I have always had an overactive imagination (an excellent asset for an artist) and though I seldom dream (or remember them anyway), I have always been able to visualize extremely well. In my youth, evidently I used to daydream just a little too well, at least if you take any credence from report card comments among the teachers throughout grammar school, yet somehow also maintained a 3.0 or better grade point average the entire time – go figure. Anyway, here is a scene from a daydream I had as a kid, which I have generously embellished on to fit my purposes and just because I happened to be in a writing mood today. Keep in mind this started with the perspective of a nine year old boy’s imagination after reading Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain for a school assignment:
It was a calm and sunny day during the Spring. There is a slight breeze blowing scents of Jasmine and Lilac from nearby neighbor’s yards. The colors are rich with all the flowers in bloom and the temperature is about 72 degrees, even though it is twilight already.
Sitting in a wrought iron chair on the front porch is an average build, woman in an older-style, Victorian dress, hiked slightly because she is seated, light brown with lace exposed at the bottom, tailored and tapered to perfectly fit her body; finishing her outfit with a set of heeled boots, accented with hooks.
She sat in a very smartly and proper, facing the street, her smile exuding health and vitality. Her face was glinting yellowish-orange from the glow of light from the window behind, as she sat patiently awaiting a meeting with her prospective client, or perhaps, clients, unsure if his wife would accompany him from their earlier telephone conversation.
She loved her job and researched her market and real estate well, enjoying the learning process of history and the newly available massive informational encyclopedia of the Internet, yet was equally versed in library etiquette and study. Leading the clients all round the houses and through the rooms pointing out features of significance, explaining stories based on facts of those occupants of the past and knowledge she’d learned of them, was a very strong talent. Strangely, she always assumed character which sounded like someone from inside a Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer story, or a character straight out of one of Mark Twain’s yarns as told to a friend in a tavern. It seemed to endear her to people and lent a stronger air to both her demeanor and her attire, making her as much an era piece as the real estate she handled.
“You must be the Fergusons!” She said revealing her obvious accent as she warmly greeted the couple and shined her most genuinely cheerful smile, reached out her hand and shook each of their hands.
“Ya know, Joe Spencer Cone hisself built this thing, we ba’lieve an’ lived here ’til he up and got his spread outside of town, a year or so later. It’s called Rancho De La Berrendos, an’ started raisin cattle, then sheep…but boy did he do good with tha grain and wheat! Made hisself rich an all like that, up and b’fore he be’cums mister fancy pants an’ started doin’ law with tha state assembly and done his spit as a ra-i-l-rode commissiner! Yes, goodness me! Howyja like that! Them huge old victor’ans can do all this an’ that, making thingy-ma-bobbers an’ other kinda stuff, inven’shuns an’ tha lik, cuz thar wurn’t nobody out here, or com-pa-ti-shun back then, so’s if ya had half a brain, ya could’a dun real well fer youself.”
She smiled and opened the front door, gesturing for them to follow, then she said, “Cum’on in!” Standing in the entry hallway, a beautiful stairway to the left and above, matched by two large pocket doors on the right, contrasted sharply in their dark wood to the large, overhead white lamp with a pull cord hanging down within reach. To the immediate left, a wide bay was built with three large windows, creating a base landing for the stairs. She gestured for them to follow her up the carpeted steps of the solid stairs. Pausing for a few seconds on the center landing, she gestured upwards, towards the ceiling and turned to face the wall, pointing out a huge window far above reach. Turning back, she rose from the center landing, up the stairs and three doors came into view, a single door directly at the top of the stairs across the top landing, and two doors graced each side of the center door, half-open framed glass window vents built above each.
“All tha doors still work with a skeleton key, ‘cept’n tha added hooks an’ clasps fer bedroom privacy, plus outside doors is better sa’cured ta keep out any riff-raff fella’s, how’s ya like that? Looky-here,” she paused, ascending the stairs slowly, glancing between the next step and the two clients. Drawing in a sharp, deep breath, continued, running sentences together in nervous monologue, “Ya got lots ov rooms in this place! Hell-a-ce-ous floor space! My GAWD!” she accented sharply, taking another step and breath, continued, “It’s got lik over two thousand, four hundred an’ forty square feet to this here house!” she exclaimed, opening arms wide and connecting with one wall, continued, raising her voice slightly louder in emphasis.
