Even with keeping the heat at sixty-four degrees and stiff-legging it around the house in long underwear and jeans, this month’s gas bill is a shocker: Three hundred and eighty dollars.
During the day, I follow the cats around the house. They chase the sun as it moves from room to room, picking out a warm spot on a couch or on a shelf upon which to curl up.
But evenings, when the sun has gone down, we gather in my office: a room with two walls of bookshelves and a set of windows that extends along a third. A window seat, with built-in cabinets beneath, runs the length of those windows. And it is here that the pup sits, growling at squirrels or passers-by, while the older dog, too frail and too large, besides, to get up on the seat, exhales on the glass panes, leaving them dotted with mist.
During the day, too, when my son has snow days or when my husband works from home, we gather here, in my office. My husband’s office, situated as it is over a porch, is impossible to keep warm at this time of year. And so, I shove aside my notes and several open books to accommodate my visitors.
My husband brings the heater in. The temperature of the room goes from moderately chilly to cozy.
Each of us works on various projects: my husband researching; our son doing homework or, more likely, playing computer games; me writing, pausing too often to stare out the windows at the snow or the people driving past.
But my feet suddenly start to feel cold. I look beneath the table to find that the pup has parked herself directly in front of the heater, eyes closed, ears flapping, a faint smile upon her curled lips.
I nudge the dog away. “My heater,” I tell her.
A car stops in front of the house. A woman is behind the wheel. She wears those glasses that darken in bright sunshine. The window slides down and reveals the driver’s oversized brown parka. Pulled snug over her head is her hood, also brown with a puff of faux fur to frame her face.
A car pulls up behind her. She waves the driver around.
She reaches into the passenger seat and comes up with a camera.
My husband leans forward in his chair, trying to see over the snow that has accumulated outside the window. “Here we go again.”
People park in front of our house and take pictures all the time. We have no idea why. If they’re looking to rob us, well, they won’t find much here. And if they’re looking for a photograph of a stunning house or lovely landscaping, they’d do better to continue down the road a piece. Don’t get me wrong. Our house is lovely. But a tired lovely. A lovely that needs a coat of paint. A lovely whose bricks need pointing. A lovely yet questionable roof.
“Maybe they’re with the historical society?” My husband lifts his eyebrows. “Or they think the house is still for sale.”
“I have no idea.” What I do know is that I was up half the night with our son, sick with the flu. I am tired. I am grumpy.
I stand and go to the windows. I wave wildly, hoping the woman will notice me and realize that the house is occupied; hoping she and her camera will go away.
She remains, camera held to her face like a third eye.
I wave both hands.
I rap at the window.
I shout and grin like a madwoman. If she insists upon taking her pictures, I can at least ruin them.
The woman drives down the road.
“Ha!” I say.
She stops her car just out of reach of my office windows and re-points her camera at the house.
Eventually, she drives away. I return to my seat, stabbing out letters on my keyboard, muttering to myself.
I look at my husband, embarrassed. “Well that was awfully grown up of me,” I say. A few minutes later, I add, “I can’t believe I just did that.”
My husband looks at me for a moment. I can tell he’s thinking about something. He’s going to tell me how foolish I looked waving my arms, I bet. But then his face twists into a smile. “You know? I did the same thing last week when that man stopped to take pictures.” He laughs and returns to his work.
And I return to mine.
This house has stood for over a hundred years. With luck, and kindness, it will stand another hundred.
Eventually, after we’ve painted and replaced lighting and stripped layers of paint down to bare wood, someone else will move in and take over.
My husband and I do not own this house. We are mere caretakers, tending the house for the next generation of occupants.
So take those pictures.
They are yours.
I see the dog has positioned herself in front of the heater once more.
I shove her away with my foot. “My heat,” I tell her.
This was written for this week’s Write Tribe prompt which explains how I feel about this house…
“life is like a jigsaw puzzle, you have to see the whole picture, then put it together piece by piece!”