the twit


    prosepost: the house on the empty lot

    for lizzie. a half-fiction about trees.

    One-Nine-Seven-Six-Oh South Sagamore Fairview Park Ohio Four-Four-One-Two-Six.

    Two were in the front. One a scraggly crab apple thing that filled the ground with devilish green marbles for twisted ankles and bruised arms and which rotted faint and sour. And its neighbor, of the suburban pastoral: sturdy hips at the trunk underneath a robust, leafy afro. Lower branches both imminently reachable and lovingly sturdy. Thick, well-spaced diversions with climbable veins up nearly to the height of the house. The only mistaken branch was a perfectly horizontal hangnail, bark bare and peppered with wormy intrusion--it gave way once while I was dangled on it, considering a pull-up.

    Then the immense, shady resident of the empty lot between our house, the sturdy house (with the sturdy tree and the crab apple thing), and the blinding-white-with-black-shades house of the neighbors. Googie and Peg, mother and daughter, lived there. Googie had hair like snow or cotton and seemed to subsist on hard candy and daytime television. Peg was (looking back on it) a smoker and a dancer, with hair kept meaningfully short and gray with knowing. She died of breast cancer after moving to Texas. Googie just sort of evaporated, like sunshine. They kept the most vivid garden, with colors clear and bright enough to be painful, so you always kind of looked beyond the petals or at some buzzing speck. I was behind the garden digging when I chanced upon an odd thing--corpse white, with candy red dots for eyes. It was the size of a wine cork, and looked like an albino bee with no wings and mantis claws. I touched it with my finger and it pinched me hard enough to scream, ripping the thing in half as I yanked my finger back. Its insides were an oatmealy pulp, the same color as its skin, and the candy eyes never looked away.

    The tree there in the empty lot was like a gigantic god that you didn't have to think about being there or not, and seemed content to be generally ignored as it went about its business of shade and squirrel-bearing. At the back of the lot was Googie's chalk-white bird feeder that seemed as ancient as she was and in which I thought the coldest water sat. I knocked the basin off the bird feeder once and stood there watching the slimy soot at its bottom glisten in the sun, while the gigantic tree looked down on me and smiled in kindness.

    Pines lined the side of the house facing the empty lot. I knew they were pines because of the needles, and the sap that stuck on my fingertips even after washing, and the shale-chip bark that would jump off if you ran a stick up and down the trunk.

    Two of the pines went down while we lived there--felled by lightning just months apart. Mom said it was because of the young boy who died of cancer and who lived in the house before we did. He didn't want us to move. I wasn't sure about the lightning, but I was sure about these things: (1) that his name was Michael (like my brother's), (2) that he appeared in my dreams once:  lying in bed and someone coming up the stairs very bad. run to parents' room and knock frantically. no answer. try the doorknob and it doesn't turn, except it finally does and open the door to see two people sitting straight up in my parent's bed who aren't my parents. someone coming up the stairs very bad about to turn the corner and back in bed pull sheets over. then the shadow bending above and through sheet two eyes glow electric red. (3) that he helped me once. We were moving out of the sturdy house into another one in the same neighborhood. My sister Sarah was a surprise--she was the last and I was the first--and after Mikey had a hard time sleeping in the room with her we switched rooms because I was able to handle the ceaseless whirr and whine of the hamster wheel when we had a hamster and now I would handle the excited squat-thrusts of a diapered baby when we had a baby. Sarah held onto the crib railing and bobbed up and down and talked to the universe.  We needed a bigger house so we moved to one, and along the way lightning hit two of the pine trees on the side of the house facing the empty lot. On one of the moving days, Dad was yelling at me and backed me into the open trunk of the station wagon, and instead of being afraid or sad I became angry back, spitting red electric angry, and told him he better not. After which Dad went back in the house, slamming the screen door, and I stayed in the station wagon still aglow. Some minutes later Dad returned impossibly quiet, and with an absence he finished packing the car for a trip to the new house. Later, Mom said that he had gone up to my old room to get some boxes, and saw that the floor was covered in wood splinters. A baseball bat--bisected lengthwise and upon which was attached some wooden knobs, thereafter nailed to our childhood closest wall for the hanging of our childhood jackets--had been torn off the wall and broken in half. No one else had been in the house, except maybe Michael.

    There is a house now on top of the empty lot. It sits uncomfortably, faceless and forced like it's filling in for a dead guitarist. The house is right there where the gigantic tree was, and the bird feeder. The sturdy tree and the crab-apple thing are gone, too--replaced by teenage-looking implants, gangly out of proportion and awkwardly not-yet-full. I still drive past sometimes, when I'm in Cleveland, and try my best to remember. But I'm not sure what happened to the rest of the pines.