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The House MAG
There was a slow, constant murmur surrounding him of clickingtypewriter keys, urgent voices, and a thousand vital minds pouring out tomorrow'snews.
"Becker! Becker!" He whirled around to face a small,red-cheeked man with a low protruding brow, holding a stack of papers up to hisnose.
"Becker, I'm putting you on assignment."
He heaveda great sigh and forced out, "Where?"
"Some old woman, yaknow, her house is gonna be demolished and she won't move out - big stuff."Jason Becker felt a flush of blood to his face from Demar'scynicism.
"Why, why can't I get assigned, just once, somethingimportant? Anything anyone will care about! How can I work my way up if I'mblowing time interviewing old ninnies?" He caught himself as he noticedapprehensive eyes moving from their paper to him. He shifted uncomfortably andcontinued in a muffled yet severe voice, "I'm a reporter, not a convalescentcoordinator, and I want news..." He stormed off haughtily, causing thered-faced man to lose his balance.
Jason Becker lost no time in recoveringhis former state. In his savvy prance he made his way back to his office where hemuttered obscenities to himself for about an hour, and then decided he had togo.
At seven o'clock the next night, Jason got in his blue sedan andpulled out of his driveway on a course to 219 Boudreau Street. He understood thehouse was "pale green, rather like a lime but not so bitter, and somewhatlike an apple but not quite so sweet" as it had been described to him by aMrs. Claire Julia Hubbard in a brief telephone juncture. He felt this was arather ambiguous characterization; nonetheless, he found the house quite easily.In fact, he was somewhat taken aback with the accuracy of the description. It wasan old Victorian house, unfortunately in poor condition. The paint was uniformlypeeling, some of the roof tiles were randomly scattered in the yard, and many ofthe shutters were connected by only one hinge. It had a very ancient air aboutit, devoid of triviality. This was a house that had seen many things of which itwould never tell. For a fleeting moment he was scared to go any further for fearof disrupting its regal antiquity. He knocked three times on the door andcouldn't help but shiver in the frigid night as it slowly opened.
Beforehim stood a woman of about seventy-four, who was petite and quite beautiful forher age. She had a mass of thin, white wisps crowning her round face. Her sunkencheeks accented her hazel eyes and she smiled at him.
"Hello, Isuppose you are the young man from the Boston Globe?"
"Yesthat's correct. Jason Becker. Very nice to meet you."
"Oh yes,likewise, dear, likewise. You do know my name is Julia Hubbard. Please come in,I've just opened a jar of my orange rhubarb preserves, would you like some?"She looked straight into his eyes when he quickly diverted his glance. He didn'tlike eye contact.
"No, uh, I'm fine, thanks." He quickly seatedhimself in the parlor.
"Please forgive the appearance of the house. Iguess I haven't entertained in, oh, ten, eleven years." Becker flashed apatronizing look at her. He thought she missed it.
"Well, shall webegin? I have a general sketch of questions here, so feel free to diverge fromwhat I ask." She nodded, smiling. "Let's see, so how long have youlived in this house now?"
"Oh, has it been, I suppose, it hasbeen, fifty-four years now. My, my..." Jason shifted uncomfortably, andcleared his throat.
"Please call meClaire," she interrupted. He shot her a disdainfulglance.
"Okay," he started slowly, "Claire, I am tounderstand that a court order has been issued ordering you out of thisbuilding..."
"Not a building, a house, dear, a house." Henarrowed his eyes.
"... ordering you out of this housethen."
"Yes, that's true," she tipped her headinquisitively, and Jason chuckled quietly to himself as he ran his fingerstentatively through his thick raven hair.
"Yes, Claire, you havepersistently ignored these orders to vacate the house, which has already beencondemned."
"That, that's true too," she bit her lower lipand put her hand up to her tiny, drawnmouth.
"Are you sure you don't want some ofmy preserves?"
"Yes, Mrs. Hubbard. Please justanswer..."
"Okay, I understand. You reporters just like to getto the point. I don't want to move out for many reasons. In 1935, I was justtwenty, my, my, twenty... It was young Claire and her new husband. When Jasonpassed away..."
"Jason?" He averted his eyes from theirfixation on the floor and glanced at her sharply.
"My husband, dear,my late husband, I should say. I, I spent my life here with him, well, I justcan't leave. Yes, that's why, I simply can't. It's beyond my choice, I justcannot." He shrugged, but felt sympathy for her that his passiveness did notexpress.
"I'm, I'm sorry, Mrs. Hubbard, can we continue theinterview?"
"Yes, I'm sorry as well. I tend to get worked upover these things, you know."
"Of course. Now, why do you feelyou can't?"
"Do you see that dent in the wall over there? That'sfrom Christmas of 1948. Jason had set up the tree - oh, it was a grandtree!" She laughed out loud, "Emma, my daughter, had just begun to putsome ornaments on when the whole thing toppled over! At the time, of course, wewere not quite as amused as we were that evening pondering the day's events, butwe all kept our humor!" He found himself laughing with her.
"Do you see that closet over there? Here, let meopen it." She walked over to the closet and opened the door. Jason noticedhow she moved rather like a spirit, floating, maintaining constant equilibriumand silent sublimity. "This here is a record of all my children as theyprogressed through childhood. See here, here is Frances at six. Isn't she justfrightfully small? We used to call her Ababy'; she was the tiniest you see."She glanced at him matter-of-factly, and he felt reassured. "Here is Harold,my eldest at four, and, why, he was sinewy even so young. Of course, here is Emmathe last time we measured her at fourteen."
"That's a rarerelic, Mrs. Hubb- Claire."
"I know, priceless isn't it? Do yousee how hard it would be to give up this house?"
"Yes, I do. Youknow what the land is desired for. The city needs a recycling plant built, andyour lot is what they are targeting for it."
"Are you sure youdon't want some tea, now? Or some of the jam?"
"Well, yes, yes,that would be very nice, thank you." She returned five minutes later withtwo porcelain tea cups and a plate of jam and cakes.
"Here we are,now. Where were we, oh, I almost forgot that chandelier, isn't it grand?"She pointed at it in the center of the parlor. It was a mass of tiny crystaldrops, and the light inside cascaded softly around the whole room through thecrystal, forming diamonds of light.
"We found it in the attic whenwe first moved in here, and I admit I was delighted with its delicacy. We call itthe dwarf's spring because we joked it was brought to us by sprites, and thelight is so like a spring."
Jason looked into her hazel eyes. Henoticed the deep crevices about them, the minute wrinkles branching from them.She had eyelashes; they were small, white eyelashes. Then there was somethingelse, a tear, a little bead of salt water flowing like a little stream throughthe crevices. Bubbling, rolling down, to meet its fate at the edge. It was partof the crystal tears on the chandelier.
"It is exquisite," hesaid with surprising soothingness, which caused her to raise her headslightly.
"Well, it's late isn't it?"
"Yes, yes,Claire. I had better leave now so you can rest."
"Thank you somuch, that's very thoughtful of you."
"You should really enjoyall the contentment you can in this house." He smiled at her, whereupon sheclasped his hand in hers and looked into his eyes as he lookedback.
"You're a very nice young man, and I wish you everything inlife you deserve." She squeezed his hand gently, which he returnedlightly.
"I genuinely hope that you keep your house, and I want youto know well, that...well that I enjoyed this interview very much." He saw alook of bliss pass over her face.
"Goodbye, Claire." He opened the large oak door andbegan walking down the flagstone path to the car. "Yeah, and now noarticle," he muttered, kicking an acorn into the empty, cold street. He wentto put on his jacket, but caught himself, realizing he didn't really need itanyway.