Mystery House

There are going to be parts of this that sound like I’m being “judgy,” which is why I’ve held off writing about this for a while.  I don’t like to think of myself that way, and I don’t like other people to think that I’m that kind of person.    Mostly I just have wonderings.

There’s a large house near us.  It’s on the corner.  We walk past it every morning when we take Farley for his constitutional.  We don’t know the people who live there.  We actually don’t know who lives there.  It’s one of the mysteries.

Now, I’m basically an introverted person.  I’m far from the mayor of our neighborhood.  In fact, until the pandemic shutdown, there were more people on our block that I didn’t know than people that I did.  I’ve only lived here for 27 years.  Give me time.   But the pandemic has brought lots of people outside, and now there are many fellow walkers who we know, and who know Farley.  We almost never see the residents of the mystery house.

Here are some of the things that puzzle us.  In their driveway, they have one of those storage pods.  That’s not out of the ordinary in our area, but this one has been there for over two years.  Apparently it’s permanent.  I’m not judging, here.  I’m just curious what would be in a pod, outdoors in New England through two winters and two summers and still be okay.

There’s a trampoline in the backyard as well as a hockey goal.  But there are no kids that we’ve seen in years.  I know what you’re thinking.  There must have been a breakup.  The kids and one parent left.  Maybe the pod has some of their stuff in it.  Maybe.

Then there’s the condition of the house.  For a long time, there was a sign on the lawn advertising a wallpapering company.  We imagined that meant there was interior work being done.   Getting ready to sell?  Maybe. But we’ve never seen workers.

But then what to make of the exterior?  There are shutters falling off and paint chipping all around the outside of the house.  Again, not judging.  We are definitely not always up to speed on our home maintenance.  Just wondering about the new wallpaper and the old shutters taken together.  Introverts perhaps?

One day, this past fall, a long tube that resembled a dryer vent tube, but was about three times the circumference, extended into the side yard from one of the basement windows, where a very loud fan seemed to be pumping out some bad air.  Was this the toxic smell of wallpaper paste being removed from the newly repapered basement?  This continued for a week, at least.  It ran at all hours during some pretty cold weather.  My wife wondered about chemistry experiments.  I worried about drafts.

For many months there appeared to be sheets of paper covering all of the upstairs windows.  But this was not for a short project.  It was a long-term arrangement. We’re talking months, maybe a year. Do-it-yourselfers?

Last month, those little flags appeared around the front of their house, you know, the kind that signify an invisible fence for a dog.  Sure enough, there was now a dog who barked at us from inside the front door.  But we’ve never seen the dog emerge into the yard where the flags are.  Would you install an invisible fence and not use it?  Would you install an invisible fence if you were about to move?  

Now, this month, those little flags are gone, after only a few weeks.   Did they give up on the training?  Did the dog leave?  Are they just going to let him be surprised when he gets zapped?  We also haven’t been barked at recently. Curious.  It’s a doggone mystery.

Then there are the downstairs window treatments, or the lack thereof on some.  For a few years, they had an uncovered window at nearly ground level, very near the curb.  Inside that window was a desk, and on that desk was a very large computer monitor.  I’m not the type to steal someone’s electronics, but it was oddly tempting to see this expensive device blatantly exhibited every day in a window about fifteen feet from the road. 

Now there are shades on almost every window.  They are the accordion paper variety  (Again, not judging, we have that kind in several rooms). Many are ripped, though,  or hanging at an angle.  Do they go well with the new wallpaper?  Earlier this week we noticed one of the shades was hanging down extra far.  In fact, about 3 feet of shade had emerged from the bottom of the window and was hanging down on the outside of the house.  That’s kind of an unusual look. I snapped a picture after three days. Didn’t they notice? It was right above their driveway.

The shade that almost got away.

At one point, the front door had all of its hardware removed, but the door has remained the same.   There was no handle on the door, just a hole, for many months.  Again, I was concerned about the draft.

This weekend, as we walked past the house, a van pulled up.  A woman got out and walked to the back of the van.  She opened the rear door and pulled out what looked like a restaurant serving tray.  On it was an oversized champagne bottle and a very large hamburger.  As we got closer, we realized that it was a cake, a very impressively designed cake.  What were they celebrating with this champagne-and-burger cake?

This morning, in addition to the black Mercedes and the gray pickup that are usually parked in the driveway, there was a very shiny red sports car.  I couldn’t identify the make or model, but it looked brand new…and fancy.

Do you see what I mean about the mystery?  Every time I think I’m getting a sense of the situation, some new detail makes me rework my thoughts.  

Today, a fellow teacher and fellow slicer, Jess, lent me the book, Milo Imagines the World.  In it, a kid named Milo rides the subway and imagines the lives of the other people on the train.  He draws them in his notebook as he imagines where they go after the ride, but something that happens makes him think that maybe his first imaginings are not always accurate. He wonders, too, how others may see him.   I wonder now about this house.  I’ve always imagined some brokenness or unrest behind those papered, blinded, windows, but really, who’s to say?

12 thoughts on “Mystery House

  1. I think YOU would be smart to write a story about this house with so many mysteries and questions and unexpected happenings. I suspect this is ALL happening so that you will write that book!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was fascinated by this. I feel like you could be describing some of the houses in ADK, especially the ones that have had the Christmas decorations up for years- do you know what I mean? I always wonder the story behind them because I rarely see the people!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an amazing Tale of the Weird and Unexplained, honest to goodness. Every detail you strategically placed in the unfolding – superb. I was convinced the occupants were ghosts, up until the burger cake which sadly ruined the phantom idea for me, although it invited yet more bizarre ponderings. Absolutely fascinating! Will you share this with your students? I know they’d love it!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think your tone is light enough, witty enough in places (“doggone mystery”) to pull it off; I think they’d be utterly captivated. I was!

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  4. Your writing is always a joy to read. I, too, have a house I watch and wonder about. So much to think about. I wonder so often how I could be a better neighbor, but I’m a pretty hopeless introvert. I loved reading Milo Imagines the World. I hope you’ll share more later when you read it to your class.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I cheered when the end of your post led to Milo. I just discovered that extraordinary book this winter. I can’t wait to hear what your students think of it. Houses and people can both be subject to misjudgments, but it is hard not to be incredibly puzzled by your mystery house.

    Liked by 1 person

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