Sunday, October 10, 2010


The house at 1580 Cranberry Street had been inhabited by five different families in the 27 years of its existence. First came the Taylors, newlyweds at the time, who oversaw the construction of the house in 1968. After nine years on Cranberry Street the Taylors moved into a larger place over on Mittner Avenue, and, and in the ensuing years, they rented the house to three more families in succession- the Fennicks, the Wades, and the Fascos. Then, as Amy Taylor was planning to head off to college, ownership of the place transferred to a retired couple, Mitch and Helen Dumbrowski, who moved in during the Spring of ’94.

By then, the once trim little house, had fallen into a sorry state of disrepair. The most pressing need was the roof, which leaked. There were other things too, little things mostly, and overall the house presented a neglected and shabby appearance to anyone who might be passing by on the Street. Mitch was handy, Helen was enthusiastic, and retirement afforded them both plenty of time to devote to the home’s rehabilitation. The Dumbrowskis were that sort of people who felt that the appearance of their corner of the world constituted a direct reflection on their character. So no sooner had they been handed the keys then they fell to the formidable task of setting things to right at their new house.

While Mitch prioritized and attended to the house’s maintenance needs, Helen tackled the yard. Her special passion was gardening. In fact, that and the price, had been the determining factor in their purchase of the house. The spacious backyard, half in the shade of a towering maple, half in full sun, and fully enclosed by an eight-foot wooden fence had sung a siren song to her as she and Mitch deliberated over the move. During escrow, Helen had filled her days diagramming hypothetical gardens and landscaping the front yard on pieces of scrap paper while Mitch lined up contractors and coordinated the assault on 1580 Cranberry Street.

One day in early May, as Helen was hauling away an old, tumble-down dog house from the back yard, she discovered the top of a thermos protruding from the ground under where the dog house had stood. Using the hammer she had been using she dug around the thermos until she was able to free it from the ground. It was a normal thermos, the sort a man might take to work with his lunch, and when Helen gave the cap a turn she was surprised to find that it turned easily. Inside she found two playboy magazines. They were folded in half and rolled up so that they could fit entirely within the thermos.

"Mitch," she called toward the house.

"Yes, dear?"

"Come look what I found."

Mitch appeared at the back door covered in saw dust, and walked across the backyard to where Helen was crouched over the thermos and its contents. She quickly recounted how she had found the thermos buried underneath the old dog house. Mitch was careful not to glance too long at the magazines and instead turned his attention to the dog house. He flipped it over and observed drawings and graffiti scrawled across the plywood interior of the house.

Pointing at his finding he said, "I bet it was some boy's club house."

"More like a hideout," said Helen disgustedly.

"Yeah," said Mitch.

 "I'll never understand boys fascination with this stuff," said Helen, "I'm glad you've never been that sort."

"Yeah," said Mitch.

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