Pulling Back

Erwin watched as his grandparent’s house slowly rebuilt itself. Red Earth retreated from the stone foundations of the generations-old house. Rain seeped out of the cracks, coalesced, then fell back into the sky. Cracked and soiled stone sat empty under the hot afternoon sun.

Erwin shifted his posture from one side to the other as he sat on the bench across the street from the empty lot. The wrinkled skin under his still, baby-blue eyes tightened as he watched.

Large square support beams picked themselves up and stood at the corners of the foundation. Cross-beams lept up to their perches; their nails began to fasten into place once again. Construction workers pulled up in a large truck, pilled out, and began prying old boards back onto walls. The gray and rotted walls left streaks of sunlight on the concrete floors. The construction workers put up patches of burnt siding and drywall at seemingly random places around the outside of the house. They left just as the form of a house was taking shape.

An old stranger and his dog wandered back into the shell of a house. The dog’s fur was as gray and patchy as the stranger’s beard. He had himself wrapped in an old army surplus coat – much too hot for the weather. A fire was started in a metal drum at the back of the house. More strangers began visiting. They brought empty whiskey bottles and syringes with them. Then, as suddenly as they arrived, they were gone again. A small fire flickered to life on the floor of the house.

Ewrin watched as the blaze picked up strength and peeled back from the walls and ceilings of the house. They left a complete, unburnt structure in their wake. Red siding, white-trimmed windows and doors. Mahogany colored shingles now sat under the evening sun.

Patiently, Erwin waited.  With the sunset, light shown from inside the house. Erwin stood and stretched his old back.  He walked over to the house, opened the only window on the street-facing side, and retrieved a lit cigarette.  He put it to his lips then returned to his bench.  A woman dressed in a navy suit came out of the front door of the house and locked it behind her.  

A while later, the sun rose, and an ambulance brought Erwin’s grandfather into the house on a stretcher. He was clutching at his chest and having trouble breathing. Sometime later he reemerged from the house wearing his best black suit. Tears were in his eyes as he got in his car and drove off to a church. He returned later, this time in another ambulance, but he was beside his wife and she was being carried into the house. His breathing was panicked. She lay still.

A young couple–Erwin’s parents–arrived and brought a baby boy with bright blue eyes into the house. The baby’s mother had large ears like her father.  Music was heard from inside, toasts were being given. The red siding on the house began to shed some of its dirt and age. A wedding took place in the house’s back yard. Erwin’s parents were being married. His grandfather, younger now, walked his daughter down the aisle. The wedding decorations came down, and for a long time the house was still.

A small girl emerged from the house and began playing in the back yard. She carried a precious teddy bear with her. She and the bear pretended to walk on the moon, and explore the greats forest around the single tree in the yard. She noticed Ewrin sitting on the bench and waved to him.  She ran over to him.  Her eyes were hazel and the freckles on her face stretched from one big round ear to the other.  She handed Erwin the teddy bear.   A mother’s voice called the child back into the house. Some time later Erwin’s grandparents rushed out of the house. His grandmother was  very pregnant, and carried a look of worry in her eyes. Her husband spoke words of reassurance to her.

Sometime later the couple returned. The boy was fresh out of college, the girl was just beginning. They looked at the bright red house sitting on the well kept grass with love and dreams in their eyes. The “For Sale” sign swayed gently in the afternoon breeze.


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