Jul 3, 2009

Reclaiming the tumble-down

There wasn't much light. The electricity had been shut off and the windows were covered with cracked plywood, but we could see the pig shit on the floor. We could still see it.

The house was a squat house, sitting on an acre of dried-up mud. Its white paint skin was puckered. It was either built like a pig, with the main part like a big pig on her side, suckling these little add-ons and out buildings, or else the house's association with swine was just too strong to see anything else.

"I think the previous people had pigs," the real estate lady said. "They left without cleaning."

The real estate lady wore her hair dyed and done up, her make-up and her pants suit were both high pink. She would be our land lord, the owner's rep., if we rented, and she always talked very clearly, very slowly, talking with a smile.

She had said this would be perfect for us. Perfect. And now she seemed surprised, but also like she thought maybe this was perfect. It was near the highway, with easy enough access to town and yet still out here, in the country, among the farms. Couldn't hurt this with four kids, or chickens and goats, and there were sheds and barns for workshops and animals and whatever it was we did. And if we saw through the tumble-down look, through the stiff smell and the leaks in the roof, thought through to where we'd put up a tin roof and pull up the carpets, it could be good.

She would never live here, though. And you could tell that. This place was for trash. It was there, underneath: she would never live here and neither would anybody she knew.

But we considered it. We looked at the fences, falling down, and evaluated the trees. We mentally dug up the mud and brought in better dirt and planted grass and a garden and a line of pecans. We opened the windows and let in air, tore out the carpets and put in wood. We drowned the whole thing in lysol and scrubbed and imagined what it would look like then. We painted and re-roofed, rehung doors and added insulation and a wood stove. We baked bread in the kitchen, in our minds, and made dinner and set a long table. We added art to the walls, and old farm implements, and we filled the sheds with tools.

We stood there, and considered reclaiming the tumble-down, resurrecting it from trash, and seeing what it could be. Cockroaches covered a kitchen wall, the carpets stank and mouldered, and the house slumped sideways into the mud, but we looked and we thought, what's possible?