David and I were not happy to discover the shack last time we were in Marble Falls. Located just beyond our property line, on the backside of the estate’s water tank, it’s a splintering shed, twenty by twenty-two. The roof has collapsed on one corner. It’s stuffed with broken bed frames, discarded chests, and soiled mattresses; a cracked mirror hangs on the wall. Bad mojo, indeed. A fire hazard. A skunk-and-snake bar.
Curtis and Anna, going to the Texas hill country for a wedding, (Best wishes, Christine!) want to stay at our house in Marble Falls while they’re in the area. We give them the gate and garage controls, and David tells them to check out the junky hovel out back. He tells them it’s haunted.
Here’s an excerpt from the email Curtis sends us from Marble Falls: I met the guy who lives in the shed out back. His name is Herb. He seems passive enough. He says it’s his job to look after the cacti.
Oh no! David and I are appalled. Someone is living back there? In that leaning rotten structure? That’s not good. I email the manager of the estate: Bryan, our son tells us that someone is living in the derelict shack adjacent to the water tank, which we find disconcerting. What can be done about this? Thanks, Jenny Waldo
To which Bryan immediately responds:
Jenny, thanks for the heads-up. I have called the sheriff and he’s sending someone out there today. I’ll keep you posted. Bryan
So I turn my mind to other issues, but I also keep worrying. Somebody’s living back there? Some passive man named Herb? Maybe he’s using our water, which would explain why we’re being charged for so much (twenty-four thousand gallons last month) when we’ve not even moved in yet. Also—and this creeps me out—I’ve been there by myself. I’ve walked around out there alone, slept in the house alone. Was passive Herb watching as I installed shelf paper? Was he listening as I sang the Special Treat song to my dog?
Bryan sends me another email: Jenny, the water-maintenance people and the sheriff have both been out there and their reports indicate that, as far as they can see, no one is staying in the shack. Bryan
To which I respond: Bryan, just because it looks like no one’s living there doesn’t mean that no one’s living there. My son would not make this up. The man’s name is Herb. Thanks for taking action on this. Jenny
At which point Bryan writes: Jenny, though there is no sign of habitation, the shack is being demolished and its contents hauled off. Bryan
I don't get back to Bryan. Somewhere between the time I wrote, "My son would not make this up," and Bryan's reply, I remembered the essence of the child I gave birth to, the kid who had no patience with untruth; this was a boy who didn't comprehend the concept of duplicity until he was nine years old. Curtis believes that fabrication is the most foolish of mankind's creations; and in continuation of that thought, he disdains a blurry line between fact and fiction. A thing is either true or it isn't. He doesn't appreciate the way, in my writing, I play in the nebulous expanse between imagination and veracity: a homeless man who disappears and reappears; an abused grandmother who takes up residence in her neighbor's closet, undetected for years; a depraved ghost who spies on her ex-lovers. He was disappointed in me when he learned that my blog post about me giving my neighbor's dog to a stranger wasn't true. So he decided to show me that he, too, can weave fiction into reality. "My son would not make this up," I claimed, when that's exactly what he did. I will never admit this to my new neighbors. They will be confounded for years that once a man lived so near them and they never knew. But on the upside, now, because of Curtis's venture into the world where actuality meets imagination, and also because of my gullibility, the offensive shack is gone. So that's good.