DON'T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE
I will never forget the date it was Thursday June 26, 2008. It was the day that Todd and I moved into our new home. We had been searching for the perfect house for a year. We both wanted something with a little bit of land that was not too far from town. But a lot of the homes that we had looked with the realtors were either dumps or highly overpriced. Until one day I found an ad in the local paper.
FOR SALE: AN OLD ABANDONED HOUSE ON TWO AND HALF ACRES OF LAND. THREE MILES OUT OF TOWN. Price negotiable. Call 555-2478.
I stared at the ad for a few minutes with tears clouding my eyes. I knew the moment I saw the ad that this was the place we were looking for. Without even seeing the property, I knew that this was we had been searching for. I called Todd at work and told him about the ad. His response….was to call right away before someone snatches it up. My heart was racing like a runaway train when I picked up the phone and dialed the number.
Two days later we were pulling up the steep dirt driveway next to a two story house that looked to be a hundred years old or more and definitely abandoned. It siding was made of its original wood not the aluminum siding that you see on houses nowadays. The wood was old and dark and probably full of termites I presumed. Just thinking about it gave me the heebie jeebies.
Todd and I got out of our Jeep and walked over to an older gentleman who was standing beside the old house.
“You must be Mr. Wall?” I asked, reaching my hand out to shake his. Todd did the same.
“And you must be Todd and Madison Holmes?” Mr. Wall said. He was a squirrely looking man, short like me, maybe an inch taller than my 5 foot petite frame. He had brownish grey hair that looked as if it hadn’t been combed for days and his beard and mustache were in need of a good trim. But it was a look that I was accustomed too. A lot of the older folks who lived in this part of town looked like this, especially the older farmers.
“Yes.” Todd answered. I smiled nervously at the older gentleman. I couldn’t help but stare at his worn clothes and shoes and his eyebrows. It took all I had to keep from laughing at his eyebrows. They were the bushiest eyebrows that I have ever seen on a person. They had to be at least 2 inches thick, maybe more.
“Follow me then.” He ordered, walking around the old house. I glanced up at Todd, hinting to him while raising my eyebrows up and down. He smiled at me then elbowed me playfully to keep quiet.
“This old house was built in 1918 by my grandfather, Orvis Wall.” He walked up the steps and to the door, using a key to open it. I stopped at the bottom of the steps and stared at him with wide eyes. Did he seriously think that we were here to buy the house? This old house that was filled with bats, mice and termites and God knows what else.
Reading my mind, Todd quickly stepped forward. “Uh..Mr. Wall, we are not here to look at the house. We are interested more in the land. If we buy this land, more than likely we will be tearing this old place down.” I sighed in relief when Todd told him our plan. The old man turned around slowly and with his mouth agape, staring at us like we had just committed the worst crime ever.
“Wha..wha..wha…did you say?” He stuttered. His hands began to shake as he glanced back and forth between Todd and I. I immediately began to panic, afraid that we were going to put this old man into cardiac arrest.
“Oh no Mr. Walls. What my husband meant to say was that we are planning on building another home here, somewhere on this property. We just weren’t going to live in this house.” I tried to speak calmly as he continued to shake.
“Oh..well…well that’s fine then. There is plenty of room for another home on this land.” Mr. Wall locked the door then continued to tell us the history about the house. About his grandfather Orvis and grandmother Ethel and how much he used to love this house and staying here when he was a young boy.
“There’s an old pond down over that hill there.” He said pointing across the yard. “And there used to be an old pig pen where my grandfather and father used to raise and butcher them. Boy! Those were the days.” He chuckled as he grabbed a pipe from his breast pocket and began packing it with tobacco from a pouch that he kept in his back pocket. I watched with amazement, how he stuffed and packed the pipe then lit it with an old silver zippo that he kept in his other front pocket.
“Did I tell you that my Pappy Orvis taught me how to smoke a pipe?” Todd and I shook how heads, amused. I always got a kick out of old folks and how they liked to talk about their younger days. They never seemed to forget what happened to them when they were kids but if you asked them what happened last week they would look at you clueless.
I walked back over to the Jeep as Todd and Mr. Wall did some negotiating. My head snapped up when I heard Todd say “What? Are you serious?” My heart sunk when I heard him say these words. I really liked the property back here. It was quiet and secluded and yet the nearest neighbor was just across the road, caddy corner from us. And the best part was that we were only 3 miles from town. It wasn’t that I liked living in town. Todd and I both grew up in the small town of Centerville. We both thought it would be a nice change of pace to live in the “country” so to speak.
Todd Holmes was a senior when he first laid eyes on me. I was just a freshman, a straggly looking freshmen, if you ask me with brown frizzy hair from a bad perm that my mother had given me and my teeth were covered with braces. Yep, metal mouth was my nickname at that time. Todd on the other hand was tall, 6 foot to be exact with short dirty blond hair and the bright green eyes that I had ever seen. Every time he would smile, two perfect dimples would pop out, making his face more handsome than ever. All the girls in school were crazy about him, myself included but I knew that he was way out of my league….until the day he accidently tripped me in the hall and I went flying across the hall with my books went sailing in every direction.
But that wasn’t what caught his attention it was the blood pouring from my mouth. I had bitten my tongue when my face smacked off the floor. He literally carried me to the nurse’s station, apologizing a hundred times. From that day on, he had always been in my life.
