Thursday, June 30, 2005


On the corner of 8th Street and Wandale Avenue, in the small town of Freemont, Ontario, there stands a house. (As a visitor to Freemont, you can't miss it; it won't let you.) Large and gray, boastful and expansive, it has stood, silent and watchful, in the centre of town for longer than the town itself has existed. There were rumors around Ontario for many years that the house was built by native Canadians around the turn of the nineteenth century, but rumors travel far and travel often in Freemont; to give voice to them, let alone confirm them, is a gamble that few are willing to take. (Freemont is not, and has never been, despite the casino, a gambling town.) Even if such gossip is limited to homebuilders and houses, history and myth, its potential potency remains suspect. To walk the streets of Freemont and stare at the elderly, Victorian-style houses that act as awkward second cousins to their elder, domineering blood relative, or to gawk at the startlingly ugly, brown and bland housing projects that have popped over the past year or two is enough. Enough to satisfy your curiosity. You will not find any answers, and especially not to those questions regarding that one specific house, the one bordering 8th and Wandale. You will walk these streets and think: How could this town have borne that house? It is both too grand and too ostentatiously forbidding for a town as a bland and glumly forlorn as Freemont. It is the place that makes you a child, in all the worst ways, for all the most craven of reasons. It is the house that you hurry past on a cold, moonless December evening, when the sky is black, the air crisp, the snowfall steady but slight. Yes, you hurry past, and you do not look back, and when you mention it again -- that feeling, that December feeling -- the next morning, as you pick up your juice and Lotto 649 ticket at Becker's on Main and Cromwell, the balding cashier, Henry, elderly and retreating, retreats even further. All the way to the other side of the counter, near the chips and the Lik-M-Aid, three for a buck. Visitors don't come all that often to Freemont, truth be told, and when they do, they usually ask. About the house. And the locals, they retreat. To the other side of the counter, or to the storage room, or even just one aisle over. Doesn't matter where.

You shouldn't ask about that house.


Amanda said...

homesick? :)
beautifully written.
on my old block, the block on which i "grew up." before we moved when i was seven and still thought of the old block as "home," there lived a man who dressed up in his mother's clothes and stood on their porch and watched us play. that's a house not to stop in front of, too.

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