My wife finally got her way. We moved. The living room is bigger, but everything else is the same or less. It’s missing a bedroom. The previous owner, or the one before that, or the one before, or before that, turned the original back patio into a screened and tented lanai, and now that’s my wife’s art room. Someone poured a smaller patio next to it, around the side of the house, but I can’t sit out there because her dogs endlessly bark at me through the dark, plastic windows.
Oh, the house seemed fine when I walked through it, after exploring a few others, and enduring weeks of squinting at real estate pictures and floor plans that my wife stuck in my face with her phone. But just like the coffee table that looked small enough in the furniture store but turned out to be way too big for your living room, this house is not what I thought after moving in.
We lived at Old House for twenty-one years, a long way down the road, and I knew the terrain intimately. But here I can’t walk straight in the yard, or on the driveway, or on the sidewalk leading from the front door. There are dips and bumps, curves and angles I’m not familiar with. And all the inside doorways are different, so my elbows are bruised and scabbing. And most annoyingly, we are far from our favorite stores.
My second day here, the first day we were going to spend the night, I was sitting in my office trying to figure out how to display my stuff on less wall space, when suddenly it sounded like it was hailing outside, and not little hail, not marble-sized, but golf balls and bigger. I clambered out of my chair thinking only of how I could protect my car, but when I reached the living room I found that the sound was from claws on the wooden floor. My wife had brought her dogs over. I always wanted wooden floors instead of wall-to-wall carpet, but now I don’t. (Can you declaw dogs like cats? I need to know.)
Mainly it’s the acoustics of New House that stump me. I can’t identify the mail truck or the garbage truck from my recliner or anywhere, and when neighbors close their car doors I think someone’s here. The increased traffic sounds like biplanes and helicopters flying right over my roof—and while the helicopter sounds are sometimes real helicopters, mostly it’s sports cars that must have an on-and-off switch for their mufflers and motorcycles that don’t have one at all. The other day I finally made it to a window in time to observe that the heavy, grinding sound was not from Sherman tanks speeding through the neighborhood (flashback to mornings in Germany) but the ubiquitous lawn guys with their rattling flatbeds full of equipment. It’s going to take me a long time to get used to the echoes and vibrations of this place.
If my daughter, Ricochet, still lived with us, she’d proclaim that New House was haunted, just like she believed after we moved into Old House. I want ghosts to be real, though I don’t want to meet any of them. And I want Nessie and all lake monsters to be real, and Big Foot and his cousins, especially them. I want all of them to be real, but they’re not. I’ve spent over fifty years reading about and looking for those creatures, and I tell you none of them are real. But I can certainly understand how wishful expectations easily blur the actual.
There are poltergeists in the kitchen (the ice maker in my new refrigerator, which I’ve never had before and sounds like someone trying to kick down a door), and banshees (the installed dishwasher, which I haven’t had for decades and sounds like some preternatural beast shrieking from under the cabinets), and hungry werewolves, vampires, and zombies (the inside washer, dryer, and water heater; those have always been in our garage, and I don’t like going in that small room because there’s not enough space for my elbows), and the haunting sound of a kitchen timer ringing from some long ago meal that was ready to eat and eaten long ago (the faucet when I turn the handle a certain way. That is really freaky! The first time I heard it, I thought it was a windup clock like on a bedside table, but we don’t have one.)
There are still sounds I cannot identify. Creepy, creaky, willowy sounds that make me pause my DVR and glance over my shoulder. I never see anything, but I have to look.