Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Center of it All VI

301 W Adams. I sat in my car and looked at the building. It looked to be about ten stories of pure slum, surrounded by a few blocks of more slums. Urban decay had hit Phoenix, although not as hard as some of the cities I was used to visiting back east.

I had debated for about ten minutes whether or not to go back home. In the end, curiosity got the better of me. I decided to take the next step, and go to Yoni’s home. His address was on his license, in his wallet, and his keys were among the items in the manila envelope the hospital had given us.

I decided to go in the evening, when the heat gave way a little, and hopefully, the apartment would not be very hot. I spent the rest of the afternoon working on some files that were nearing their deadline. I finished the work, emailed PDFs to my client, and spent the early part of the evening lounging around the pool.

After the sun disappeared behind the vast Arizona desert, I got in my car, and drove to his home. This was not the first time I was going to enter an abandoned house. My mind flashed back to the summer we were 17. We were both hanging out in the mountains, working as waiters at camp.

On our first off day, we rented a car, and drove around, looking for something to do. As we were driving, aimlessly, we passed an old house that was barely visible from the road, and looked like it had been abandoned for the last hundred years. We drove past it once, and then came back to it. Yoni parked the car, and we walked the hundred feet through thick brush to the house. There were boards covering the windows, and the door looked like it had been nailed shut.

There was an uncovered window in the back of the house, and we looked inside. I had never seen anything like it before. The floor was covered with garbage, and the furniture looked like it had been slashed with a knife.

“You wanna go in,” Yoni asked.

“Not really,” I said. I had hoped we would do more than just kill the day. My day off plans were more like going ATVing, getting pizza, and maybe meeting some girls.

“Why not,” Yoni asked, “Chicken?”

It was more of a challenge than a question, and I knew we were going in. My only hope was that there would be nothing interesting inside, and Yoni would get bored and want to leave.

I tried to set the terms. “If we don’t have to break anything, I’ll go in. I just don’t want to get arrested for destroying property,” I said, needing to save face.

Yoni and I both looked over at the back door. The door had been broken long ago, and barely hung on to the hinges.

“You got your wish, bro,” Yoni said. “Ladies first.”

I walked up the steps leading to the door, and pushed it open the rest of the way. The house smelled old, but was definitely abandoned.

“Half an hour,” I said, as I walked in.

“Whatever,” Yoni answered, walking in behind me.

We looked around the room we had just entered. We were in a very old kitchen. There was an ice box and a pot-bellied stove.

“Anything we find in here we split,” Yoni said, breaking to momentary silence. It wasn’t a question. More a statement of fact.

I walked across the room, to a pile of newspapers that were on the floor. It was an old copy of the Greene County Chronicle. It smelled like mildew, but the date was still readable. “June 4, 1924,” I read to Yoni.

“Anything happen that day,” he asked.

“Yankees lost both games of a doubleheader against Washington the day before.”

“Anything else?”

“Not much. Something about a town meeting.”

Before picking up that newspaper, I was ready to walk out the door. But I had always been fascinated by newspapers, and there was nothing better than reading about what the world was like long before we were born. There was a large pile of papers, and I sat on the floor to flip through them.

“What do you think happened to the people who lived here,” Yoni asked.

“Maybe they moved, or just died.”

“You think there is a body here?”

“Why don’t you walk around and find out.” I wanted to read through the papers now.

Yoni walked out, while I went through the pile of papers. I tore a few, but most of them I handled gingerly, and did not damage them. The papers were only a few pages each, and after a few minutes, I had gone through the pile that was on the floor.

I had a vague feeling that Yoni had been calling me, but I had ignored him. Now I walked around, calling him. The last paper I found was from 1928, which meant that as far as we could tell, no one had lived in the house in over 60 years.

I called Yoni’s name again, but no one answered.

Where was he, I thought, and turned the corner, walking from the dining room into what must have been a large living room.

“Hey Winters,” I yelled again. No answer.

The floor creaked with every step I took, and I was starting to get a little freaked out.

“Yoni,” I yelled one more time, “Are you there.

Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and nearly jumped out of my skin.”

I turned around, and there was Yoni, laughing.

“You scared the crap out of me, Winters,” I yelled.

“You should have seen yourself jump,” was all he could manage between the laughs.

“You are so dead,” I replied. “So dead.”

We hung out in the house for another hour. We found boxes of letters, bills, what looked like some family keepsakes. The people who lived there were named Smithson, and they seemed to have left in a hurry, judging by the clothes hanging in the closet. We found a wallet with a few dollars in it that predated World War I, and a bucket of change. A quick rummage through the bucket turned up coins from the 1800s.

“This stuff could be worth a fortune,” he said.

“Maybe we can find some old baseball cards around here,” I answered.

It was already past noon, and we had some loose plans to meet some of the guys from camp for pizza.

We agreed to keep this house as our secret. In the meantime, we decided to leave everything in the house. The truth was, if we brought it to camp, we had no place to keep it. And we decided to come back on all our off days.

We went back to the Smithson house four more times that summer, each time discovering more and more treasures. Some of it we kept as souvenirs, others we sold and split the money. In all, we found over $65,000 worth of coins, cards and antiques.

The Smithson house was always our secret. We never told anyone about it, or about the treasures we had uncovered. When asked about the money, I always gave vague answers about savings from a job, and I imagine Yoni did the same thing.

I looked back at the apartment building. The street was completely deserted. Night had fallen on Phoenix, and for the first time all day, I didn’t feel like I was a walking sweat machine.

There was another abandoned house to go through, I thought, as I crossed the street and went inside.

The preceding story was fiction. you can find the first five parts earlier on the blog.

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  • 10 Comments:

    Blogger Lish the Fish said...

    Thank GD!! I was sooo bored at work. Perfect timing AT.

    5:12 PM  
    Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

    typo "Where was her "unless you meant that in a gay way

    6:21 PM  
    Blogger Krunk said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    6:59 PM  
    Blogger Krunk said...

    Smithson?That must mean that your first thought was the name Smith.Lame.Sorry,but it really is.And also there's a typo."....and drove to him home."I'm assuming that you meant "his".

    7:00 PM  
    Blogger Air Time said...

    Never thought the name should be Smith. It popped in my head from James Smithson, the man who endowed the Smithsonian institute and got it started.

    9:44 AM  
    Blogger Air Time said...

    thanks for the typo corrections

    9:46 AM  
    Blogger macabee said...

    Airtime,

    Of all of your writing, I think this installment is one of your best. It could even stand alone as a short story.

    Keep it up.

    10:48 AM  
    Blogger Air Time said...

    Mac - thanks for the compliment

    12:01 PM  
    Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

    In case you're wondering....some of us anxiously await the next installment. Bring it on.

    10:09 PM  
    Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

    Nuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

    11:16 AM  

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