“Footprint’s got ‘bout thirty-four…oh…ah…” she trailed, quickly and as discreetly as possible opened her briefcase, and peeking into it, glanced quickly down, pulled a file partially open and looked inside to check her figures, a small portion of a file end protruding slightly. “Hmm…” she said drawing the sound out, trailing her voice. Then, apparently discovering the information she had sought, dropped the file back into her case, captured a quick breath, and with a quiet sucking sound, continued, “Ah, yes…by a hundred an’ ten feet wide, overall!”
She caught as deep a breath as she could, preparing for the stair climb, the corset just snug enough to hold her how she liked, but while not too tight for airflow, it did constrict a little, so as long as she drew deeper breaths while standing straight and before exertion like the stairs, she was okay. Her friend’s thought she was crazy to wear one while showing a house with stairs, yet they had to admit it did shape her figure well and placed her into the part playing a southern Victorian woman of the period in time she was imitating.
Her eyes met the man’s directly, pausing slightly on the landing to speak directly to him, then, in kind to his companion. She continued as smoothly as possible, “An’ it’s fully fenced on both sides. plus across the en-ti-er back yard.”
“Oh, my, how I do go on…” nervously emitting half of a laugh, took another breath and continued, “ I get that way wit new people on account of my excitement wit showin’ such a grand house lik this one here house is!” She smiled widely, her cheeks flushing. “I think it’s a great buy! An’ I’m not jist sayin’ that cuz I’m a doin’ tha sellin’ eith’a! I own a home, a couple rentals, an’ a office already, or I’d buy this in a lick, er, a short minute!” she sharply contorted in a quick burst, “Yes’um!”
She gave her most sincere look, and then, began again, “Thay’s a big ‘nuff area fer a motorhome on tha side wit tha cherry tree, but tha gate is too small to fit one in thar…but ya do gits a covered carport ov concrete out in tha back fer another car, or boat, three-wheeler, or whatever.”
As they neared the top landing, the open door of the room to the left revealed a six foot tall, built-in, white shelf with glass doors on the topside of it, kitty-corner to the door. New carpeting was laid on the floor and fresh paint was accented by hanging drapery 3/4 of the way up the tall walls. As she strode into the large room upstairs, her arms raised upwards in wide, exaggeratedly open arms, fanning the movement first towards the ceiling and continuing slowly down the full breadth of the twelve foot tall walls, down to the floor.
She walked across the room and over to the built-in bookcase, opening all the doors, then started speaking in a higher pitch, great excitement and passion in her voice, “You can build shelves up ’em, an’ climb up, an’ add on moor, an’ climb up sum moor, an’ add on sum moor, until finally ya gits uppins to tha ceiling! Jist don’t look down from way up thar tho’, ore ya might jus get dizzy or sick an’ all!”
“Ya know, twelve foot ceilin’s is taller as tha top’a them basketball hooper thangs, they created in ’91, 1891, when basketball was invented. An’ tha rooms wuz built fer boarders way back in them thar days. This house wuz filled with boarders, more’na few times over tha years,” she gasped quickly and continued, “Zilpha E-liz-a-beth Mc-Cubbins, bless her hart, rented out rooms fer a bit. Did I tell ya she wuz the first white woman ta reside in McDonough County, livin’ thar lik’ that, fer over two years…” she whistled slightly as she drew another breath, “Yes’um, she could even speak their langwage, tha Potta-wa-to-mie langwage, back in Hancock, Illinois. Yep! Her husband up an’ died ten years b’fore her did, leavin’ her to mind fer herself’s, right here in Red Bluff, pioneer country, sum of tha first ov them early settlers back thar when all tha Injuns wuz still around an’ all.”
“Thar wuz anotha man what lived here who wuz a ra-il-road man too — think he wuz tha third own-ah of tha house, went by tha name of Jim, no, James Barham. He wuz also the Master pooba, whatever they call em in those places; ah, yes, Vesper Lodge! That’s it! Ya know, the Masons, ah, Masonic hall. Guess he ran tha place an’ all. Anyhoo, dunno much ’bout such stuff, ‘cept-in they’s a strange bunch, all se-crative and such,so’s nobody knows they’s business. Suits me fine as long as nun ‘ov ’em go cutting up an-a-mals an’ doin’ voodoo an’ all. Heh, heh,” escaped a nervous laugh, her eyes fogged over with a second in reflection. She yanked open a door on the opposite side of the room, it giving way with a quiet shudder.
