Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chapter 2 - Fog On The Windows

Their house is the oldest on the block, a one story ranch. It used to be the only house for miles until the previous owners of the house sold their lot to a developer ten years ago. The developer divided the land into subplots. He sculpted the land into small hills and on top of the hills constructed large houses in a Georgian style. This developer was also responsible for the industrial park about five miles away on route sixteen. A large chemical company, a civil engineering firm, and a furniture retailer moved in and their employees bought the houses soon afterwards. A few of them quickly constructed patios and chained grills to them. The grills mostly stayed covered with bright blue tarpaulin.

One family installed an in-ground pool in their backyard, soon after that a wooden fence about nine feet tall and after that a row of evergreen hedges in front of the fence. This last alteration was done at the request of the neighborhood homeowners' association.

The original owners of the boy's property didn't follow the trend of the neighborhood. Instead of a large open front yard used only to display the house sitting on it they kept one screened by large oak trees and smaller sugar maples. When they put the home up for sale they debated whether to cut the old oak trees down. One of the trees had a termite infestation another had more dead branches than live ones, but before a decision was made the house had been sold to the boy's parent's who then completed the decision and left the trees in place.

The rest of the trees in the neighborhood are less than ten years old and it is apparent their placement was made for convenience. Most are placed twenty five feet in front of each front door just to the right or left of the house. So if you stand at the beginning of the walkway facing the house you can see a small patch of blue sky between it and the tree. Just enough space to ensure that falling branches don't damage the house or car or land in the walkway. The branches can then be removed at the owner's discretion. One house has a row of saplings equally spaced. Each is supported by small cables staked to the ground and surrounded by light brown woodchips edged with plastic.

In comparison to the rest of the houses on the street the boy's house looks wild. His mom keeps a garden in the backyard in one corner where she grows tomatoes, basil, and hydrangeas. The rest of the yard grows naturally. They don't have a garage or a carport like the other houses just a narrow gravel driveway in the right corner of their front yard next to the mailbox.

The neighbors on their right are an elderly Portuguese couple who moved their four years ago after winning the state lottery. They are friendly and they say hello to the boy and his family when they arrive home. They are always in the front yard trimming hedges, mowing the lawn, or tidying up the area around the statuette of the Virgin Mary. The boy likes the old man and will sometimes sit with him on his porch in exchange for candy while he smokes cigarettes and reminisces about the old country.

The boy's family doesn't have neighbors on the left side just a swamp. At night the frogs sing and the boy will sit at the desk near his bedroom window and draw slimy creatures eating each other while he listens.

Instead of taking the granite walkway the boy walks through the damp grass on the way to the car. It soaks his sneakers. His mom gets in the driver's seat and leans to unlock the door. The boy hastily tries to open the door before she can lift the lock's button. This happens two more times until his mother gives him a look that says 'relax'. The boy nods in agreement. He opens the door and gets in. His mother starts the engine and pulls out of the driveway.

Troy elementary school is a ten minute drive from their home. Most of that ten minutes is spent backed up near the onramp to interstate ninety. The boy actually likes the time in traffic. He looks out the window at the cars in the next lane and stares at the people inside. Most of the time people don't notice him. Most aren't awake at this time yet having spent their night asleep in their bed and the beginning of their day half asleep at the wheel .

He sees the same people nearly everyday. There is the woman who is always talking to herself. She gestures wildly with her hands and makes strange faces while she stares at the bumper of the car in front of her. There is the man who constantly wipes his sunglasses on his shirt. He holds them up arms length to the sunlight and then frowns at the oily smudges he sees on the edges. There's also the woman who nervously runs her fingers through her hair while her baby in the back gleefully bounces his fat legs on his plastic car seat.

The boy sees all these people and wonders if he is a character to someone else. Is he just the boy who presses his forehead to the window and breathes fog?

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