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Mack Williams: Old torn down house

There was a recent change in my route to work regarding what I regularly see along that route.

An old house had gone from being an example of geometrical perfection (as perfect as builders can achieve) to a shapeless clump of remains.

Some of its “disassembled” timbers still prescribed various geometric angles against the sky, immediately reminding me of similar heavenward-pointing “metal angles,” part of the remaining skeleton of the old Oestreicher building, such geometry “architected” by Salisbury’s Great fire of 1964.

That old house hadn’t looked bad on the outside; but maybe it was like those “whitened sepulchers.” Even though everything was now out in the open (of sorts), in that pile of rubble it was impossible to discern the former features of living room, den, bedrooms, kitchchen, and breakfast nook (if there had been one). Despite the revealed rubble, the look of the house’s interior seemed even more “closeted” than before!

The old tin roof was now folded grossly into a pile.I thought about Grandmother Williams’ now non-extant tin roof in North Wilkesboro, and the sound of rain upon it when we stayed overnight. Those angles of rain runoff were very few in number compared to the many varied angles in which rainwater will run off of that recently demolished house’s crumpled-up tin mess ,another difference: no one underneath (but who would want to be now?) to experience the sound.

Seeing scrap metal, I thought of a fellow Caswell County DSS employee and her sister whom I sometimes played bingo with at the “bingo hall”( a story in itself).They had a saying that if they were short on bingo-playing money, it might be “time to take a load of scrap metal, “ (meaning: to a recycling place to receive bingo-playing money in exchange). I imagine the scrap metal was often more of a “sure thing” than bingo winnings.

Ready for recycling, the tin roof was in one pile and most of the long timbers in another, sort of  like Scrooge’s bed curtains and grave clothes (intended ones) produced at Old Joe’s (not my brother) place of business to receive a fair price in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” (but in the case of the old house, what was being recycled was as if Scrooge himself were being recycled (and on a nobler note, there is organ donation).

I remind you now, dear reader, of something you have probably noticed these past years: I am nothing if not simile, nothing if not analogy (and I now take the opportunity to mention, in a most humble and unpretentious manner, that I scored “100” on the Miller Analogies Test!).

The concrete porch, still remaining where it had lain for years, seemed “unmoved” by the situation (gosh, I’m getting anthropomorphic about a concrete porch!). That platform for stepping off into the world, and stepping back home is still untouched (for now).

In addition to porch-related feet, there were once eyes which cast chance or studied gazes from other parts of the house’s destroyed “geometry,” formerly in square or rectangular form: windows.

( It now occurs to me that in addition to the physical world, my inscribed mental image of my every-day, “travel neighborhood” has also been permanently altered; and although I majored in psychology at Appalachian, I won’t get into the psychology of perception).

The house was not so old as to have had a fireplace, since no chimney or its rubble remain. Still-standing chimneys in rural America seem like our version of the much-more-ancient dolmens and cairns on the English moors.

The wreckage will soon be hauled away;  and being within the city limits, that space will likely be fought over for some new place of commerce, no more a place of home and hearth (but still electricity, oil, or gas) as before. Doors will open and shut there again, but instead of on a familial 24/7-365 basis , it will be a businesslike 9-5, Mon.-Fri.

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