Empty Houses VII (Renewal)

One night, a bare bulb shone in the window across the way. It glimmered out of the battered colonial, its clapboards shedding long strips of old white paint.

The house had been empty for quite some time. I heard from one of the county tax assessors who lives nearby that everything inside was untouched: the antique knickknacks, the old lamps, the woodwork, everything. The family was having some dispute about the place. It had belonged to their matriarch, a woman apparently much loved. The picnic shelter at the church is dedicated to her. I think that says a lot.

Whatever the issue, it was resolved somehow. The lights came on. Someone wrote the address on a piece of cardboard and nailed it to the porch pillar. One day, I spotted a wizened old man in denim moving with infinite care down the stone stairs. I later saw an old woman, gossamer in quality, with her hair in a white whirl. She spoke slowly, softly. She told me her husband had the pneumonia, but that he would get better.

The house got better. Flowers appeared in pots. Someone fixed the porch railings, replaced a few windows, painted the place. They put house numbers up instead of the cardboard sign. A pair of young girls moved in, nice kids who would offer to help with things. I’ve seen them stroll around town laughing and goofing around together. They’ve kept an eye on my kids.

And every night, the kitchen light comes on. It shines through our little orchard, through the lilac and honey locust. A little light in the dusk.

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