Writing Challenge: Starting Over

I decided I wanted to get back into writing creatively more often.  I like this idea brought by this site’s daily post challenge.  So, here goes.  Do keep in mind, I probably have not edited this.

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Story:  Starting Over

He sat in his car for a long moment and thought.  A slight edge of terror gripped him.  He knew it was uncertainty of how things would play out, but he still had to pause and take a deep breath and force the brief moment of panic back down.  He should be happier now.  He was home.  As close to home as he would get for now, anyway.

He glanced up at the dark house and felt a chill run down his spine.  The three-story house had been empty since his grandfather died the year before.  The crankpot of a man had left the home to his five  children, but the siblings could not agree on what to do with the house.  A recent spree of burglaries in the area had prompted a surprise offer from them as he told his family he planned to return to the area, though was not sure where he would be staying.  Most of his family had been out of the question and he had felt incredibly awkward about even thinking about which friends might put up with him until he found a place to live.  Until they could agree on what to do with the house, he would be allowed to live there and keep watch over it.  Thus, it was a bittersweet moment when he got out of the car and started across the driveway to the front door.

“Excuse me?” a voice called out to him.  “Can I ask what you’re doing here?”

He turned to see an older man standing at the end of the driveway.  The foliage around the driveway provided privacy for the home, but had also prevented him from seeing the man’s approach.  He might have to change that.  He was not quite as obsessed about privacy as his late grandfather had been.

“Hi,” he said, “my name is Mitchell Carey.  I think you might have heard from my mother or one of my aunts that I would be staying in this house for a while.”

The man looked slightly taken aback.  Mitchell swallowed hard and nearly cursed under his breath.  What had those women said or done to turn off the neighbors?

“They got that point across, yes,” the man said after a painfully awkward moment.

Mitchell did sigh at that comment.  He did not really need the neighbors badmouthing him before he had a chance to introduce himself.

“I gather they weren’t particularly nice about it,” Mitchell said.  “I’m sorry about that.  I guess manners weren’t a big part of their upbringing.”

“Considering who their father was… well, I try not to judge a person by their family,” the man said.  “And you’re already being a lot nicer than they were.  I came over just to check who could be driving up here with a big van.  It had been some time since the grouch passed, plus the recent crime spree in the area…”

“You don’t have to tell me more, sir,” Mitchell said.  “I can already imagine what they might have said.  Truth be told, I think I’ll go with ignorance there.”

“My name is David Coul,” the man said, offering a hand.  “My family lives across the street.  We’ve been worried about squatters in the house and checked on it frequently to make sure there weren’t any.  Good to know someone will be staying there.  Sorry they put you in that position, though.”

“I doubt they’ll ever agree on what to do with it,” Mitchell said, shaking his neighbor’s hand.  “Either way, I have a starting point here.”

Coul clearly wanted to ask more, but manners prevented him from doing so.  Instead, he politely wished Mitchell a good night and disappeared down the dark driveway.  Mitchell turned back to the house and added to the already long list of improvements he was considering to his new home.

He pounded up the front steps and fumbled with his key ring.  He swore a cloud of dust greeted him at the front door.  It certainly smelled like a large dust bunny was lurking behind the door, just waiting to pounce on him as he walked in.  He sneezed.  Evidently, his family had not been interested in cleaning up the house after his grandfather’s death.  He offered a silent prayer that the man had died in a local hospital and not in this house, otherwise it would likely still have the smell of death in the air.

He felt around the wall on the landing inside the door and found the light switches.  Thankfully, they worked.  He had brought along a large package of bulbs just in case and was pleased he would not have to use them just yet.  He blinked as the light overhead lit up the stairwells.  The front porch also appeared in a dusty glow.

After a moment of indecision, he ran up the stairs and entered what his grandfather had considered an acceptable living room.  It contained the most uncomfortable he had ever experienced.  A counter separated the kitchen from the living room and both opened to the dining room.  The kitchen looked cleaner and friendlier.  This was probably because his grandfather had reluctantly hired someone to come in and cook for him when he grew too ill to do it himself.  The dining room contained handsome furniture, though Mitchell was not thrilled with the color of the room.  Next, he wandered down the hall and found the first burnt out bulb.

The bathroom and master suite were largely stripped of any personal effects.  What was left were dusty books and old, smelly clothes Mitchell would never wear.  Even the bed had been stripped to the bare mattress.  He did not mind this, though.  He had bedding he would gladly put down, once he vacuumed the dust off, of course. 

He walked across the hall and tried opening the door to one of the smaller rooms, which in the past had been used as a spare bedroom, even though it went unused.  The door opened maybe an inch and then encountered something and refused to budge.  Mitchell pulled out a small flashlight and shined it at the floor to see if he could determine what might be blocking his path.  Stacks of newspapers cluttered what little of the room he could see.  Mitchell decided to risk it and shouldered the door open.  He nearly fell into several large stacks of newspaper.  He muttered curses against his family, who had likely piled whatever they were not keeping into this room.  He picked himself up and left the room, slamming the door behind him.

The next door would not open at all.  Mitchell could tell by looking in the crack under the door that it was barricaded from the inside the room, though he was not sure why.  Thinking back, he could not remember ever being allowed in this room.  The door had always been locked.  Why hadn’t his family gotten into the room?

His phone rang.  He looked at the caller ID and snorted.  Speaking of…

“Making sure I arrived safely? I did.  Nice of you to prepare the house for my arrival,” he said.

“Don’t be selfish.  We’re too busy for that,” his mother said.

“What do you want, Mother?”

“You made it there to keep an eye on things.  I’m glad.  Mostly, I wanted to know if there was any mail.”

“I haven’t checked and probably won’t tonight.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m tired and have enough things to do.  Good night, Mother.”

He went back out the front door to his car.  He noted as he did so that he could easily get to the window of the barricaded room.  It was an older window, too, so he guessed that he could force it easily enough.  That would have to wait until daylight.  He opened the door and pulled out a vacuum and a duffel bag. 

He spent the next half hour inside vacuuming and dusting the living room, dining room, kitchen, and master suite.  Then, he returned to the car and pulled out two small carriers.  There were yowls of protest and the sudden movement, which he ignored.

“There, you furry beasts,” he said as he released two large cats into the living room.

One cat was orange, the other black.  Both were a muscular twenty pounds and already stalked around the room as though they owned the place and had all their lives.  Mitchell placed food and water dishes in the kitchen, put the cat food container well out of reach, found a quiet corner for the litter box, and tossed a couple furry mouse toys in the direction of the cats.

“Alright, boys,” he said.  “I’m going to bed.  Keep any rampages to a dull roar, please.”

He headed down the hall again, doubting with every step that the cats would listen to his directive.

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About emeree

I am an Air Force veteran. I served as a Security Forces troop for nearly seven years and reached the rank of Staff Sergeant before separating in 2008. My tours of duty were in England and Oklahoma. I live in the Seattle area, which is where I grew up. I used my GI Bill and earned a degree from the University of Washington. I currently work in downtown Seattle and experience all the adventure that comes with that.
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