I stood quietly watching Todd and Mr. Wall talk. After a few minutes they shook hands and parted ways. My heart sunk to the pit of my stomach when I saw the disgusted look on Todd’s face, leaving me to believe that the negotiation didn’t go well.
I quietly walked around the passenger side door and jumped in. I knew that we didn’t get it. Todd was too quiet when he started up the Jeep.
“Well…aren’t you going to ask me?” He turned to look at me before shifting gears.
“I know.” My lips quivered again. And so the search continued looking for a place to call home. I was so sick of renting the small apartment that we had lived in for the last year and a half. We both talked about starting a family and the apartment we lived it barely fit the two of us let alone adding a baby.
“You know? What are you psychic?” He remarked. I turned around to see a huge smile, dimples included across his face.
“What? What? We got it?” I shrieked jumping in my seat.
“Yep, my lady we found ourselves a home.” He laughed. “And it was a steal too. I offered him more money but he wouldn’t take it.” I wrapped my arms around his neck, squeezing him as hard as I could.
“What was the final price?” I asked pulling my arms away from him. I was curious now as to what was said between them.
“Five hundred dollars!” He chuckled in disbelief. I stared at him with my mouth hanging open, five hundred dollars for two and a half acres of land? Things were finally starting to look up for us.
The next few weeks were crazy. We ordered the perfect double wide home with four bedroom and two baths and two huge living rooms, one with a fireplace. And weeks after that, we had the ground dug up to start on our basement. Todd always wanted a finished basement, someplace where his buddies could come over and drink beer and play pool and watch the Pittsburg Steelers on a huge flat screen tv. Our home was soon to be a reality. The only problem that I had was the location that we had chosen. We had just bought two and half acres of land and the only place that we could place our new home was right behind the old house. Todd explained to me that there was a natural gas well line running through here and well with the price of fuel these days…having natural gas was a big advantage, especially in the winter time. I wasn’t keen on the idea of cooking on a gas stove, afraid that I will burn the house down but if it was going to save us a lot of money in the future then how could I argue?
After two and half months of signing our life away with loan papers and packing boxes after boxes, we were finally moving into our new home.
After spending hours unloading the Uhaul truck and placing the boxes in their dedicated rooms, Todd and I along with our parents were exhausted. We hadn’t realized how much stuff we had accumulated in the last year and a half and what boggled all of our minds was where in the hell did we keep it all in our little shoe box of an apartment.
“I told you she was a hoarder.” Todd teased as we all sat around the kitchen table eating pizza. “GAH!” I picked up a wad of napkins and threw them at his face.
“Yeah, she gets it from her mother.” My father decided to join in by teasing my mother. My parents Jeff and Maggie Mason were high school sweethearts too and married young, only because my mother had gotten pregnant with me at the tender age of sixteen. I looked more like my father with the thick dark coarse brown hair and dark brown eyes. My mother had short feathered hair with green eyes. I was petite like her, minus the middle age spread.
“GAH!” Mother and I both gasped and stared at Dad for being so rude. His broad shoulder shaking as he laughed. “What? It’s true. You go home right now and look in our closet. The woman has at least a hundred boxes of puzzles stacked to the ceiling. Believe me, I know. I dread every hunting season when I gotta get my gun out of there. It ends up being a two hour production.”
“Oh for heaven’s sake, it does not take you two hours to get your gun.” Maggie scolded playfully.
“Like hell it does.” My father continued to tease my mother. Todd’s father Ted joined in and began tormenting Carol, Todd’s mother. Soon all six of us were bickering back and forth, guys against the girls.
After dinner, we thanked our parents for helping us and watched them pull out of the driveway, all of them promising to be here early the next morning to help unpack more boxes. As I turned to walk back into the house, I caught something out of the corner of my eye. I snapped around to look at the window of the old house. It was one of the windows on the second floor. I could have sworn that I had seen someone standing there. But all I could see was a white curtain that looked torn to shreds.
Todd and I spent a few more hours unpacking boxes that were marked ‘kitchen’. Todd stood by the cupboards as I carefully handed him our ceramic plates, bowls and glasses. I was so excited. Everything was fresh and new and exactly the way we wanted it. Our new house was starting to feel like a home.
It was getting late when we both decided to call it a night. Todd crashed on the bed and was snoring within minutes. I had decided to take a nice warm shower before going to bed. I was anxious to take my first shower in my new home.
I stood under the shower for a while enjoying the warm water soothe my aching back and shoulders. I hadn’t realized how out of shape I was until we began packing and moving these boxes. As I began lathering my hair with shampoo I heard a voice in the bathroom with me.
“Todd is that you?” I stood quietly for a moment waiting for his reply but he didn’t answer. Then I heard it again. It wasn’t a voice. It was singing. I knew that this wasn’t Todd because it was a female voice singing. I slowly grabbed the shower curtain then quickly snapped it back to see who was in here with me. But the bathroom was empty. I hurried and rinsed the shampoo out of my hair and got out of the shower.
As I began to dry myself off, I could hear the singing again. This time it was louder, loud enough for me to understand the words to the song.
“Don’t sit under the apple tree, with anyone else but me. Anyone else but me, anyone else but me.”