The Path

As I walked the Prairie Path early one evening (around 7:30 I believe), I saw the sights that by now were beyond familiar to me. You see, I walked this same path most evenings around this same time.  Dinner was over, and I had no desire to sit mindlessly in front of the television.  I always chewed not one but two sticks of gum while I walked, and I noted that my chewing action and my steps kept perfect time.

And as I strolled, I saw them.  The dentist engrossed in his smartphone while walking his white and black pug; I imagined he was either watching episodes of that TV series “Deadly Dentists”, or looking at x-rays of the teeth and gums of the patients he would see tomorrow.  The young mother (Kathy was her name) pushed her son in a stroller slightly ahead of me; I watched as her ponytail swung side to side with each step, for unlike me, she did not stroll – this was exercise for her.  I saw the blue house with the two identical front doors side by side (not French doors you see; each of these doors was fully framed and had a doorknob on the same side – the right).  I imagined that each of these doors led to a different era in the life of the house, a time warp of sorts.  Maybe one day I would stop and test my theory.

And then, of course, the stonewashed white house with the white picket fence was just around the left bend in the path.  But as I rounded that bend, I saw it.  Or more accurately, I didn’t see it!  The quaint white house was gone and in its place was a vacant flat piece of land.  There was no trace of the house whatsoever!

How could this be?  I had just walked past the house yesterday and it was there in all of its splendor.  The three brick steps up to the aqua blue door, the black shutters, the red asphalt shingles on the roof, the symmetrical short pine shrubs framing the front stoop, and the two giant Japanese maple trees in the yard.  The white picket fence was freshly painted every spring and served as the barrier between walkers like me and the house.

What could have happened so quickly?  My mind raced through the possibilities!  A meteor could have destroyed the house, but it would have left a monstrous crater.  An earthquake could have split the land and swallowed the house into the earth below, but no, again there would be a huge crack in the land I would certainly notice. A mudslide could have carried the house and trees away, but it hadn’t rained here in two weeks so that wasn’t likely. A tornado – maybe that’s it!  A tornado ripped through the area and lifted the home into the sky, depositing it miles away (like in the black and white scenes from “The Wizard of Oz”).  But, I would have heard a tornado that powerful since I lived nearby.

Now I started to consider the preposterous.  A giant reached down with his hand and scooped the place up, or stepped on the house and flattened it like a pancake? The house came to life and decided it no longer liked the neighborhood so it upped and walked away?  That magician I saw on TV (what was his name, David Copper-something?) had used his magic on the house and made it disappear?  No, none of these seemed likely.  I was at a loss to explain the mysterious disappearance.

At that moment, I noticed two young men walking in my direction.  Actually they were walking directly toward me.  As they approached, I asked “Do you know what happened to the white house that was here?  You must have seen if you walk on this path.”  The two men quickly exchanged a look but said nothing.  As they got closer to me, I asked again “Where’s the white house that was here?  I just saw it yesterday.  How could it have vanished so suddenly?”

The two men walked to either side of me and each placed a hand around one of my arms.  “C’mon William, we need to go back to Sunrise.  You can’t leave the facility and wander off like this, it isn’t safe for you” one of them said.

“But what about the house?” I asked.

“William, that house was torn down seven years ago. You know that.”

“But I saw it yesterday!”

“I understand, William” one of the men said.  “Maybe you’re thinking of the picture of it on the wall in your room, the one your daughter brought last month.  It was a nice looking house; you must have been very proud of it.”

“Let’s go, William.”


By Dennis Robleski


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