Recently, I’ve been writing some short stories, but this one is really short.
The Little House
During my early teens my house was party central. Perhaps it was the draw of our swimming pool but more likely it was the little house in our backyard. I had decorated the one-room white cottage with a miniature overstuffed sofa and club chair, although I’m not sure where my mother found them. It even had curtains on the side windows. Everyone in my social group knew of its charms. During parties, budding romances blossomed within its confines; couples that were “going steady,” as it was called back then, found it a place they could neck without fear of being caught by my mother.
Although it had been a gift from our grandfather to my brother years earlier, I had convinced him to rent it to me. I think my grandfather thought it would make a good boy’s clubhouse, but my brother was not the clubhouse type. He was, however, a capitalist who maintained a neighborhood “store” each summer selling already-read comic books, Cracker Jack prizes, and Cokes our father bought wholesale from the distributor. Charging his sister rent for a building he had no interest in using appealed to him. We agreed on the grand sum of twenty-five cents a month.
Of course, over time, I forgot to pay him, spending my money on 45rpm records, lipsticks, and the other necessities of teenage girlhood. Periodically, he’d berate me for the back rent, and I’d give him some sum to shut him up, but I was always in arrears. Even he couldn’t tell me how much I owed him.
Years passed, I married, he went to college, and began his long career as an engineer with Coca Cola. The little house fell into disuse except as a storage place for pool furniture. Eventually, my parents moved to Florida and the little house disappeared from the backyard, as did the pool.
In 1990, my brother retired from Coke, and his wife held a huge retirement bash for him in Atlanta where they had lived since he graduated from Georgia Tech. Partially a roast, the party featured funny stories about my brother, a disc jockey that he’d always admired, and gift tributes. I decided to finally pay my old debt since he’d ragged me over the years for being a deadbeat renter. I had a cousin who was a real estate attorney calculate what the interest and principle on my back rent would total; he figured it would be in the thousands of dollars, although I don’t recall the exact amount. Then I had a printing company make one of those giant fake checks that you see being presented to contest winners and took it to the party. I presented it to him with a short recitation of the reason and much fanfare. He laughed good-naturedly, but I suspect his capitalist heart would have preferred one he could have cashed.
Ten years later my brother would die and in cleaning out his belongings, my sister-in-law would find the giant check and return it to me saying my brother had told her my debt had been paid in full.