The Small House on Ash Street

2 12 2007

We just got back from a long day’s rental house shopping.  2 apartment complexes, five houses, two realtor’s offices, two park visits, one gas station, one stop at McDonald’s, one at Pizza Inn, and one at Mai Tai once we got home.  Neal saved all the receipts because the company is re-imbursing him!  He also clocked the mileage.
I told him, “They’re not going to give you mileage- you’re already getting re-imbursed for gas.”
Neal kind of hunched over the steering wheel and growled, “They’d better.  We’re not hitting them up for a hotel bill.  They should consider themselves lucky.”
I suppose he has a point.  We’re allotted a week’s house hunting with hotel, and we did it in one day.  I doubt the relocation people will look at it that way, though.
The house we settled on was NOT one of the ones marketed by the Slum-Lord.  Yes, apparently our new town has a slum lord.  I was kind of sorry I didn’t get to meet him.  Local color, don’t you know.
Neal’s temporary house will be on Ash street 1.3 miles from Butterball’s offices.  I wish I could convey some sense of what this house looked like.  I tried to with Lisa on the phone earlier and I couldn’t manage it.  But I guess I’ll try again.
It was small.  We’ve already taken to calling it the “small house.”  It’s on a weedy, well-treed lot across from a used car dealership at a busy intersection.  Despite that, it’s flanked on both sides by farm land.  The crops were already in, and the dirt lay tilled in rich brown lines like a zen sand garden.
Three brick steps lead up to a tiny covered brick porch.  The door looks like one of those antiquing projects you see on HGTV, with about four harmonizing colors of paint showing through the red.  (Yes, it has a red door.  And y’all know how I feel about red!)  Inside is a little hall that opens into a living room on the right with a glass-door wood-burning fireplace and dark, almost mahogany, stained wood floors.  The fireplace is small, like the room, and has a white mantle.  The walls are soft yellow, and there’s an arched opening into the dining room.  Most of the texture on the ceiling has worn or rubbed off.  (Indoor raquet ball?)
The dining room is like a cross-roads.  From this room you can enter practically any room of the house.  There’s a door for the hall, the utility room, the kitchen, and the arched opening to the living room.  A large window fills one wall.  It has to be a dining room, because any furniture placed in it will be forced to dwell in the center of the floor.
The centerpiece of the kitchen (the last room at the back of the house) is an antique enamelled sink.  It is the largest one I’ve ever seen with two bowls and a drainboard in between.  There’s a window above it that looks out on the back yard.  To the right side of the dining room door is a set of shelves nailed over another door and papered with red and white check shelf paper.  There’s a tall cupboard and a stove on that side also.  Directly across from the sink on the left is a refrigerator full of molding I-don’t-want-to-think-about-it.  I shut it hastily.  “We’re going to clean that,” the agent said.  One would hope so.
All the kitchen drawers open.  The cupboards, by the way, are painted some sort of light aqua blue.  Beside the refrigerator is a curious object.  It looks like a small dishwasher with no doors and no buttons.   It turns out to be a quick-recovery water heater.   It looks like it holds about six gallons of water.  There is a door behind the water heater and another across from it out into the back yard.  I have never been in a house with so few rooms and so many doors!
Another opening (no door) leads from the kitchen into the hall.  There are two bedrooms exactly alike on either side of the bathroom.  They have the same mahogany-type wood floor, plain white walls and wooden windows.  They each have a small closet with one shelf and a hanging bar.
An interesting architectural feature of the house appears across the hallway from the bathroom.  A section of hallway leading to the dining room door and the kitchen door behind the water heater has been enclosed.  Two long clothing rods fill the space, and a door opens upon this jury-rigged “closet.”  The enclosed doors, because of the bars, no longer open.  This is difficult to describe, perhaps because to modern sensibilities it is hard to understand why there would be so much hallway in this home in the first place.  The rooms are lilliputian, full of doors and nooks, fitted together like jigsaw pieces, and the hallway twists and turns and fills all the space in the center of the home.
The bathroom is small, white, dilapidated, and ordinary.  There is nothing more ordinary-looking than a very old bathroom.
Off the dining room is a door I had not previously opened.  It leads to a utility room nearly as large as the living room and quite as large as one of the bedrooms.  Tucked against one wall are the washer and dryer hook-ups.  Another door leads out of the house to the side yard.  Unfortunately this large space is not heated or cooled, or we could stick another kid in there!  It would seem to me to be a better place to put an extra closet than in the middle of the hallway.
The outside door of the utility room leads across the gravel drive to a one-car detached shack.  The boards are dark and curling upward, showing a good deal of insulation in the cracks.  I was almost afraid to open the door.  Suprisingly, the inside is completely finished and very nice looking.  The garage door is gone, replaced by a regular door, and it would make a lovely shop.  There are several electrical outlets, a light with no bulb (there have been no bulbs anywhere in the house, and we could see our breath while we were exploring) and dry wall on all the walls.  The floor is concrete, not dirt, as one would expect from the exterior.
There is a rusted propane tank at the back of the house- the source of our future heat.  The yard is circled by trees, and our feet rustle through thick leaves as we walk.  All the children have disappeared behind the shop and are making quite a bit of noise.  It turns out that there is a strange platform-like cube constructed loosely out of beams and two-by-fours.  The children are climbing it and crowing about what a wonderful play house it is.  It’s original purpose is shrouded in mystery.  Perhaps it was built to be a play house.  I can’t tell.
The yard is impossibly folorn, unmowed, unraked, and untended.  The mailbox is laying in the ditch, and a flat heap of sand in the center of the back yard has been seeded with new grass.  It’s about six inches long, pale green, and completely prostrate.
I suppose some of you are going to think we’re crazy, but the whole house had this air of cosy, dilapidated charm about it.  The kitchen was cheerful, if a little odd, and the living room was pleasant.  I don’t know how we’ll fit in the bedrooms (I think there will have to be some stacking going on), and NO relatives will be invited to stay!  But for $500 a month, it will do.
I really kind of liked it.  It was like an eccentric grandmother- a little tipsy, but basically sound.  And I’m glad she’s going to be taking care of Neal for me when I can’t be there.  He’ll be in experience hands.  I get the feeling this house has been taking care of people for a long, long time.




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