Toward the end of this past semester, I responded to an online advertisement listing a one-bedroom cottage near Proctor's Hall for rent. I decided to take it for the summer at around $150 per week, utilities included. I moved in on May 12th.
The threads of the shag carpet in the living room hold must and stench of cats long-dead, hit by cars and ravaged by lean mountain predators and fat flies. Its shade is a lava red and black, combined in interlocking Rorschach inkblots of one color, then the other. The pattern continues to my bedroom, where the color combination abruptly changes to avocado and Grey Poupon.
It has a bathroom with a terrific view of a wood paneled house belonging to Dr. George Poe, whose French class I took freshman year. J'ai fait un tarte aux pommes pour il et son épouse quand je me suis déplacé la petite maison.
The kitchen is very small, its dark green refrigerator and fast-heating stove on the left and a small sink and counter top on the right. Cabinets hold the year-round owner's groceries: off-brand chocolate diet shakes a la Slim Fast, Lays potato chips, five boxes of rice, flax cereal, outdated spices, and unopened jellies and jams made by Amish folk from rural Pennsylvania.
From there, a door leading out to the back porch where I keep potted herbs. Deer graze in the grass between Lake Bratton and my porch. They hardly flench when I go out to sit in chairs wearing (perpetually) their pollen coats.
The interior of the cottage itself stays very dark, even during the sunniest of days, with the blinds drawn. It is the deeply stained wood paneling, made from trees felled on the property. But I keep the windows that way to prevent cataract-afflicted eyes from spotting thick puffs of white, moderate nudity.
The elderly couple next door double as my landlords. They can't or at least pretend they can't heard my responses to simple questions or my side of daily polite conversation. "How's your manuscript coming," Mr Lotti asks as I open the driver's side door of my car. I shrug slightly and say, "Fairly slowly." He grins, back lit by noon sun. Its rays render the veined cartilage of his wide ears nearly transparent. "I'm sure it'll be a bestseller," he says. His hands decorated with liver spots resting one atop the other on the plastic handle of a brand-new spade. "I'd like a signed copy for my bookshelf!"