Saturday, December 24, 2011

Condemned House-Dec 2011


December 2011, Contest Rules - 750 words are fewer, based on the prompt: "You return to the house where you grew up, only to learn it has been condemned."

I found perverse pleasure as I looked at the house. The boards over the windows were rotting. I noticed the glass beneath them. “Where did the glass come from?” Growing up, it would have been nice to not always have curtains blowing through to the outside for all the world to see.

I looked at the ground and moved dirt with my shoe, uncomfortable with the memory. I had been so proud when we first hung the curtains. We danced ring-around-the-Rosie, and laughed, and ran outside to see what they looked like. That was a fun day. A stupid day.

We didn’t actually “hang” the curtains. We pounded nails through them into the trim above the window. For some reason it had been okay to put holes in the trim, but not into the wall. I never understood that, but it didn’t matter. We had curtains.

Now the house had glass windows and was being condemned. There was poetic justice in that. “Just goes to show that you can’t escape your past.” I said it out loud, directly to the house as though it were a living being, and climbed the few stairs to the porch.

The bitch mother of all condemned houses creaked and groaned with each step I took. I ignored the yellow caution tape and headed to the front door, but I stopped at the dining room window and peered through the dust and cobwebs.

It was empty now, but our dining table had been right there, in the middle of the room. Our old table was broken and we had to stack boxes underneath it, centered just right, so the table wouldn’t buckle. Dinner time was hell. I hated them all. I wiped some more dust away and noticed the hole in the floor. I spoke to the house again, “Serves you right.”

Then I felt bad. After all, there was a special place in the house that had saved me all those years ago. I sidestepped several boards that were broken or missing and entered the living room. The smell had not changed. Old, wet wallpaper. The odor lingered in the air even though the wallpaper was long gone. “How is that possible?” It made me angry the house didn’t answer.

Two mice scurried across the floor. They left through the same panel that had been my favorite hiding place. I didn’t need to lift it to know what was there. More bugs, stronger stench and darkness. You’d think I’d have developed a fear of the dark, but I didn’t. It had been my friend. I had been safe in the dark, behind the wall, just beyond that panel. Safe there, but nowhere else.

I did a 360. Was there anything here I needed to see before they tore it down? Was there anything I would miss? Maybe, I thought. Just maybe.

I quickly but carefully walked through the kitchen to the back door. The door was gone and the screen hung on one hinge, but I could see immediately that it was still there. The old tire swing still hung from that poor tree. The steps were too shoddy to use so I jumped from the threshold to the backyard. Something about the jump made me smile and I pulled my knife out of my pocket. Still smiling, I cut down the tire swing.

I turned and looked at the house one last time as I picked up the tire. We had both been condemned in so many ways. I had managed to build a pretty good life for myself that was culminating in the reconstruction of this neighborhood. I was going to create a new development one house at a time, starting with this one. And God willing, there would be no foreclosures here.

I knew my architect team was not going to be happy with me. They were going to have to spend countless hours revamping the playground because I had just decided I wanted tire swings. Most of the team had been with me for years. They knew I rarely made such major changes before a groundbreaking. Perhaps that would soothe their pain. I smiled again as I hoisted the tire to my trunk. “Then again, probably not.”

The demolition crew pulled up. I waived to them as I got in my car.

I spoke to the house one last time. “Being condemned isn’t so bad. You’ll come back bigger, better, stronger. Beautiful.”


4 comments:
Gatorep said...
This did not take the turn I was expecting, but it was still a good story! The ending was nice, how you were going to re-do the neighborhood, starting there where you lived at one point.....and taking the one good memory with you---the tire swing!

Anonymous said...
I vividly could see the curtains blowing! Your description came across as if I were walking along beside him. I felt as if could feel his emotions and actually heard him say "You’ll come back bigger, better, stronger. Beautiful.” Loved It! -- Carol

DSD said...
@Gatorep-thanks! Would love to know what turn you were expecting. Interesting.

DSD said...
@Anon Carol-I'm humbled. Thank you!

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