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comment by Isherwood
Isherwood  ·  2794 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Today's Writing Prompt: A Person and A Place

2107 Ideal Way. I didn't find the house, so much as the space it was most likely supposed to be. The numbers, like everything else around the old victorian home, were to a point of disrepair. The fact that the building was still in use tipped the feeling from creepy to admirable, like a single dandelion finding its roots in a walmart parking lot.

2105 and 2109 had seen the effects of the downtown revival. Both exteriors were heavily lacquered with thick coats of bright pastel paints, nostalgic colors of time that their inhabitants surely only ever saw through black and white photographs. Their immaculately manicured lawns were excruciatingly consistent in color and in height, from the city maintained sidewalks (which the homeowners saw fit to power wash themselves) to the newly erected wooden fences.

Those quarter inch castle walls kept contained the wild landscapes of 2107, a landscape which seemed like the wilds themselves were reclaiming. The owner had obviously never fallen for the frightening pitches of insurance salesmen, and large oaks still cast broad shadows from end to end. In these shadows weren't overgrown grasses and wild weeds, but a natural garden that was planted by man and tended only by the elements.

I made my way through this beautiful thicket along a diligent brick path which, through careful planning and close attention, showed that human hands still had their hold on this place. The path rose from the ground in simple steps flanked by wrought iron handrails to a door once verdant green door that time had weathered to match the woods.

The door was framed by white and wooden walls that stretched out in all directions, with windows that time seemed to be slowly melting as the only interruption of their cracked expanse.

From the middle of that moss colored door a polished brass lion with a copper circle grasped firmly in bared teeth stared at me with an expression of careless curiosity. I pivoted that ring three times, hard and sharp against the door. The sound rang clear and was swallowed in the thickets. The silence after carried a new kind of weight.

A muffled shuffle eventually pushed its way through the heavy wood, which soon reverberated with the sounds of clicks and chains, latches and locks, the unraveling of each another measured step in turning a barricade into a portal.

When the noises stopped, the handle turned, and the door swung forward into the light and in the resulting space stood an old man. His expression was the same as the lion's, a placid indifference that compelled from you an explanation.

The color of his deep dark skin sat in stark contrast to the color white walls, though the cracks of time running through both gave the two a certain harmony. His hair was white and wild on either side of a perfectly preserved parting line that ran neatly down the center of his head.

He looked at me for a moment with those languid, tired eyes, staring deep into something I had long ago convinced myself I was actually able to hide from the world. With a brief sigh he said, "You must be the boy from the paper." He turned to head inside.

As I followed him from the foyer to the living room, I thought for a moment that somehow he had transported me to a new house. The hall was a deep and immaculate burgundy, with not a dent or divot against the entire expanse. The floors were a well shined mahogany, free from any scuffs or scrapes. On the either wall in various frames were two parallel lines of yellowing papers with headlines like, "200,000 march...", "Rights Bill Becomes Law...", "Charlottesville Dorps Segregation..."

The red of the halls changed to a deep rich yellow as we entered the living room, all except one wall which was covered to books floor to ceiling. The ravages of time that attacked the houses exterior seemed to hold now power on the other side of the threshold. My host sunk deep in a large wooden chair, while I sat across from him on a low upholstered couch. We sat in silence for quite some time, me waiting for permission to speak, him waiting for what seemed like nothing in particular. Finally a flash in his eye, like a light shining up from an impossibly deep well, prompted me to speak.

"Mr. Wilson," I said, slowly bringing out my recorder, "tell me about the riot."

He took a deep breath and began to speak.


I'm a wordy man. I'm sure there's more to this story, but really it was just a way to use a house to give some clues to who Mr. Wilson is and what amazing things he has inside of him.

If you managed to read the whole thing, your feedback in welcome.

user-inactivated  ·  2794 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I think you have achieved your goal of presenting Mr. Wilson as part of the space he occupies. He is someone of the past who is still tenaciously holding on against time's march. I assume you mean to present him as sharp inside if you were to develop the story farther along because of the way you've presented the inner area of his home. I very much liked the presentation of the books within his parlor as the anchoring point of the home both because of the way early black civil right's leaders had to be well educated and present themselves, but also because that's always how I've felt next to a big wall-covering bookshelf, as if it was there to hold the weight of the entire house down on one corner. Big and powerful and larger than life.

Isherwood  ·  2794 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Spot on. If I were to develop it out, it would be the story of a downtown neighborhood in a southern city. As mostly white families come in with the intention of becoming part of the history of the neighborhood, they actually preserve a cleaner and more distant version of the past. As homeowners associations and neighborhood watch groups try to get Mr. Wilson to clean up his house to bring it up to the standards of the newly "historic neighborhood" the conversation with the reporter will show that the good intentions of these new families are almost the same as those of their father's, whose patronizing "we know best attitude" pushed a generation to the tipping point.

It's a fun idea actually, with the house and the neighborhood acting as a mirror to the social issues.

You're right about the interior and the book case, I'm hoping for Mr. Wilson to be the one who sees the parallels, and uses his knowledge of history to navigate a world of whites who believe they're helping but who also haven't examined that belief.