Does the picture need a story?

Elliott’s old house

I knew this house. The porch had rattan furniture with big soft flowered cushions, so soft that my uncle came home late one night to find a neighborhood woman sitting there, enjoying the limited evening breezes. The security door wasn’t there. It had a wooden screen door that made a satisfying knock each time it fell closed. The biggest room in the front of the house was for sewing, this most favored machines being the old pedal-powered black Singers. Spools of thread hung from the walls, but not just small ones like the ones in stores. The living room had flowery furniture on delicate wooden legs. Oh, and there was a parquet floor. The kitchen had a handmade table and bench. Butt grooves were beginning. Upstairs held an always-bright pink room with twin white beds and a dressing table. There was an always dark room with heavy drapes and a big bed. And there was a teeenaged boy’s room with a velvet painting. I think it was a tiger. The stairs creaked.

The lot to the right wasn’t always empty. My sixth-grade classmate, Curtis and his family lived there at one point. I even remember my pre-school classmate Frederick living there with what seemed like an amazing number of brothers and sisters. The lot on the left was empty for longer. My uncle parked his flatbed trucks, which I called “fence trucks” there. In the backyard, I learned how to catch pheasants if I ever needed to hunt for my own food. I saw a German Shepherd named Thor adopt a litter of kittens. Some summers I ran around there nearly every day.

At least a half-dozen of my dreams every year take place there. Often I’m wandering around at night looking in the shadows for someone else and imagining that someone might be watching me from someplace in the neighborhood, but not coming outside to join me. Other times, it’s sunny and bright. I’m approaching the house, but something is not quite right. Sometimes it’s that I have a cell phone and it’s 1978. Sometimes I’m with friends who have never seen this part of my life, no matter how I tried to convey it. Sometimes I’m with childhood versions of acquaintences and friends, while I’m an adult. Then there are the times when I’m walking around in the dark with people I know to be long-dead.

In only one dream do I make it as far as the porch. I can never get back in to the house again.


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