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A Brief History ofThyme Cosmology on the Corner Lot Melissa Haertsch Whole villages sprang up within the confines ofsome viUa rustica sites. —William Woys Weaver, HeirloomVegetable Gardening The truant officer came around yesterday, looking for the boy next door. The puzzled man stood on the new sidewalk and scratched his ear with a pen, then looked toward my door: the boy was absent—common enough— but the house was gone too. This is my doing. 1. How t? Make a Garden (Long Way) Build a family home in a boomtown whose economy is based on the smashand -grab removal of a non-renewable resource by unregulated companies. Have the house belong to respectable people for a hundred years, then aUow the last father to grow old and poor in the de-veined city. Have him die, and have the children fax from Arizona to say that the lawyer should seU the house and send them the money. An upper middle class professional wfll invest in it. He wfll lease to average people; he wfll grow accustomed to his Ufestyle. Then some ofhis growth funds wfll fail and he wfll stop putting the rent back into maintenance. Relocate the good tenants to Arizona. The landlord wfll bring in some guys on disability who spend their days hanging over the second story porch rail smoking cigarettes and leering at school girls, and whose checks from the government go straight to a P.O. box in the suburbs. Have the landlord spend the checks and not return calls. Get a dozen recent immigrants and force them to live in the house; have the van from the restaurant pick them up early every morning and drop them off late every night. One of the busboys—irrepressible human—wül 70 Melissa Haertsch71 sing Chinese opera in the shower anyway, but this unexpected beauty will not be enough. Disintegrate the house: put holes in the roof, let the furnace fail, send an unlicensed guy to repair the plumbing in disregard of code. Let the yard grow wild, and fertilize it with trash. Then have the woman next door birth a chfld and suddenly develop a snake-eyed intolerance for threatening behaviors in her vicinity. 2. How a Wiener Dog Brought a Three-Story House to Ruin When we bought our house seven years ago, we chose it because it was in a good neighborhood close to the university where my husband, Stephen, teaches. Although the yard was small, a disappointment to such avid gardeners as we are, the house was pretty, with room out back under the ash tree to bufld a playhouse for Stephen's twin sons. The place next door was ugly and a Uttle run down, an exception on that tidy street, but it had a nice gay couple downstairs and a nice sort-of-married couple and their baby upstairs. The weeds were mowed regularly. The gay couple kept pots of flowers out front. Then the sort-of-married couple skipped town and the second floor hosted a series of people whose lives were not working out. One of them dumped her crack-smoking boyfriend, who returned in the night to murder her young daughter in the back bedroom. The gay couple left. The weeds were no longer mowed, nor the walks shoveled, nor the roof made whole. The last family dropped their trash bags off the second story porch into the front yard, where they exploded and were visited nightly by grateful skunks. Enter the wiener dog. He escaped from his pen a few houses away and made a low red streak to the sweep of trash. I went out with a broom to drive him off, and he lunged at my shins. At that moment, a trash bag of anger exploded in me. I looked at the house on the corner and said, "I'm gonna get you." The house had a file. The housing inspectors served the landlord a packet of citations; he took out a loan and secured a buüding permit. The permit expired, the house worsened, and in early winter I danced the snowsuited baby up and down the sidewalk while the inspector stapled a...


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