She moved back from the center of the room and continued, “An’ plenty of fresh air in this room,” she said opening a door leading to a screened in room. “An’ if ya open this door in tha summer, it ba’cums an’ outlet fer a swamp coo’lar. They’s cheaper than a air con’di’shuner, an’ a house fan lik sittin’ in tha wind’ah way up high thar ‘bove tha center landin’ ov tha stairway, might suit ya jist fine fer an air exchange ta remove any built up hot air, with tha high ceilin’s an all! Ya know it git’s pretty hot here in Red Bluff durin’ tha summer…over 110 da’grees sumtimes in August.”
She walked past them through a smaller room and into the upstairs bathroom, then spoke again, ” See this here light fixture?” pointing out the painted accents with her hands, “It’s an orig’nal, just lik tha clawfoot tub! Sink too, all orig’nal fixtures. Too bad they didn’t have tha fancy tank on top ov tha toilet, but a crapper’s a crapper, ah guess, ha ha!” She gestured toward the second door to the right of the door they had just came in through, “This here’s so’s ya can git in from tha screened porch we wuz jist in, ‘stead ov walkin’ round,” she said absentmindedly. “Let’s head over ta tha master bedroom,” sweeping her hand back towards the larger room and upstairs stair landing.
After each looked inside, she shut that door, and then opened the master bedroom to the right. “Check out this huge walk-in closet!” Quietly she said, “Sorry ’bout tha paint an’ spida-webs!” Lowering her voice she added, “they’s still cleanin’ an’ all. Continuing with normal tone she exclaimed, “It goes all tha way round tha corner, with more shelves built in thar,” she gestured indicating the curve of the hidden shelves at the back end of the closet. “Tha air condishner works real good too! Good sized room fer back in them days an’ see how nicely tha bay wind’as give light!” There was a shelf one the wall as if it was for a headboard to the far right behind the open door.
They continued out and she closed that door, opening the door of the other room at a sharp right to the stairway on the landing.
“Notice the venta-la-shun wind’as above all three doors,” she pointed out for the doors around the top stair landing.
“See that one over there for outside air above tha door outside ta tha front porch?” she pointed to theopposite wall. “An’ see tha bay wind’a in here too? Good air an’ light too!” She gestured at the hand-built closet, obviously added at a later date. “Back in tha day, they used Lincoln closets,” she dismissed as she stepped past them to go through the doorway. “So shall we head downstairs? Oh, an’ if’n ya didn’t see it, thar’s tha wind’a I wuz talkin’ ’bout fer tha whole house fan,” she gestured upwards as they began to descend the staircase.
“I love how they’s got tha bay wind’as on each side ov tha front ov tha house. Nice feature!” At the bottom of the stairs she stepped through the entrance hallway, past the front door and opened the two big pocket doors into the living room. “Tha pocket doors close tha livin’ room off ov tha rest ov tha house. Guess it would work well fer parties an’ such, I ‘spose.” Nice iron fireplace with tha green ceramic top an’ tha clawfoots make a nice accent too. Wind’as are all bigger here, downstairs I noticed.”
Opposite the pocket door doorway, on the far wall to the right, was a large, built-in china cabinet with glass doors over large drawers. She walked over to the far side
of the bay windows at the front of the house and revealed an air conditioner hidden by the heavy drapery. “Tha owners said they never used tha pocket doors by the stoves, but kept tha doors near tha front door closed during tha winter ta keep tha heat in, an’ also tha hotter part of tha summer for tha cooler ta keep it cooler.”
Closing the drape, she closed the pocket doors they had walked through from the front hallway after coming down the stairs, then crossed the room into the dining room area.”Nice design how they built tha china cab-net so’s ya can see yer dishes from anywhere in tha room.” she commented pointing out it was very similar to the one upstairs, except there were drawers at the bottom and it opened at the back on the kitchen side too.
Passing through the open pocket doors into the dining room, immediately after the doorway, a metal gas heater was revealed on the right and behind, several long shelves for books, opening into a dining room. Another doorway could be seen at the immediate left, and farther down on the same side of the wall. Directly across the room on the left, was the door into the kitchen. Walking through to each door in kind, she explained as she opened the closest, at immediate left, “This one opens so ya can bypass tha pocket doors and enter straight inta tha dining room from the entry hallway,” she said, purposely leaving the door open.
