work earlier than usual.” Their subletter stood side-by-side with their son in the small entryway.

     “And I see you’ve met Michael!” Mr. Jarrus added. 

     “Yes, I have,” she said, sheepishly. 

     Mrs. Jarrus wrapped Michael in a tight hug and reached up to place a caring hand on his cheek. “What a coincidence you two came in at the same time! We thought you’d be out all night with friends.” 

     “Yeah, uhm, I think we, uh,” Michael stammered. 

     The pale white of Mrs. Jarrus’ hand stood out on Michael’s face. “Why, Michael, you’re bright red,” she commented, “Are you feeling ok?” 

     “Mm hm, I just,” the young man blurted out. His eyes darted between the faces in the room. 

     “Well, let me take your bags up to your room. Your mother and I moved all of your things in there earlier today.” 

     “They’re at a friend’s. My bags, I mean,” he replied. 

     “Oh,” Mrs. Jarrus said, “Why’d you leave them if you were coming home?” “I didn’t know…” he said softly as he stared at his parents. 

     “Didn’t know what, son?” His father asked. 

     “…that she’d be bringing me home.” 


     “Mom, Dad, you can’t live in a whorehouse!” Naomi’s voice came out scratchy over the speakerphone. The Jarruses sat together in the living room as they broke the news to their daughter. 

     “Now there’s no need to call them that. They’re perfectly nice girls,” Mrs. Jarrus protested.

     “Sorry. Prostitutes. Sex workers. Whatever you want to call them,” the youngest Jarrus said. “Ugh, Jesus, Michael. I can’t believe you were about to sleep with one of them.” “I didn’t know she’d bring me back here,” Michael muttered from the other couch, where he sat alone. 

     “And she didn’t even know you lived here! She had no clue who you were! They’re bringing strangers into our house, Mom. You can’t be considering letting them stay.” “I trust their judgment in character, Naomi. Just look, Imelda could tell your brother is a trustworthy young man. She only met him tonight and knew he would never cause harm to anyone!” she retorted. 

     “I can’t believe I’m arguing with you over this,” Naomi groaned. “Dad, you have to agree with me, right?” 

     Mr. Jarrus shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Well, we’ve lived with them this long and nothing bad has happened yet. And I’m sure we could make an arrangement where they no longer bring guests home.” He could tell his daughter was unsatisfied with his response. “They’re really great young women! I think you’d get along with them. And they treat this house wonderfully.” 

     “If you keep them here, you’ll lose the house!” Naomi moved to her last resort. Mr. Jarrus looked towards his wife, who was staring at her lap intently, wringing her hands. 

     Their daughter continued, “The city made it clear that they know you’re living with prostitutes, and that needs to stop. If you want to keep the house, at least.” Mr. Jarrus sighed. 

     “You know I’m right, Dad.”


     72 Acorn Avenue was a modest single-story ranch-style home from the 90s with two bedrooms and one bath. The dining room and living room both had beautiful views of the evergreen-encircled backyard, and the small office space was just big enough for a fold-out futon in case both of the Jarrus children visited at the same time. The Jarruses were surprised, and oddly disappointed, by the lack of maintenance that their modern home needed. However, they poured their energy into its interior design, cultivating a space just as meticulously detailed and organized as their former home. And, most importantly, their new home was just down the street from 100 Acorn Avenue. 

     Even if the city had any suspicions about what was happening beneath 100 Acorn Avenue’s roof, they couldn’t do anything about four unrelated people living in one housing unit. Imelda, Glory, Bette, and Anne — the new homeowners — frequently invited the Jarruses over for meals, or board game nights. Even though they no longer lived there, the house that the Jarruses were once married to remained a staple in their lives. As soon as they left it, Mr. and Mrs. Jarrus were eager to pass on their knowledge of how to maintain it. Strangely, though, the four young women that lived there rarely needed their advice. 

     “Tell me, how bad are the ants this summer?” Mrs. Jarrus asked one muggy July night in their old home’s dining room. 

     “Ants?” Glory questioned. 

     “I’ve always suspected they creep in through the floorboards under the kitchen island,” Mr. Jarrus added, “I can come over this weekend and try to seal it up for you all.”

     “We haven’t had any ants, at least not that I’ve seen, right?” Imelda turned to the other young women at the table, who nodded in agreement. She continued, “But how did you guys ever survive in that windy bedroom of yours?” 

     “I’m sorry?” Mr. Jarrus asked. 

     “Your old bedroom,” she explained, “There must be some small crack in the wall, because it sounds like the wind is always howling right through there. It’s probably the only complaint we have about this house. It keeps us up at night!” 

     “That was never an issue while we were here, right hon?” Mrs. Jarrus asked her husband. “No, we never had that,” he agreed. 

     “Huh,” Imelda commented, “Funny.”

Gus Moody is a senior studying Radio/Television/Film and Earth & Planetary Sciences. The first place his writing was ever published was a fanfiction website, so this feels like a big step up.