The House at 758 - Exclusive Excerpt!
The House at 758
Pages 1 - 4
The house wasn’t hard to find. In this neighborhood, all the numbers are spray painted in black right onto the concrete curb. Even though the curb is cracked and crumbling in places, the numbers are bold and distinct. The paint still looks fresh. From the side mirror of my car, which is parked across the street and down two houses, I have an unobstructed view. A black tar roof sags over one side of the tiny home. Underneath it, a green and white-striped awning hangs above a medium-sized picture window. Once upon a time it must have been a cheerful splash of color that complemented the pale green walls of the house. But now there are gaping holes in the awning, and it can’t even hold back the sun. I want to get a better look, so I pull up a little closer, wary of being noticed by someone who will realize I don’t belong. Even my car doesn’t belong here. It’s much nicer and newer than the other cars I can see. I call it “The Hornet” for its bright yellow color and black trim. My father gave it to me for my sixteenth birthday, and for a while we both pretended it made me happy, but it didn’t. In the beginning, it was a welcome distraction. I drove everywhere those first few weeks—to the beach, to the city, along the narrow, winding road that leads to the top of the mountain. My father didn’t care where I went. He was just glad to see me get out of the house, get out of my head, do something on my own for a change—on my own initiative without someone pushing me to do it. But after a while, the spell was broken. No matter where I went, there I was, just like before. But my father didn’t have this problem. He had moved on with his life. He didn’t need a new car or anything else. It happened just like that. One day we were like two planets orbiting around the same sun— granted it was a miserable sun, but we were there together, and we understood each other even if we didn’t have much to say during those days. Then the next thing I knew, my father sort of spun out of my orbit and went on with his life, and I was alone. The only person who could feel what I felt and knew what I knew . . . well, he had other plans for his life, and I couldn’t hitch a ride with him. Maybe he wanted me to; I’m sure he did. But I couldn’t and still don’t understand how he could just move forward. I wonder what my father would think if he knew where I was right now. He wouldn’t consider me brave— nobody would. Although, it’s taken me weeks to work up the courage to steer the Hornet through these streets. A few times I’ve gotten within a block of this house before turning back. Today I finally made it all the way. I feel like I’ve done the courageous thing by coming here, even if nobody else realizes it. I’m doing the necessary thing that no one else will do. The house is plainly in my line of sight. The windows are open, and a hopeless breeze plays with the curtains, teasing the occupants of the house. I rest my cheek against the driver’s side window. It’s cool against my skin, and an icy flow from the air conditioner aims straight at my face. It’s already five o’clock in the afternoon, and I can sense the heat on the other side of the glass. Most of the lawns in this neighborhood have turned brown. The sidewalks are empty. Even the children are absent. They must be waiting for the temperature to drop before venturing outside to play. On the street in front of the house a huge crow pecks at the guts of a squirrel flattened into the pavement. It’s having a tough time since the juicy parts have already been baked into the asphalt. Further down the street, a young man with a shaved head walks toward me. He’s wearing a white tank top and loose khaki pants. He’s plugged into a music source hidden inside his pocket. He moves with a beat in his step and seems oblivious to the heat—like the last person on earth in one of those post-apocalyptic movies. The guy is coming closer. In minutes, he’ll pass by my car and wonder about the strange girl behind the wheel of the yellow Beetle. I don’t belong here and he’ll know that right away. But I remind myself I don’t have to explain my presence to him or anyone else. I’m entitled to be here as much as he is. Underneath the green and white-striped awning, a shadow moves behind the window. I strain my eyes to see, but then it’s gone. Maybe it was never there