All Stories, General Fiction

The White House at the End of the Lane  by Tom Sheehan

Dimac looked again and the white house at the end of the lane was pale yellow. He tried to find a simile, then a metaphor, and was lost in the miracle before him. The change had happened in the blink of his eyes, and it unnerved him so that he closed his eyes, waited for the white shingles to settle back into place, become their proper selves, as if he could say that about shingles, and opened his eyes.

The house shook him up again, right to his heels set hard on the ground, leaning slightly backwards, and his toes, bent, clutching like a monkey on a branch, holding on for good life.

Bang! It came at him. Another change, and all his senses had come alive to the “whatever” about him, whatever it was.

The shingles, in that self-departure, in that momentary shut-out, had become green, a pale green like a whole valley in the morning, the sun touching everything in sight, the grass loose as freed diameters, spokes without a rim, running every which way in a pale, inimitable green, a soft green. Softer than flesh, it was. Softer than flesh. An image leaped at him, filled him; once he had seen a girl at a masquerade, her nude body wholly painted in such a tone of green that he would feel the color if she’d let him set his hand on her, touch her breast, touch shades and tones.

He was driven that crazy right now, looking at the house down the lane. What would happen if he walked up there and touched the green shingles, one by one, or only the one? Would they no longer be prime-cut Western red cedar shingles sliced out of a regal, swamp-rooted cedar hugging the ages? White cedar pulled out of a Maine forest? Were they in a second and third use after 50 years of standing still elsewhere, only growing taller according to a ring by ring measure of the bole, and also serving to distract his mind, pulverize it, discord it with thoughts as random as radii?

The colors called back to him.

Oh, he stopped right there in new recollection, and that, indeed, made him laugh in a second’s worth of humor and irony: he could hear the bugler at a forgotten post of his short enlistment, perhaps Camp Drake in Japan or Fort Bliss, Texas, sighing out “To the Color,” notes dropping away as night and its shadows faded into recesses, hidden places, crawling back into his memory, trying to be that mass of black nothing. The other early sounds came back, “First Call” and  “Reveille,” as if a sense of order was trying to introduce itself; regularity, calmness, sanity.

A shiver raced on him seeking exit, announcement. He was supposed to be dwelling on these real colors, not what his mind was haphazardly presenting to him.

Perhaps the lime, he thought, soft on the eyes, the iris, would react on him like an overture one barely hears from the back of a gigantic theater, teasing, touching the ears, announcing itself to the real initiate, saying it had been heard before, saying it was recognizable but was surprisingly new.

Standing at his kitchen window, other houses in view as far as the hill of pines in the far background, the once white house was altered anew as the black roof (he knew it was asphalt shingles) became blue as a fair sky out over the lake of his youth, his old dreams, that memorial sound of silk shushing itself alive as a girl hung her dress on a bare limb of a maple tree, dawn’s dare present and countable.

“Don’t get lost,” he demanded of himself. “There’s something else going on here that’s beyond you. Pay attention or you’ll lose it all. It will disappear and take the answer with it.”

Dimac shook his head, lost the girl again, was deafened to sweet sounds, and looked at the house again.

In that terrible turn of his head, purple came upon the house. It grabbed him totally, the new shade, as though the house was covered with deliriously mad lingerie. And he thought he was being tested, being subjected to a new power, a new persuasion, the way guilt marches across the soul like a troop on the march.

Up the lane, from out of his sight, came Bill and Carl Norgren, neighbors on his street, taking their daily constitutional along with their dog on leash, a Golden Retriever. Norgren, a retired engineer, was a nice fellow and his wife seemed to be the welcoming committee of the neighborhood, always first to greet new folks. They walked quietly, absorbed in their routine, holding hands, and ignored the white house on the lane that was now a most lovely purple almost breathing with legendary symptoms.

They passed the house without a look, content with things as they were, but the dog, whose name was Dylan, dropped his head, snarled, and began to bark. His paws dug at the lawn and a bare spot showed through.

Norgren pulled on the leash, but Dylan resisted, barked deeply, and finally walked away on a taut leash, suddenly pulling Norgren along, trying to rush off, all the while barking. At the end of the lane, where a small fence shut off the lane but not the path, Dylan turned and howled wolf-like at the house. The howl was eerie, high-pitched.

Dimac heard another bugler render a new message as he tried to assess the dog’s actions, and the Norgrens’ ignoring the house, which had, in another quick second, become a sunset pink, a blushing flesh-colored pink.

All the senses roiled in him and he salvaged a decision from it; he left his house, stepped into the lane and walked toward the pink house, the once white-lime-pink house, and dared to look in the window. He had been called for this move; he was sure.

Peering in a window at the side of the house, he saw a tall shadowy man gesturing to two other apparent shadows, and with one wave of the tall man’s hand, the furnishings and layout of the room changed completely. A second wave and it all changed again, like a movie set in a motion picture. It changed a third time, a rich, rugged Colonial décor of a Jacobean hue.

The paired shadows to Dimac were not recognizable, were not the current owners; their sizes and shapes set that straight in his mind. The owners, it was known in the neighborhood, were on a trip to the far side of the world. Had something happened to them? An accident? Two deaths? A change in balance around the world? Were these unidentified shadows the new owners, the new tenants? Was this a preliminary in a stage of possibilities?

Everything in Dimac’s mind whistled away when the tall man, in a heavenly blue uniform, spun around and on his back appeared a number he interpreted as a telephone number with the area code and its 7 associated digits; all the digits were zeroes, and were followed by a legend for the ages, an elegant script that read, “Divine Design and Decoration, Ltd.”

 “So this is how it’s done,” Dimac said as he turned for home, walked back into his day.

Tom Sheehan

Image by Manfred Antranias Zimmer from Pixabay 

6 thoughts on “The White House at the End of the Lane  by Tom Sheehan”

  1. Tom–
    A another well done and humane piece of work. So well described and measured.

    An early note to all-
    Tom will be appearing on Christmas Day in a special, which six of his pieces will run and on the 26th with number 200!
    Leila

    Like

  2. Hi Tom,
    I’m not sure I grasped much of this but it was infectious to read.
    I think the obsession with colours and what in the past related was interesting but never really totally explained.
    It was a strange story and I would have thought that the house would have brought out specific memories but this went in a different direction.
    No matter what I got out of this, it was still mesmerising!!
    All the very best my fine friend.
    Hugh

    Like

  3. As always, masterful writing. Great story, but in some ways the hero of this piece is ‘colour’ itself. I love how you used such a range of colours to depict mood and scene. Great stuff!

    Like

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