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Every time my husband and I visit our daughter and her family, we walk to the shopping area that is less than a mile away. On the way, we pass three semi-detached houses that have a street on both sides. The houses at both ends are in beautiful shapes; fresh paint jobs, solid ceilings, manicured grounds, and attractive entryways. Middle House is a completely different story.

This visit, I stop and take a good look at it. The gray tile roof is surprisingly in good shape as is the red brick exterior. However, the windows, garage door, and front door are encased in a solid wall of dirty gray concrete. Much of the house is covered by trees, shrubs, and vines that creep over brick surfaces. Weeds are winning the battle for dominance and the brick steps leading to street level and the area below them are covered in trash. Several large stones are barely visible in the overgrown lawn and once prominent plants peek out, they search in vain for space to grow as warm weather approaches.

My granddaughter, S, stops with me. “Look at that house,” I tell him. “Every time we visit, I wonder what happened to the owners and why all the windows, the garage door, and the front door are slammed shut.”

His eyes widen and I realize that he is seeing the house for the first time even though he passes in front of it frequently. “Let’s take a look at the front door,” I say. I start to climb the front steps, looking for loose bricks. S follows me, an expression of fear and anticipation on his eight-year-old face. I’m having a blast, hooking your imagination.

We walked to the front door and looked around, my husband yelling warnings to be careful behind us. S takes my hand and we examine the front door: there is definitely no way in. Cement is solid. So we turn and go down the steps, my husband offers me a hand because there is no railing.

“Maybe people had to leave in a hurry,” says S. “Maybe someone was sick or had no money.” She is hopping from one foot to the other, animated and engaged in this game that we are playing. All the way to the shopping area, we talked about the house and wondered why people left. Perhaps they had to leave in a hurry and were unable to return or there was a fire in the house. Or maybe they are still there and have a secret opening to get food and water.

On the way back, I open the mailbox and pull out the only piece of mail, a card covered in dirt and cobwebs. It has been here for a while. S and I looked at it: it is dated October 2015 and is a notice to appear in court for creating a nuisance. Of course! What else could it be.

That night, we go to dinner at the house of S’s other grandmother. At the end of the evening, the theme of “the house” comes up. S tells the story, her voice raised and her face animated. I love looking at it.

We all wonder if we could find any information about the house. A guest suggests that we look at the public records. She thinks it would be difficult to sell because whoever bought the property would have to pay the creditors. Also, there may be many links against the property. Someone else explains that the foreclosure process is initiated by creditors and a foreclosure sale would offset any ties and would not encumber the property for the new owners. But we are all curious to know what happened to the house and the owners. Our circle of detectives has expanded.

We talked about what might be inside. Someone suggests that there could be rats floating in a flooded house; the floorboards could be giving way, so the door had to be cemented for safety reasons; Most likely, it has been abandoned and turned into a marijuana house. Everything seems plausible.

The next day we take another walk to the commercial area. This time S takes his camera (a gift from Hanukah) and I take my iPhone. At the house, S and I started taking photos, even taking photos of the mailbox. When we are at home, we send each other our photos. Then S gestures for me to follow her to her room. We sit on the bed and make ourselves comfortable.

“I know what’s in the house,” he confesses.

“That?” I ask.

“It is a magical house.”

“Magic?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says. “You have to know the magic word to enter the house and only special people know it. And when you are inside, you can float in the air and ask for food and eat it while you are floating.” She laughs “Then you might get nauseous!”

We both laugh. “I think you are absolutely right,” I tell him. “The house is magic.”

Mystery solved.


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