That Colossal Wreck

That Colossal Wreck September 22, 2017



There was another demolition on my street, this afternoon. A small crew was taking down another derelict house. There are many old houses up in LaBelle which are scheduled for demolition– as many or more as there are homeless men and women downtown and living in hiding on the cliff’s edge.  The city pays quite a bit of money to demolish each house, and wrings its hands about the homelessness problem. Somehow, that economic strategy doesn’t add up to me, but nothing around here makes sense.

The sound of the equipment was loud enough to spoil any chance at homeschooling for the afternoon. I took Rosie down the block to watch the demolition.

When we got there, the house was already gone.  It must have been constructed of cardboard and matchsticks, to go down so easily. There was a single, very small backhoe running back and forth over the wreckage and a single, tired-looking man in a hard hat wandering around, directing the back hoe.

We saw that as we approached the house; when we came near it, it disappeared behind thick bushes of a kind that grow all over LaBelle– I don’t know its name, but it grows out of hand in front of the shabbier houses and it smells just like honeysuckle. Over the LaBelle Honeysuckle was tangled net of ivy, and beyond the ivied bushes were what was left. There were the porch steps, the porch itself with a wooden bench still on it, and a single white porch pillar standing alone like a stela in the ruins of an ancient temple. If I’d had a marker, I would have been sore tempted to run up and write “My Name is Ozymandias, King of Kings” on the pillar, but no one in this neighborhood would get the joke. Besides, the backhoe would get the last pillar before long. Then they’d leave for the day. A few weeks later they’d be back with a dump truck to cart away the ruins. Later, someone would fill the foundation with enough earth that there would be no vestige of the little house except a slight indentation in the ground. Then the weeds, the vines and the fragrant bushes would take over, and that would be the end.

Somehow, the sight of the porch frightened me. I could just imagine somebody coming out of that ruined house and sitting down on the bench. I could see them staring at the street, cursing the overgrown bushes or enjoying the smell. Maybe one person who had lived there had planted the bushes and kept them a respectable height, once upon a time. Thinking in this way filled me with an old irrational dread I’d always felt at demolitions, from the time I was a little girl: the dread that a demolition team would mistake an address, and tear down an occupied house. That they would tear down my house, or the house of somebody I loved.

I hope somebody loved that house. It could be that, back before the economic downturn, when the world seemed full of opportunity and Steubenville was prosperous, the people who lived in that house were full of hope. Either way, I hope for them. I hope there were happy times there. I hope there were birthday parties and Christmas celebrations. I hope someone in the house prayed for somebody else and their prayers were answered a thousandfold, back in the old days when there was happiness in this neighborhood. I hope someone died peacefully in that house, surrounded by family, instead of downtown in the grim nursing home, after a life well spent; I hope the angels conducted them to paradise and that they intercede for LaBelle to this day.

I hope the homeless people on the cliff find shelter before the winter sets in. I pray that someone remembers them.

The backhoe lurched to a different part of wreck. From where I was standing, I could see the garage across the alley. Beyond and to the side of the garage was the wall of the red brick Protestant church that always has such beautiful loud rhythmic preaching on Wednesday nights. And on the wall of the church, peeking at me over the sloped roof of the garage, I could see cheap white block letters: JESUS IS LORD.

Indeed, He is Lord, and not a sparrow falls without His knowing.

But when He returns, will He find any righteous here?

(image via Pixabay)

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