Walking to the second door, farther down on the left wall, she spoke again, “They used this as a craftsroom, for tha lady of tha house once had a candle shop inside.” She walked through, revealing a long tabletop shelf above several other shelves. Pulling up a cover underneath several items on top, She reached into the box at the far end, made a downward scooping motion, then lifted her hand out. The lid snapped down sharply as she held her hand out to reveal sand. She opened the lid back up and let the sand fall from her hand back into the box. Wiping her hands into the nearby corner, she gestured to the shelves that lined the walls almost to the ceiling.
“I’m told thar’s ah doorway bahind this counter top an’ shelves. If’n ya look close, ya can see it,” she said gesturing at the hidden doorway. “An’ looky over thar, that’s a nice little workbench,” she pointed to the left side of the room behind the doorway they were standing in, then continuing to sweep towards the back of the room, another door sat.
She walked over to it and threw it open. “Ya see, in these old houses, they used every bits pf space they could.” A small closet with a tapered ceiling showed. “It’s under tha stairs!” she declared, pointing out the obvious. “Let’s head into tha kitchen.” She closed both doors as the couple backed their way out of the room, then she walked past them and continued on into the kitchen. “How ya lik tha size of this here kitchen!” she exclaimed excitedly. Flicking on the light switch caused a fan to light the room, revealing a large countertop with drawers underneath, to the right across the room, and a door straight across and ahead of where they stood in the doorway. She walked to the right so they could come into the room.
“Cab-nets everywhere,” she exclaimed, continuing, “An’ the double oven with a overhead lighted four-burner rangetop!” she gestured to their immediate right. “The hot water heater between tha stove and china cab-net warms tha room, an’, of course on tha other side of tha china cab-net,” she continued, sweeping her arm to the left, “Built-in dishwasher nosin’ out at the far end, an’ huge farm-style single sink! Look at tha far side of tha china cab-net, a built-in spice rack, an’ all those cab-nets…” She trailed her voice as she walked towards them and gestured to the other side of the room.
“Outside door, actually to a back porch with a washroom,” she dismissed as she continued down the center of the long room. Walking past them, still standing in the doorway between the dining room and kitchen, she passed another countertop with many drawers underneath and cabinets above, centered on the wall to the left of the door they had seen as they first entered the room. Walking to the end of the counter, she opened the doorway revealing a shower stall and bathroom, with a toilet furthest from the door. “How quaint, a pull chain fer thalight,” she continued as they peeked into the room. “Lots of room fer shelves or whatever ya want,” waving her arm in a circular motion to encompass the room
She came back out of the bathroom as the couple stepped back, “Have ya ever seen so many cupboards in a kitchen bafore?” she said as she stood in the doorway. Pointing downto the, she said, “They’s a root cella’ with shelves ba’low, still all orig’nal lik, dirt floor an’ all. Pretty good size too…almost as big as this half ov tha room! Wanna give it a looky?” she continued, her voice lifting as she posed the question, “You’s can see tha found-a-shun from down in there.” She whipped out a key and pried up the 20″x 30″ cover from the floor, responding to his nod. “Be careful, lik they say, that first step is a doozey!” she added as he stepped down while holding the floor on both sides of the opening.
“All orig’nal,” she continued matter-of-factly, “An’ it’s lasted fer near a hundred an’ fifty years, so’s they got sumthin’ right! Today’s houses don’t last half that! They’s wuz craftsmen then!”
She closed the floor access and walked towards the last door, leading to the back porch. Opening the door, she said, “Got ya a washer an’ dryer, with a huge wash basin!” She pointed at the deep, concrete double sink. Turning, she continued through the back porch area, around a plain wood shelf, then turned and walked through the old screendoor and out into the backyard. “Here ya see tha big workshop tha owner built fer hisself, an’ a carport between tha picnic table deck on tha house an’ dech with tha huge hot tub…” she paused walking over to open the cover, ”Thar’s seatin’ fer eight people, that far side has tha lay down, all body massage bubbles too! Nice deck for flowers and such, an’ a small backyard area left,” she said walking across the ten foot square deck that led into the back yard.
