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Dear Sandy,

     It’s been a long time since we’ve written back and forth.  There’s been a few changes in my life, so I figured it was high time to write another letter. 

     I moved down to Texas, finally.  I was living in the city for a while, right downtown, but it turned out to be too much of a distraction.  So I decided to scrape up all my money and buy a large piece of land out in the middle of nowhere.  In Texas, it can be easy to be out in the middle of nowhere and still be close enough to something to not feel like you’re completely isolated. 

     During my time here, I have driven around quite a bit.  When I was looking for my land and stuff, or going between cities.  Sometimes I would drive on a long stretch of straight road, looking at flat grassland dotted with stands of trees, sometimes a watering hole, a bunch of cows and fences.  When I say fences I don’t mean white picket fences, or chain-linked fences.  No, I mean, back to the basics “shove a stick in the ground and wrap barbed-wired around it” fences.  Sometimes I wonder just how old they are.  Are they from the 1800’s or whatever, or did someone recently grab a bundle of sticks and make a fence?

     But this is the amazing part (amazing to me, anyway):  sometimes I’ll be driving and I’ll see some land and there’ll be a house on it.  I know, a land with a house!  Big deal!  But it’ll be an old house.  A ramshackle shack, with a deteriorating roof, crumbling porch, peeled and faded paint.  Sometimes it’ll have windows, sometimes they’ll be busted.  The front door might be on it and closed, or it could be gone completely, or hanging open, on one hinge, in a lonely kind of way.  I wonder, then, do the people that own the land know that there’s a house on it?  Does anyone own the land?  If they know the house is there, why do they keep it? 

     Anyway, I bought a big piece of land.  Not to sound like I’m bragging (I’m really not, I’m just in shock), but the land is big.  Large.  HUGE!  Jack would say it was "Fucking enormous!" if he saw it.  And then he’d say it again once he realized he was only looking at a part of it.  The real estate agent wanted to know if I was going to raise a large contingent of cattle.  I laughed and said I was just going to write.  He shook his head.

     So we took a tour of the land, but we didn’t go over all of it.  Just a piece of it.  It’s got a modest (I swear!) house set pretty far back from the road.  My driveway is a long dirt road!  And you know what?  It’s got one of those fences made of sticks and barbed-wire, too!

     I know you’re itching to make fun of me so let me tell you right now that, yes, I did buy a pick-up truck.  Go ahead and fall over laughing.  I’ll wait.  Just so you know, I kept the Lincoln, too, but now I also have a big ass pick-up truck.  I also bought an ATV to scoot around the "estate."  Hell, I might need to use the pick up.  I could run around my yard naked, and nobody would ever see me unless they were in a helicopter.  I did not, though, buy a cowboy hat.  Or boots, either.

     The other day I was working on my new project, the book about the man who’s haunted by his dead wife, and I just hit that writer’s block, you know?  I just couldn’t work for anything.  So I did what I normally do, which is unpack a few boxes, re-arrange some furniture, straighten up around the house, have coffee on the back porch, anything to shake that block loose. 

     Nothing was working, so that’s when I decided to take the RAM into town and buy the ATV.  I figured there was a lot of land I hadn’t seen, so I was going to ATV my way across it.

     When I was a kid, even a small yard was a kind of adventure.  There’d be the one corner I don’t ever remember being in, and I’d go there.  In a very small way it was kind of exciting.  Not that I’d expect to find anything, but I could just think to myself, "I’ve never touched this fence post until now!" and it would be an amazing thing.

     Well, imagine that on a much larger scale.  I took the ATV and zoomed off in one direction, figuring I’d drive a straight line to the edge of the property. 

     I know that when you think "Texas" you equate it with flat, barren desert.  That’s so untrue, though.  My land has hills and grass, at least one pond, and a fairly large number of trees.  They aren’t big trees, like up North, but small and stunted trees.  But sometimes they grow thick.  I headed for a stand of these trees near a pond and over a small rise so it can’t be seen to easily from the house.

     As I got closer to the trees I saw that there was — get this — a house!  No, I didn’t get lost and circle around to my own house.  This was different.  Smaller.  It was, in fact, one of those ramshackle shacks I mentioned earlier!  What amazing luck!

     I stopped the ATV a fair distance and stared at it.  It was obviously old.  The once white paint was peeling off and showing gray wooden boards underneath.  Actual wooden boards, not particle board or sheet rock.  There’s a porch.  The windows looked whole.  I guess since it’s so far back from the road, and hidden by the trees, no teens ever came by to vandalize it.  I got excited, I could feel my heart beating a bit faster. 

     I went closer to it.  It looks so lonely, sitting there by itself.  The windows were all dark and the front door was closed.  I have to admit, I got a little nervous.  I half expected some crazy old coot with a shotgun to come out blazing out the front door.  Some old guy who had no idea that he didn’t own the land he lived on anymore.  You know, like those Japanese soldiers that got lost on deserted islands for years and were never told that the war ended.

     Luckily, no old armed men came storming at me.  I carefully walked onto the porch, which I thought would collapse.  It held, though.  The door wasn’t locked.  It’s one of those old locks, which the keyhole underneath the knob.  I would’ve peeked through it but, being a horror writer, I could just imagine something poking through it into my eye!

     I just let myself in.  My God, it was beautiful in a horrible kind of way.  No electricity runs out there.  No water.  No anything.  It was dark inside, especially coming in from the bright outdoors.  Everything looks intact, like someone lived in it and then just up and left.  Or died in bed, never having relatives come and check in on the occupant.  I worried about that, actually.  But everything was there, even if it was rotting and falling apart. 

     Heavy curtains still covered the windows.  There are old end tables and chairs.  A big, green, velvet covered couch with big ornate carved wooden legs.  I wanted to sit on that so bad, but I’d rather check to make sure a family of rats or something isn’t living in it first.  The kitchen has a wood burning stove!  It’s fully furnished.

     Mold climbs up the walls and my allergies, which I never had until I moved here, kicked into high gear.  I figured I should come back and explore at a different time.  Maybe get a mask or something.  The house has two stories.  There’s a very narrow staircase that goes up (or down, if you’re already up, ha ha).  There’s a  bedroom on the ground floor, with an iron bed.  Thankfully, the bed is not occupied.  I suspect there are more bedrooms upstairs, though.

     It’s really neat, but also kind of creepy.  I poked around for a bit, even though I didn’t get very far.  There’s lots of stuff still in that house and I wonder why.  I’m definitely going back there.  It’s my house, right? 

Your good friend,

Austin

    

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