Roe sells his family history by the acre


(Who knows what this will eventually be. I’m just scribbling.)

Roe’s house had been for sale as long as anyone could remember. He freshened his advertising once a year or so with new paint to attract attention. No one ever slowed to take down the phone number and no one ever called. Once in a while Roe would mention figures to the neighbors and family – usually around Christmas but mostly after church. He estimated and reestimated appraisals for local properties most nearly like his own, upgrading his own eventual gross sales price with each passing year.

The Hutto house was certainly something to look at, and when Roe was diligent with the yard work, it could actually be seen from the road. The house began as a three-room tar paper box built off the ground to keep it cool in the summer. Since his great-grandparents constructed it in the mid-thirties with money from cotton picking and sharecropping, there had been a few changes. This was the Hutto Starter House. Roe’s great-grandparents began their married lives in this house, as did all the freshly-marrieds in the family.

Electricity glowed illusory from three single, dangling wires – one in each room of the house. The open back porch was enclosed to accommodate a toilet, tub, and sink some years ago, and the other half was dangerously wired in devotion to a rusted washing machine that did not now nor had ever worked. The interior walls of the house were solid two-by-fours and appeared to have been painted variously at various times, showing traces in the living room of a hurried winter newspapering.

The whole house, porches and all, measured a scant 20’ x24’. If a visitor stood at the epicenter of the Hutto home, he could be reasonably comfortable in all three rooms at once.
There was a place by the north wall covered now by a rather frantic Olsten photograph of Roe’s daddy, Petrus, grimacing proudly in his Screaming Tigers football uniform back when the pads were small and helmets were metal. The football portrait represented specific skills of movement or prowess – a postured still just violent and childlike enough to make his mother’s heart sway and his father suck in his own gut in admiration. Behind this frozen gridiron legacy was a valentine card pasted directly on the two-by-four and painted around, but never over. It read, “TO MY SWEETEST ONE. I ADORE THEE” in a flag of beautiful scripting carried aloft by a mainly naked, smiling cherub. The paper was thinning and faded and bore neither the name of the adored nor the giver of the sentiment. The Hutto family considered this a sacred relic of sorts: at some time some member of their family had a feeling strong enough to warrant the purchase of such a card and was too overcome with the depth of that emotion to mar it with one single, secular, mark.

The house was built as it could be paid for and was never really completed. It existed in a permanent state of flux where the work seemed to create and redouble itself to keep the house from being complete. Each spurt of enthusiastic newlywed workmanship shone outwardly and inwardly like fine and many colored sandstone layers. The main roof was originally tarred roll roofing that had been replaced and patched, but never changed. That front porch was an afterthought and its corrugated metal roofing was added even later than that. A rusted-out section had been covered by an odd piece of green corrugated fiberglass that filtered the Arkansas sun like a Cold War atomic afterglow.

It’s hard to put a price on a house like that.

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