2003 Hunting Lodge Road by Eileen Walden


2003 Hunting Lodge Road, 24599


I was floorboards, oak, 3 inches wide, tongue and groove, with gauge marks and woodstove ember tattoos. Two archways, rough with frayed mud tape’s paper edges, exposed from years ago when they were set. From when the old man was just a baby, but who has wrinkles now, six feet underground.

The ceiling, dressed in spirals and crests, by buckets of plaster and the thick hairs of a long circular broom. A decoration never fancy, except to this place. And now they droop, exhausted, distracted by time, a constant job of sweeping the fallen white dust. The frame of rough sawn joists are outlined in shadows made of saturated wood smoke and tobacco tar and the exhalations from generations of salty-skinned seed-sowers. A century’s settling of rat droppings seep through from the attic that encases the burnt carcass of the old kitchen’s roof frame and the papery skins that belong to the hidden hunters of small, clawed rodents. Electric wires meet under housings of repurposed tuna cans. Ungrounded connections of copper, wrapped in brittle black tape by the man with the wrinkles, who died on a couch downstairs that was afterwards burnt with the rest of his abandoned belongings in the front yard by the creek, but not before it had been scavenged for stray dimes.

Five windows, two sashes each, look through the west-facing wall. They expose the sun in decline, devoured by the tree line. Twelve salvaged glass panes to each frame rattle in crumbled glazing that, sometimes knocked loose, are re-steadied by second-hand trim pins. Beneath the sill, dry-rotten and bowed, cracked white panels of asbestos are tacked in a staggering, resentful commitment to the outside. Their deterioration melts the grass beneath into yellow, and steadily poisons the soil.

To the bathroom, to the pink, to the blue, to the seafoam green tiles that sing of the glory days of Carter’s Remodeling remains. The same sporadic and cheerful display terrorizes the walls of the shitter at the hunt club up the road, but their cabin’s foundation was built with pockets and shoulders larger than the ones that were built here, where the creek comes through the showerhead and slips down every limb, escaping through lead pipes, feeding into the garden bed, hand hoed, that boasts an iron-rich red.

A smell of wet wood rot and cellar dirt exhales from the plywood that covers the floorboards that had turned to fibers and drifted to the dampened crawlspace that the kitchen hovers above. The weight of the gas oven, double-basin enameled sink, along with the wooden top table and warm resting bread, conversations about the weather and jars of pickled beets, are all supported by beams of pine logs left dressed in their skins. Stones stacked to level the ground beneath, kick out stragglers who couldn’t bear the weighted task. The droop from the diminishing foundation causes a low sway with each step. Boards squeak as the oven opens, the dough rises, the fan breathes.

The low kitchen door, with its pink glass handle, nicks the threshold and drags a curved scratch along the bubbling pale green that embraces firewood in the winter, hornets in the summer and the microwave that only serves to melt butter.

Two lines are strung from a dwindling facia and bobble limply, clipped in spring-hinged wooden pins until decorated in cottons, spun and rinsed in the water that the creek offered. The Whirlpool flushed fluorescent bubbles spill out from a grey pipe, to a ditch outside the window of the kitchen. Vines of Virginia Creeper reach and embrace any view of the world I take.

by Eileen Walden

FalWriting Team