The light in the window didn’t hold his attention for long. His mind was otherwise occupied.
When he went back into the house, he was struck by just how dark it was. There were lights but the bulbs had burned out and he didn’t have a ladder that would reach the high ceilings.
There was no urgency to get them fixed. He had been known in the past as the man who never turned on a light and it would most likely be the same in this house. Once you get to know your home, finding your way around in the dark made sense…at least to him and he had always been frugal. “Turn on a light just long enough to see where you are going or get what you need and then turn it off,” he said.
Darkness had never been an enemy but this house…this house had no outside ambient light source. No invasive streetlights shining through the windows nor were any neighbors’ lights visible, yet only once had he mistakenly entered into a bedroom, thinking it was the bathroom.
Most of his days were filled with the tedious task of unpacking bins and boxes and realizing that the movers had misplaced most of them. Boxes clearly marked “bedroom” had been left in the kitchen and tools that were marked “garage” had somehow found their way upstairs. There were moments of grieving the loss of a treasured piece that had been broken in the move but he sojourned on.
People started coming by to introduce themselves and all of them wanted the “grand tour.” Most said they had driven by the house every day, and every day, they wished somebody would buy it and bring it back to its original glory.
With apologies for the disarray, he graciously allowed them to come inside and look around. Several of them offered help with the unpacking and one woman eagerly offered her gardening skills.
He was familiar with the term “Southern hospitality,” but he had never experienced anything like this. He took their numbers, thanked them and gave the obligatory “maybe I’ll give you a call.”
Night after night, he went outside after a long days work and sat on the stoop. It was his quiet time, interrupted only by the train whistle or an occasional ambulance siren in the distance. Every night, he momentarily turned his gaze toward the garage to look for the light in the window but it wasn’t always there.
He thought it could possibly be the reflection of a neighbors’ porch light although the juxtaposition of the garage prohibited that possibility. A street light maybe? That couldn’t be because the only street light was several houses down. It didn’t matter. His eyes had played tricks on him before and he was no spring chicken.
That rickety old fence needed to come down, so he called Daniel, the handyman who had stopped by when he first moved in. They worked and talked and sipped ice tea and worked and talked and sipped ice tea until they got the old fence down.
There was a sadness when he looked at where it had once proudly stood. It had been part of this grand lady but it couldn’t be saved and when they pulled it up, it left a gaping wound in the ground.
He had always believed that when you abandoned or destroyed a part of your past, it left a permanent scar. Would she weep over the loss? Would it be, to her, like losing a piece of herself?
He helped Daniel load the broken pieces of the fence onto his trailer and then watched as he slowly drove down the street to the local dump. It wasn’t a proper burial but it was the way things were done now.
Having put in a days’ work, it was time for his nightly ritual of sitting on the stoop. As he glanced toward the garage, once again, he saw the light in the middle window. As he stared, he almost chuckled when he thought “that looks like a small child.” Shaking his head and still smiling, he went back inside, trying to reassure himself that he wasn’t insane.
The next morning, he was breaking down boxes for the trash when he noticed a truck coming up the driveway. A jovial man jumped out, handed him his card and introduced himself as Mel. “I used to maintain the air conditioning in this house,” he said.
That was a good thing to know and he seemed to be as nice as the other people he had met. After being offered the house wine of the South, ice tea, he sat down and said “I see you tore down that old fence. That’s good. It needed to be tore down. Who did it for you?”
“Daniel,” he said. Mel said “oh yeah. I know Daniel. He’s a good ole boy.” When asked who was painting the house, the response was the same. “Oh, yeah. I know him. He’s a good ole boy.” Mel had a way about him. Everybody was a “good ole boy” and he knew everybody in town. He said he had once thought about buying the grand lady but was going through a nasty divorce and decided it wouldn’t be a very good idea.
They sat and talked and after Mel finished his glass of ice tea, he was almost indifferent when he said “did you know that this house used to be a Funeral Parlor?”
To be continued________________________