Here’s a cool Escapological passage from Lee Child’s 1999 novel, Tripwire. Thanks to Neil for sending it in.

The house itself sat there in his imagination [ . . .] it looked like a gigantic millstone, requiring him to run and run and run just to stay level with the starting line. He knew people with houses. He had talked to them, with the same kind of detached interest he would talk to a person who kept snakes as pets or entered ballroom dancing competitions. Houses forced you into a certain lifestyle […] it committed you to a whole lot of different things. There were property taxes. He knew that. There was insurance, in case the place burned down or was blown away in a high wind. There was maintenance. People he knew with houses were always doing something to them. They would be replacing the heating system at the start of the winter, because it had failed. Or the basement would be leaking water, and complicated things with excavations would be required. Roofs were a problem. He knew that. People had told him. Roofs had a finite life span, which surprised him. The shingles needed stripping off and replacing with new. Siding, also. Windows, too. He had known people who had put new windows in their houses. They had deliberated long and hard about what type to buy.

‘Are you going to get a job?’ Jodie asked.

He stared out through the oval window at southern California, dry and brown seven miles below him. What sort of a job? The house was going to cost him maybe ten thousand dollars a year in taxes and premiums and maintenance. And it was an isolated house, so he would have to keep Rutter’s car, too. It was a free car, like the house, but it would cost him money just to own. Insurance, oil changes, inspections, title, gasoline. Maybe another three grand a year. Food and clothes and utilities were on top of all that. And if he had a house, he would want other things. He would want a stereo. He would want Wynonna Judd’s record, and a whole lot of others, too. He thought back to old Mrs Hobie’s handwritten calculations. She had settled on a certain sum of money she needed every year, and he couldn’t see getting it any lower than she had got it. The whole deal added up to maybe thirty thousand dollars a year, which meant earning maybe fifty, to take account of income taxes and the cost of five days a week travelling back and forth to wherever the hell he was going to earn it.
[. . .]
‘I don’t know,’ he said again. ‘I’m not sure I want to think about it.’


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

2 Responses to “Millstone”

  1. Richard C says:

    This is exactly how I feel about my inherited house. A millstone full of stuff. I neither want nor need.

  2. Tempted to agree with you there Richard but in fact I think I’d have fun liquidating the darn thing and then rolling around in the dough! Want a hand?

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