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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sad (07/26/07)

TITLE: This Old House
By Lynda Schultz
07/31/07


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The floor tilted downward, with a twist to the left thrown in for good measure. The cement, cracked like the face of some ancient, was seeped in moisture from the bare earth underneath. Following suit, the walls had buckled, cold air whistled through the fractures. Every movement of the mountain, every heavy rain, threatened to bring the metal roof down into the living room. The front door clung to its hinges, held in place by a chain and sturdy bicycle lock.

The lock seemed superfluous. The room contained two water-stained mattresses, a couple of tattered hammocks twisting drunkenly from hooks hammered into the block walls. A hot plate sat on a concrete pad beside a makeshift sink. Battered pots were piled on a wooden shelf. The remnants of a meal huddled morosely in the corner of an oil-blackened frying pan, accompanied by a lazy fly turning in a holding pattern as if undecided as to whether it was worthwhile to land or not.

Clothes, trying in vain to dry, hung on a cord strung across the room. It was rainy season. Everything felt damp, even without the encouragement of the drips and drops discovering passage down through pinholes in the roof.

There really wasnít anything here worth stealing, unless the thief were even poorer than the seven souls who called this disaster-in-waiting, their home.

Once outside, it was obvious what the problem was. This house, along with several companions, perched on the edge of the side of a mountain, its backside on seemingly solid ground, its chest supported by a network of poles and broken cement block. The blocks did double duty as steps rising from a narrow path below. Close by, a meager streambed snaked down the mountain. It too did double duty, actually, triple duty. When dry, it was the only way up, or down the mountain for the inhabitants of this community. When it rained higher up and trickled gently down, the water was drunk, bathed in and cooked with. Unfortunately, other, less healthy necessities happened with it as well. Diarrhea, skin diseases, and parasites teamed up to plague everyone, and to carry off the weak and old.

It was during rainy season that the streambed changed character. No longer benevolent, but malevolent, the waters grew, overwhelming the banks, softening the ground underneath the houses, carrying away the supports both natural and man-made.

Any observer would reasonably ask why anyone stayed here. Who would sit and wait with folded hands for disaster to happen?

The truth was; there was no place else to go. The poorest of the poor did the best they could with what they could earn, scrounge, or steal. They built wherever there was a modicum of space, away from prying eyes and officials looking for deeds of ownership.

A fresh breeze invaded this, and other, cracks in the mountain. It whistled through city slums. Whispering promises of new houses in secure places, it held abandoned souls in limbo. The wind called itself government.

When months turned into years, and one rainy season washed into another without the promises being fulfilled, even those who once preferred not to be noticed by officialdom, accepted the risks and exposed themselves. They poured from the clefts of their mountain hideaways, from the slums rotting away in the cities. The poor filled out forms, listened again to the promises, and returned, empty-handed to their hovels.

They believed. It wasnít the presidentís fault. He made the promises, and they were convinced. They would follow him to the ends of the earth. The problem, they thought, lay in the hands of his underlings. Therefore, they waited, trusting that their leader would come to their aid. He would give them what they had earned with the votes that held him in office. A promise was a promise. He said so.

The wind came, and went. It never stayed to sleep in the stained beds. It needed no steps so never tottered and stumbled on blocks shaken loose by the mountain as it moved beneath human feet. There were much loftier projects to occupy the equally lofty thoughts of the currents of political change.

The body of government only heard its head. The head only heard the blustering of its own voice. It never heard, not once, the cries of lost souls as the rushing water wiped the face of mountain clean of those old houses, and those poor people who believed that the head had a heart.


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This article has been read 967 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 08/03/07
WOW. You have some amazingly powerful images in this piece. Your writing is so visual it is tactile. You have absolutely painted a masterpiece with your words. I am still feeling deeply saddened and overwhelmed. Masterful.
Dianne Janak08/03/07
I loved this piece. SO thought provoking.. and sad and horrible especially knowing the truth of it. I loved how you described the house to make the point of how desperation can be... I got sad reading it.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/03/07
You have painted a truly sad portrait of the poor with your strong descriptive writing.
Dee Yoder 08/04/07
What a masterful account of the failures of government with it's empty promises. The descriptions are exceptional.
Jan Ackerson 08/05/07
This is the second piece this week that I've read with a house as a "character", and this one, too, is very, very moving and well-written. Great minds run on the same track...

This is simply excellent.
Linda Watson Owen08/05/07
Powerful, indeed! I can still feel the mud and smell the dankness of this inhospitable mountainside. What masterful description! Wonderful writing!
George Parler 08/06/07
Powerfully and beautifully sad. Great job!
Sara Harricharan 08/08/07
Okay, wow! This is amazing! I liked the descriptions, so very real! The you-are-there-atmosphere is incredibly powerful. ^_^
Caitlynn Lowe08/08/07
Definitely some sadness involved here...
Loren T. Lowery08/08/07
Intriguing and well-written as a commentary of what I hopefully believe to be of another country than the USA. I can see such poverty and lack of concern outside out bounderies, but I might be naiave and overlooking the fact that it happens here as well. Nonetheless, it is a sad state of affairs to know that a government takes advantage of its people who believe they have a heart and genuinly care. The proof, I see, in this case, is the state of the homes they occupy.
Gabrielle Morgan08/08/07
Excellent writing. I particularly like your use of the wind. Definitely a sad situation. Your writing emotionally involves the reader. Well done!
Phyllis Inniss 08/09/07
You pointed the reader to a very grim and sad situation. Your description of the house is so vivid that you painted a picture of poverty before mentioning the word. Excellent job.