House Arrest by Deb Tish

I’m posting off-topic. Mostly because the whole growing up thing seems to have skipped me.

I think I should probably be arrested. And you can’t arrest me without arresting my husband, because he’s every bit as guilty.

We have this twisted little obsession. We’re in love with a house nearby and every evening, now matter which way we head; we bend our power walk in the direction of this place so we can slow down and drink in every detail—sometimes looping around the block a second time for another look. And it’s not even the actual house we’re obsessed with, it’s the property—wide, treed, secluded and facing a big forested park that leads down into a valley and the pond where everyone skates all winter. Very Charlie Brown Christmas.

Our fetish wouldn’t be so creepy if it were summer—it wouldn’t get dark as early and we wouldn’t be wearing dark ski jackets with wool caps. As it is, if I saw two shadowy figures like us staking out our house each night, I’d release the hounds. (Assuming I had any.) And since the owner has a hole in her wood fence, do you think either of us can stroll past without taking just a quick peek into the backyard? You can imagine what the neighbors think.

Mysteries abound at this place. First off, I still haven’t gotten a good tree count. There are about eight lining the south side of the property and either nine or twelve on the north, depending on whether the evergreens are smallish trees or largish bushes. There are a few more trees out front, not including the ugly little mushroom trees I pretend aren’t lining the walkway. But the backyard is anybody’s guess. Without actually launching ourselves over the fence, we can only imagine.

Another mystery is whether the place has a usable attic. There are two dormer windows on the roof that may or may not be fake. My husband swears he’s seen curtains blowing up there, but his glasses fog up at night, so I’m not sure he can be trusted. We still don’t know who lives inside, because we’ve never seen an entire human on the property. I may have seen the top of a woman’s head in the basement once, but no one else. And there are a couple of dogs who (thankfully) can’t be bothered to patrol the property, and a red car that sometimes comes and sometimes goes.

I think the biggest mystery is whether the owner appreciates the view from her front stoop. Does she step out the front door and head straight for her little red car in a mad rush to get to work each morning? Or does she stop first, gaze at the wildness of the park across the road, listen to the blue jays, and squint so she can pretend there’s nothing else around—but her, the December clouds, and all those deliciously gnarled bare branches?

We may only be intruders, but that’s exactly what we do. At least until we get caught.


8 Replies to “House Arrest by Deb Tish”

  1. Brilliantly written Tish. Nice to know I’m not the only one lurking about, coveting other people’s property. There’s one in my neighborhood–a lovely little cottage-like farmhouse with about an acre of white picketed fence gardens. Just gorgeous. I’ve gazed longingly at the occupants on more than one occasion when they thought they were living their lives unobserved by a freak like me. Is there anything more satisfying than pretending to be out on a walk for the good of one’s healthy and gawking into other people’s front windows, wondering at the screwed up lives they must have? If there is, I’d like to know about it.

  2. Your imagination is getting a good workout every night along with your body. Since Maia confessed…I will too. Staking out a house, looking into windows and making up “lives” for the people there has been something I’ve done since childhood. Is this simply being curious or is it a writer’s trait? The latter sounds so much better. 😉

  3. Guess us writer’s are naturally curious folk. There’s only so long one can linger on the sidewalk though isn’t there? Thing is, people DO let you in for a real snoop, Tish. It’s called a real estate open house. Open season more like. When I sell my house, damned if I’m going to have one. Seems only questionable neighbors and lurking front window starers attend. Since I’m a lurker AND a starer, I’m naturally suspicious. I can imagine people opening closets, examining paint colors and furniture arrangements. No way I’m going to subject myself to that kind of scrutiny.

  4. I wonder if ownership would spoil the secret pleasure you feel in your night walks…your final paragraph is so lovely. I can really feel the spirit of the place and why you are so enamored of it.

  5. Okay, I admit it… I’m terrible about looking in people’s windows. I time my walks with the dog for after dark so I can peek in on other people’s lives. We used to live near this huge house where every night the couple who owned it would have candlelight dinners, then after dinner, the woman would take out her violin. They always had a lot of company. Every night seemed like a party at what we came to call The Violin House. I invented this whole life for these people, which of course was totally shattered when I actually met the violin player. After that, looking in the windows wasn’t nearly so fun.

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