Welcome to my house! It’s a one-story cottage clad in lumpy stucco, white with gray trim. The Tuscan columns on the front porch help with the southern exposure. And they add a touch of class, don’t you think?
Have a seat in a rocking chair, and watch the clouds sail by. Not much traffic on this street. You can hear the old man scold his little black dog, and the children scream at each other.
The roses are done, the iris blades are yellow and limp, and the dwarf azaleas have blushed crimson. Dry leaves litter the long grass. Summers here are bright and hot, but the garden is sad this time of year, waiting for rain.
Step inside the red door. The living room is surprisingly large. The floor is polished hardwood strip. There’s a handsome mantel, but no hearth. When the house was built in 1915, they used a kerosene stove for heat. Look up at the high ceiling. The plaster is stippled, with a starburst around the light in the center, and a quarter-circle sweep in each corner.
When it rains, it drums on the metal roof, and a spicy smell seeps down from the attic. On a clear day, sun fills the living room, and the flowers in the carpet sway. The furniture is worn, a mélange from the past—a brown sofa, a clawfoot armchair in gold brocade, a desk the seller called “Florentine.”
The oil paintings are anonymous—a green mountain landscape, a still life of a copper pot and plums, and a scene from the Gounod opera Faust. I found the first two in junk shops and had them reframed. The third, from the 1920s, shows Marguerite in a white gown and blond braids beside Mephistopheles in a scarlet gown, a real devil. My grandfather commissioned it in New York for a magazine ad for radio receivers.
The walls are buff and the woodwork is white. No two doors and windows match. Floors are uneven. You may feel tipsy as you walk from room to room. The tile floor in the bath is irregular or a bad job, depending on your point of view. The chandelier in the dining room was salvaged from a house that was razed. The frilly glass shades and crystal swags are a bit much. Pull the chain to turn it on.
In the step-saver kitchen, there’s milk in the fridge, a loaf of bread, and a pot of soup on the stove. Help yourself! Sheets and blankets are on the beds, and the linen closet is stocked. Feel free to rummage through closets and drawers. Try on a hat or a sweater. The woolen jacket with the notched lapels would look good on you.
Plenty of books in every room, in all shapes, sizes, and branches of knowledge, with a bent toward art and literature. They came from thrift shops, yard sales, and bargain bins. Covers are dented, pages are thumbed, and several names are written in front. You may recognize some. No television, just radio. Sorry.
The upright piano stays in tune. It makes you sound better than you thought you were. A book of Easy Etudes is open on the rack, next to Beloved Favorites. More sheet music is in the bench. If you can’t find a good song, improvise.
When the mail comes, open it. Maybe you’ll find a fabulous offer, a long letter from a former friend, or a new magazine. Maybe you’ll find your own story!
If someone knocks on the door, be kind. Pretend you live here. I’ll be back in a jiffy.
Robert Boucheron is an architect in Charlottesville, Virginia. His stories and essays appear in Bellingham Review, Fiction International, Saturday Evening Post, and online magazines.