The neighbor, a woman in her late fifties, lives across the street in theonly house on the entire block, a 1940s bungalow that used to be a tattooparlor. It’s situated between a quilting shop and an empty field inhabitedby a skulk of foxes and a few deer. The neighbor called the police aboutthe woman, but they told her they couldn’t make the woman leave because the trailer’s not on her property. The neighbor also claimed shesaw the trailer being dumped a year ago—a white pickup, four pm, inand out of the parking lot so fast that she didn’t have time to write downthe truck’s license number. She called the police then, too, but they toldher the same story: if the trailer wasn’t on her land, there was nothingthey could do.
“The neighbor thinks the woman has a little side business going,” headds.
“You know. Men coming in and out at all hours—the bar’s practically
Though I’ve never looked inside the trailer, I doubt this, too. There’s the
broken door and open window, a year’s worth of wind and rain and snow.
We live in a valley at the southern end of the panhandle—a banana belt—
and our weather generally stays mild, but winter came late and hard this
year, a record snowfall of twenty-nine inches in February alone. Now that
the temperature has warmed, I imagine black mold flecking the walls,
paint peeling from the damp ceiling. And, of course, the cats. Secluded
inside, waiting out the weather, the ammoniac odor of urine saturating
the floor and sofa cushions each time they’ve marked the trailer as theirs.
It’s late April, a Saturday. My father and I stop by the property after wefinish our deliveries for Meals on Wheels, a weekly route we’ve beendriving for the past five years. We plan to piece together the white pinedining table he’s making me.
There are three buildings on the strip of commercially zoned landmy husband’s family has owned since the 1960s: two pale yellow shopswith leaky roofs that flank an overgrown gully and a sports bar calledWork that borders 21st Street, our town’s main thoroughfare. Over theyears, a series of shady tenants has leased the bar—one man even tackedblankets over the windows of the defunct restaurant in back and movedhis bed in. Most months, my sister-in-law has to call the current occupant for the rent check, but he eventually pays. The former tenant of theshops, an auto mechanic, is a different story. He squatted there for a year