Donovan Brock’s life began anew in the springtime, like all things should. He lost his wife and kept his job. He left his house to her, along with a child and all the furniture. He took what he had left and he purchased a three-bedroom brown-shingled house, built sometime in the late 1970’s, early 1980’s, by a man who had construction in his blood. Donovan Brock moved in with the history buzzing in his ear from the sad sisters who had sold it to him, offering him dishes because he was handsome, and charming, and self-assured, and funny when they desperately needed someone who was all those things.<\p>
Donovan Brock’s new home had a firing range and a shed, a fresh well that provided cloudy mineralized water and a newly renovated pond. He decided to keep the boat next to it, where it looked fashionable and homey without looking too pretentious. His seven acres butted up against another six, an undeveloped parcel waiting for someone to bite. It had sat idle since before he moved in. There are no jobs in Michigan, and not many people could afford to start living, for the first time or the second. But Donovan Brock did.
He filled in his furniture slowly. He removed the ugly gilt wallpaper and retiled the kitchen floors. The laundry room was a mess- years of dogs and old appliances were swept to the back porch. There was a ramp covering the back stairs he didn’t understand. He kind of liked the rich brown carpet, and so Donovan Brock left it holding up his new living room. He pulled it from the floors of the dining room, though. It was just a little too much as it crept from under the sofa to the step in the kitchen. He repapered the back bedroom, covered as it was with that vintage 1980’s art-deco black bamboo paper. Something about having little velveteen birds watching his guests sleep did not appeal to him, and so he tore their nests off the wall and left them outside with the rest.
Donovan Brock liked the fig tree in the front and so it kept standing. He liked the big, old trees lining the drive and so he left them alone, too. He didn’t need the money, and so he didn’t clear the land. Instead, he sat on the stone front stoop and watched the cars drive by, throwing up plumes of dust and pebbles from the grated gravel streets. He lived on the Cottreville side of the road. He wished for city water, but it wasn’t in the cards. It was only available in the neighboring county- 5 yards away. But the well water left his hair soft, even if he wouldn’t admit it to himself, and the coffee was stronger with the natural additives, and so he did not complain. He did, however, often wonder if the cars slowing in front of his house did not come up the drive because they did not want to be rude by turning around on someone else’s (occupied) property, or if they were there for some other reason. Something sinister. Or perhaps, just something pathetic.
Donovan Brock does not know that there is an aerial photograph of his home, circa 1995, now displayed prominently in the foyer of a suburban Georgia home. Donovan Brock does not know that children spent years drawing dinosaur tracks and tic-tac-toe boards into the plush brown carpet on his living room floor, the games made all the more adventurous by the thought of enduring the scolding of a sharp-tongued Italian woman for their trouble. Donovan Brock will never hear the clatter of a guard dog’s nails on the tile in front of the door, sliding across the Persian rug which once wiped the feet of 3 generations, nor will he ever understand the true beauty of an appliance that can roast a ham, boil a pot of noodles, heat the spaghetti sauce and cook 2 trays of potatoes all at the same time. He has no need for these things. These things are the past, the ghosts flitting around him unnoticed as he walks by the wall full of tacky mirrors cleaned by aunts and nieces, through the hall where the coloring books were held, to the bathroom where bath and beauty products once lined every available surface.
Donovan Brock knows that he purchased a home from a family that had just lost their mother. But he does not know that that was my childhood refuge. He does not know that I did not do quite enough growing up there, that no older people died in that home because they died such painful deaths outside its walls. He does not know that because my mother sold him the property, I had to spend my Christmas in a one-bedroom apartment, sleeping on a futon that once resided in Donovan Brock’s newly refurbished home office. But Donovan Brock will find out, one day, that one should not make idle promises.
Because Donovan Brock told us we could come by anytime. And one day, the idling cars along the gravel road will turn onto his driveway instead of driving by with ill-concealed tears, and ring his bell instead of putting the engine back into gear, and shake his hand. Because Donovan Brock lives in my grandparent’s home… and I am not quite ready to say goodbye.
If you're Donovan Brock, you can tell me how you actually rearranged the house. I took some artistic liberties. When I can round up my cousins, I really will stop by for a beer. Just for you, I might drink it.