The Call at the Door: 10:35 pm

I have a little book in front of me titled The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing. It’s written by Monica Wood, and and I got it because a fiction professor told me it would help me get in the mind of a fiction writer. I’m supposed to be writing fiction; in fact, by the end of next summer, I will, let me say that again, I will have a young adult novel completed. (That doesn’t mean I’ll be published. That’s a whole bag of Pandora’s worms!) Okay, let’s stick to what we’re doing here. The Pocket Muse has unusual ideas for writing starts, so honestly, I just opened the book and there it was:

“An unwanted stranger comes to your door.”

This is the third year living in the city, so I have had election people, people who want me to change my electricity supplier, people who are lost, the plumbers, and then a few nights ago, as I sat cutting out alphabet letters for my students, someone jerked my front screen door open. This happened behind my back, literally, so I jumped and had that front door unbolted because I saw it was a kid.

I just caught the back of her as she ran up the street cackling, but I got enough of a look to realize it was one of my former students, one I used to mentor, one who left and came back when she was caught in a fight on Market Street, (and winning, apparently). I knew she’d try again, so I opened my front door, put a mean teacher look on my face, and there she was.

Marta.

“Ah, hahahaha!” she hollered, and off she went.

(Truthfully, I was glad to see she’s gotten braces.)

Sadly, her hair was a mess, as though she hadn’t washed it in days and because I have a strong front porch light, I could see her eyes were big as dark moons.

I shook my head. Drugs. Then I locked my screen and front doors and went to bed.

Marta wasn’t unwelcome, but there was nothing I could do for her. Unless she came back. I’m waiting.

Part Dos: This Really Old House

This is the house on Filbert Street that everyone walks by without a glance. I look at it every time I walk by to get my car and each day there is a change. The balcony sags a little more, a few windows are boarded up, and one day, I saw the beige camp chair! The next day there was a man working in the basement. It’s a city mystery. Two years ago, I would not have given this house a second look.
(“Oh, it’s condemned. Yuck!”) 
Now…I just hope someone buys it and fixes it up.
This really old house
Falling down, but there’s a chair!

This (really) Old House

The house I bought last year is over one hundred years old, but it was taken care of and renovated. It’s on the southwest side of the city they now call “SoWe.” The people on my block try to take care of things like trash and mowing and cleaning up porches. This street is so eclectic, so many different colors and styles and people. I don’t have a front porch, but I always try to say hello to everyone. (Yes! I have a stoop!)

Just across the street to the south is a large red home built sideways. The front doors face north, and it is condemned, for any number of reasons. The second floor balcony is beginning to fall, but I can see the ornate white gingerbread trim. I believe it is one of those city houses that fell on hard times. But when I look at it, somehow, I see it in its prime, glistening in the sun.

Just a week ago, I noticed a folding camp chair on its porch. Squatter? No. for the next day the Bilco doors to the basement were open, and a workman was going in and out doing godknowswhat. Nothing looked different when he left, but the next day, he was back again. I am hopeful. Maybe someone cares enough to fix the house.

I don’t look at these city houses the way I would have two years ago. There are people who don’t care, but there are also people who do. If you asked me what bothers me the most about where I live, I would have to say, trash. I pick it up, not just in front of my house, but around the corner and down to my garage. I even keep a white trash bag in the garage in case I need it. Sometimes, people look at me funny: “Is that woman really picking up trash?” Yes. Yes, I am.