The buyer stands alone in the living room. His new house. That’s what they called it.
He looks around. The house has a forlorn feel to it. A family home abandoned by its family, waiting, every book, every knickknack, every fork waiting for them to come back.
Like an abandoned dog who waits for his family in the very spot they dropped him off on the edge of the highway to die. His name is Cody Bradshaw.
Cody stoops down and picks up the comic book and moves to the couch. He starts to flop down on the couch and catches himself. He grimaces. “Thirty years of dust, I don’t think so.”
He drops the comic down on the coffee table and goes out to the car, pulling a vacuum from the trunk. There probably is one in the home, but at thirty years and counting, the odds of it working are probably against him.
He lugs the machine into the house, intent on giving the couch what might possibly be the most thorough vacuuming it has had in its life.
Turning the vacuum on, he frowns. “Forgot. No electricity.”
He reaches for a cushion, his hand pausing just before making contact, hesitant to touch it. The house feels untouchable, like any touch would taint him somehow. He pulls the cushion off the couch. He resorts to shaking the cushions and pounding the dust out of them.
Finished, he sits down. He sniffs. The place has an abandoned smell to it. Dust and mildew and something else. “Like an old person smell, only a house. Old house smell?”
He leans forward and picks up the comic, leaving a smear of less dirty table behind in the dust. Leaning back on the couch, comic in hand, he flips to the first page and starts reading.
When he finishes the comic, he smiles nostalgically, and tosses the comic on the table. The comic is older than he is. He looks at the smudge the comic book left in the dust and hangs his head a moment in exhaustion before looking around the room.
“This is going to be a big job to make this place liveable.”
He goes back out to his car and pulls a cardboard box from the trunk. He carries it in and drops it on the couch, the weight of the box making it bounce a little on the cushion. Pulling furniture polish and a cloth from the box, he starts dusting.
Clearing off the coffee table, he gives it a light spray and starts wiping it. Before he’s half done, he is sneezing repeatedly from the dust. Shaking his head, he gives the table a good wetting from of spray polish. “That will keep the dust down.”
Cody spends the next few hours cleaning the dust from the living room and the kitchen. When he moves on to the kitchen, he pauses in the doorway and looks at the floor, at the footsteps of their earlier passage, intruding where they do not belong.
There are only the two sets of footprints. The realtor was lying about showing the house to others, but Cody already knew that. He knew it the way you know when someone unseen is watching.
He does not yet go into the detail of cleaning shelves or cupboards. That would take another day or more, by his guess. For now, he is just cleaning the exposed surfaces. The dust you can see.
Cody checks the other door in the kitchen and finds a broom closet with shelves carefully added some time during the family’s habitation, converting it into a partial pantry.
An old straw broom and a mop are standing in the closet, forever waiting for the lady of the house to sashay with them across the floor again in the precise dance of cleaning. A bucket squats on the floor beneath the bottom shelf.
He pulls out the thirty-plus year old straw broom and starts sweeping. He soon finds himself stooping and picking up the ragged remains of the brittle bristles breaking off the broom. Giving up on the broom, he pulls out the bucket, tipping it to look inside. He makes a face.
The bottom is coated in thirty years of dust that has crusted and yellowed. There is what appears to be the thirty-year-old remains of a dead mouse in the bottom of the bucket. That’s his best guess anyway.
He puts the bucket down, revolted and intrigued at the same time, and picks up the mop. The fat cotton strings are yellowed and even brown in spots, brittle and rotted with age. Some stick to the floor, easily tearing from the mop. Beneath it is the same yellow-brown rot from the bottom of the bucket and the old carcasses of long dead bugs.
“I don’t want to know.” He puts the mop back. “I guess it’ll have to wait until I can buy new ones tomorrow when the stores open.”
It’s getting late and he realizes he hasn’t eaten since before arriving. The realization brings a low rumble from his empty stomach. “Where do you get something to eat in a little place like this?”
He remembers passing an old run down small-town motel and bar in the last town on the way here. He shudders at the thought of what the food in a place like that might be like. “It’s that or nothing.” He leaves.