It was always there in the background, the buzzing.
The sound would come, then stop suddenly. The silences seemingly louder than the hum.
The air was dry–dusty left too long with doors and windows locked tight. One window had even been painted closed.
The house settled into itself quietly, empty for years.
The cats from the neighborhood would sniff the steps, the doors. The dogs would leave their marks. The mice found new homes.
Everyone knew the house was empty. It had been for years.
The paint wore away chipping off in chunks. Flying away in strips. The yard became overgrown–an ivy vine overtaking the north wall in what seemed like months, but was probably years. The house seemed the only marker of time in the otherwise well-kept neighborhood.
The children started to tell ghost stories about the big ol’ house in the middle of the street. The cobwebbed windows providing inspiration for murders, deaths, affairs and terrible tragic tales of horror in the make believe of the neighborhood.
Then one day the house looked different, not much. It was just a small change, but everyone all around saw it immediately. Mrs. Price was the first to call the number on the sign out front.
She learned the house was for sale, and in this buyer’s market as Sal referred to the ongoing economic crisis that had kept her out of work for a year, it was expected to go fast.
“That dump?!” She later laughed to her neighbor, Mr. Gregory.
Everyone seemed to agree, the house couldn’t possibly sale. But it would be nice if it did, to have all the houses on the block looking respectable again.
A reminder of the good times, the golden age when everyone was employed and children played in the streets without fear of being hurt or taken.
Everyone seemed to forget that those good times hadn’t existed before the house empty. Everyone was hopeful the good times would come back.
A couple days later, Mrs. Price met Sal Lakos–Realtor, he was showing the house. The current owners were in California; the house had been listed for a year. Only now were people interested. “The market is looking up,” Sal chortled his entire body thing as it was somehow expressing his joy at the news.
People walked in and out of the house. They saw the overgrown yard, the dusty windows, the ruined carpet and they heard the buzzing.
“What’s that?” They would whisper to each other secretly hoping they weren’t alone hearing the strange noise of the home so deeply settled int the gloom of its rot.
“I don’t know. Do you hear it?”
The whispered conversations went on and one among the viewers, but Sal never noticed, never said anything. He just smiled walked people through told them to imagine the future. The living room full of televisions, the kitchen full of sunshine, the bathroom with running water.
He would pause in his presentation. Then start again still smiling.
Even more oddly, Sal, never bothered to clean the place. He said the current owners weren’t willing to pay the funds. He was left showing the house as-is. And as it was, was disastarous. Mrs. Price and Mr. Gregory plotted to call one of those reality shows where they fix a place up and sale it fast. Then they considered a neighborhood clean up day, but nothing doing Sal couldn’t be persuaded to move out the old stove and fridge and clean the floors.
Just a Mrs. Price was getting desperate enough to think about breaking windows and cleaning the house on her own, a family moved in. Two women, two dogs and a baby.
They said they liked the charm of the area when Mr. Gregory stopped by with a welcome bottle of wine. Mrs. Price heard they were looking forward to a project.
Later the neighbors conferred to confirm; they both liked the new family and had noticed an awful buzzing sound in the house that would certainly drive the women insane before the year was out.
The new family took on the house in the way a mountain climber sets out to defeat Everest.
Every day they cleaned, they scrubbed, they repaired, they painted, they trimmed trees, they cut, the redecorated. The neighborhood smiled thinking the good times were coming, all the houses on the street would soon be tidied, ordered, normal. Normal that’s what they wanted, craved and the house would fulfill that craving for orderliness sure enough just as soon as the yard was replanted.
Every night Kate and Martha heard the sound lying in bed exhausted from the remodeling in addition to careers and a baby. They asked each other about the noise, they wondered what it was, together they questioned their sanity in purchasing this behemoth which fizzed and fussed in anger after years of neglect. Then one night they realized they had learned to ignore it. It just became a sound the house made like the humming of the fridge or the whoosh of the ventilation. Just another noise in a house with a family.
One morning Kate stood in the kitchen admiring their work of reshaping the back yard into a garden. Spring was just beginning small tender shoots rose up threw the mud, tulips and daffodils edged the patio their bright red and yellow greeting the morning. Kate walked out into the sun and turned to see her neighbor’s house.
No curtains hung in the windows, the yard looked uncared for, no lights were on. The house was silent, gray, empty.