“Great shade!” she said gesturing above, then pointing to the base of the pomegranate tree, said, “An’ a pom-o-gran-et tree, fig shoots which could become a tree, an’ tha big cherry tree ya’ all seen on left facing tha front door when ya came up ta tha porch!” she said as she led them behind the wash room and past the pomegranate tree to see the hidden side of the house.
“See, tha missus put in rosebushes, grapes, ivy, trumpet vine an’… hm… I’m not quite sure what else, guess I gotta do sum studyin'” see said as she pointed out the numerous plants in both directions behind the workshop.
Walking back across the yard to the other side, she pointed out the little walkway deck, then the picnic table deck, with the patio. Continuing past, they walked to the other side of the house, to the larger part of the yard.
“Sorry fer all the leaves an’ what’not, makes a bigger mess to see than I gen-raly lik ta show,” she said, walking into the shop. “He, ah, tha own’a, had plans fer a, what’s ya call them roof thingies? Like on a church, within shutters an’ such? oh, yea, a cupola!” She danced a little two step jig in reward at remembering.
“It’s all roofed an’ until he got tha cupola built, he’s been usin’ tarps ta cover tha openin’. Padio goes all tha way under tha shop, fer tha most part. Gates open wide e’nuff fer a car or boat. Let’s look in tha back so’s ya can see tha plants an’ all.”
She walked them across the hot tub deck and out into the back yard. Several roses and some vines climbed the side fence directly at the back of a neighbor’s exterior wall. “How they got away with buildin so close wit that little house is beyond me…guess they wuz bein’ like San Fran-cis-co does it.”
“That one grapevine will cum back, it’s a diff’rent kind, an’ tha leaves cum off sooner is all.” Pointing up, she motioned at the massive trees overhead. “Those trees gotta be a hundred years old all by themselves,” she muttered. “Well, let’s head back…”
“Oh sorry, I forgot to mention ’bout tha hot tub. It’s got a full lounge across on tha oth’a side fer ya ta lay down in, an’ bubblers all across yer backside when layin’, an’ I think 4 or 5 oth’a seats wit bubblers too!” She walked up to the steps, turned around, then pointed to a little planted garden area with pots. “Tha missus wuz quite tha little gard’ner ba’fore she died. Sadly, she wuz gone a couple years ba’fore tha master of tha house, an’ he wuz heart-broked, so tha plants kinda went awry.”
She continued past and said, “See there,” pointing upward at the back of the house, “They’s wuz a whole staircase wit two landin’s, an’ a ladder which cum down by tha back door on tha left side. Own’a took it down cuz wuz gettin’ too unsafe. Old wood an’ all. Guess’in it worn’t made’a redwood lik tha rest ov tha house is. As an after-thought she added, “Oh, an’ all tha decks is e’tha redwood or cedar, not sure.” She stopped for a second before opening the back door, pointing down beside it and exclaimed, “Oh, lookie, a doggie door!” then opened the door.
Before opening the door into the house, she opened her purse, retrieved a business card and handed it to the gentleman. “Thank you for cum’in on time. Lots ov people get side-tracked, an’ fergit ta call an’ let me know. I use’yaly give ’em an’ hour or so’s ba’fore I call wit a remind’a. enlessen I got plans.”
She opened the door, headed through the kitchen, and continued through the house. Passing through the dining room she pointed up to the lights saying, “Those ova’head lights on tha fans in tha dinin’ room an’ livin’room, is from tha brick schoolhouse on tha other side of tha train tracks at the end of tha street.” She pointed to the northwest. “Circa 1920’s I wuz told,” she said. “I lik tha nic-nac shelf wit room fer books an’ tha like. Tha mirror is a nice touch, an’ ya can see a full view.”
She said, “Well, that’s tha house, let me know what ya think after ya talk on it,” she said, watching them walk down the steps.
“Give a call if’n ya wanna take anoth’a tour, or if ya got questions, or anythin’ else ya think ov in tha meantime!” Shaking their hands once more, she presented a warm and cheerful, fully sincere smile, and waved them goodbye. “Bye now! Drive safe! Have a great eve’nin’!”
She reached into her purse and grabbed a cigarette. She took as deep a breath as possible and sighing deeply, placed the cigarette into her mouth. “So, tell me, how’d I do for a first time effort?” she asked. “I was shaking inside the whole time even though I know you.”
The couple stopped at the end of the sidewalk and turned around…
more to come…