A house could stand for a 1,000 years and be as peaceful as the day it was built. Lives could come and go…some in violence, some in sadness or anger and others like a spring breeze that just wanders in and wanders out…and that house could sit just as still as a pond at twilight.
Most houses are like this really.
Other houses are like magnets for the dark. As though every bad thing and every bad thought that ever came near it somehow stuck like the unseen barbs of stinging nettle. All you have to do is walk through it and you come out the otherside all red and irritated and you don’t know why.
The dark houses people pick up on pretty quick usually and learn to keep their distance. The like to put their trust in the quiet places; the silent places that make them feel safe.
Sometimes though it’s the quiet places that you have to worry about. Sometimes something triggers that old sleeping presence. An act or a word. A thing that shocks the house awake…and when it wakes it wakes like bear startled out of a deep winter slumber all teeth and swiping claws. Lord help the people who startle such a house to wakefulness because that anger runs deep and long and rarely lets go.
Tam, short for Tammany because mum once heard the name Tammany Hall and fell in love with it even though she never knew where it came from and never though to look, Tam was six and liked to wander.
She could not be outside for more than five minutes before she needed to explore, or walk or skip or just lose herself in the big and wide world. She was like a lot of children in this way…oblivious to the obvious dangers but somehow wary to the hidden ones.
Children, cats, and some dogs (certain monkeys in other parts of the world) have a sense for the hidden dangers that are woven deep into some things. We lose it mostly as we get older and it becomes the bedrock of the mythology of our youth. We grow in disbelief and thus can stumble into some real, honest to goodness evil without warning like walking down the stairs and reaching casually for that last step that you know is there but isn’t and you lose your equilibrium in a sudden, shocking jolt.
Tam was like most kids and then some. Tam knew the dark places even in the full bright of the midday summer sun. Tam knew which parts of the wood to steer away from, which parts of grandpa’s farm to avoid and she knew to stay well and clear of the red brick house at the end of 9th Street.
Tam knew this in a way that even other children didn’t…heck she knew this and other things better even than cats and that is saying something. When they drove past the red brick house she would hold her breathe and sit motionless lest it know she was there. She could feel it reaching out…even from blocks and blocks away it was like some worried sore in a deep place that radiated heat and sickness and infection. It was gross and made her want to throwup. It turned her ever-present smile into a thin line running straight across her face.
The place scared her as she knew it should but more than fear it made her angry. A place like that had no business in this town. A place like that had no business in this world. It was like a rotting, decayed tooth that wouldn’t fall out no matter how hard it got tugged. It practically hummed with pain like a high voltage wire that would kill you if you reached close enough.
Tam didn’t know what a high-voltage wire was. She didn’t think in terms of metaphor. She was six. She just knew it was a wrong place, the wrongest she’d ever felt in her more than half decade of life…and she knew if a person were to reach out it’d jump toward them like an arc from that high tension wire she never thought about…so she stayed away.
Now you might be wondering what kind of parent let their six year old little girl wander all over town and you’d be right to wonder such things. But Tam’s parents didn’t exactly ‘let’ her wander. She would just sneak off when they weren’t looking and send them into a panic.
Tam wandered. That’s what Tam’s do as far as Tam was concerned – they wandered and catalogued the wide world in their mind so as to sort through the images and feelings later in bed.
Sometimes without know it she would be ranking places from the bright to the dark in her head. It was a trick that helped her go to sleep. There weren’t just bright and dark places though. Tam knew there were in-betweens and almosts too. These were the most interesting to her – not dangerous…just unsettled like their English Bulldog Putz when he would whimper dream and shake.
When this would happen Tam would sneak quietly over and lay a hand on Putz and he would start to settle down. She liked to bring peace to Putz and, slowly and accidentally, Tam learned she could bring peace to some of the unsettled places too. This was one of the reasons she would wander…to find the unsettled not-yet-dangerous places and lay her hand on them that they might sleep still and peaceful again.
It was back in early September when Tam learned she could make the unsettled places quiet down like she did with Putz. Way back 8 months ago, which is a long, long time in the life of a six year old.
Tam was wandering the school yard during the first recess of her first day in Grade 1 when she decided to check out a part of the school yard that was fresh earth surrounded by grass.
It was a curious spot that lookked out of place and because it was different it drew her attention. Half walking, half skipping Tam made her way to the spot and just stared for a while. It was dark earth covered in tan seeds and surrounded by orange plastic rope wrapped around little metal spears.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Tam counted the spears. She counted them five times…three times out loud and twice in her head. Tam thoroughly enjoyed counting and was already learning math which made her feel smart and proud.
Tam knew from her classroom window the first time she saw the spot earlier in the day that this was an unsettled place. A fuzzy place as Tam would say because unsettled was not a word she knew yet.
Standing in front of the spot made her feel odd and sad. There were little pink and red things on the ground at one side and she went over to look. Small wilted flower petals. She picked one up and smelled it but there was nothing to smell. She put it into her pants pocket with a small rock she found earlier.
Tam stood and stared at the spot. So fuzzy. So unsettled. She knew if it woke it would get angry. It would be scared and confused like Putz could get and so she knelt and placed her hand on the earth and thought “there, there…you need to sleep…shhhh…go to sleep, its alright.”
Over and over she did this and slowly the fuzzy went away.
“I’ll come back to make sure yer ok” she said after the buzzer rang to drag Tam and fellow students back.
Walking back to the blue doors that led to her classroom Tam was happy. She made a fuzzy place quiet. She thought of the red brick house and frowned. That was not a fuzzy place and she could do nothing for it, not yet. But there were many other places like the spot on the school yard and she felt that maybe she should help them quiet too…it would make her sad to let them just stay fuzzy.