• Meg Sechrest

The House on First and Maple-Preview

Updated: Nov 26, 2020


There’s a house situated on the corner of First and Maple that I pass by every day on my way to the other end of town. It’s a three-story white Victorian with a large half-moon shaped porch to the left of the double front door with a round room spanning two stories high to the right. In the center of the house on the third floor under a steep roof is a window not quite like all the rest. The mystery about this window keeps my gaze on the house as I walk past. Perhaps it’s the way the stained white curtains drape over the black windowpane while the rest of the windows on the house are white and have no curtains. Or maybe it’s how every so often the curtains move but not as though there’s a draft or a window open, but rather it seems as though someone has taken their hand and is pulling the curtain back to look out, yet there is never a person in view. As often as I go past the big white house, I still can’t properly describe what it is about this window that keeps my eyes fixed on it, yet at the same time makes me walk just a little faster when I near that part of the sidewalk. There’s an eeriness about that house seeping from its white walls, with every creak from a shudder or door banging in the wind. It sends chills up my spine every time I pass, startling me with every squeak or squeal from the rod iron fence gate. As much as my curiosity gets the better of me, I try never to pause while walking past this house, and if for some reason I wait too long to cross the street, or I happen to tie my shoe, the house gives me a reason to run fast either—by moving the branches in the willow tree in the front yard, scraping them against the windows, or by creaking the iron fence—letting me know I’m not welcome on its sidewalk. Instances like this keep me on my toes near the house on First and Maple, and each day I pass the house on the corner, picking up the pace in my walk just a tad so as not to linger there, never really understanding why just knowing there’s something about the house telling me to beware.

The year 1913 has been one of those warmer years where people are still dressing in their summer clothes well into October, which suits me just fine because cooler weather means extra layers, which means more clothes to clean and extra cost, and my uncle has never liked having extra clothes to clean, not that he cleans them himself, but if it means hiring one of the neighbor girls for extra jobs, he’d prefer being frugal. Though I don’t have much, I’m grateful for what’s mine, and even though I don’t remember my father, I’d like to say he’d be proud of the young man I’ve become. Being 17 years of age now can be tough without a mother or father to call my own, but I mostly get by with the help of my mother’s brother George Hansley. My parents died of a Cholera epidemic that swept through our small town, and Uncle George is my only surviving relative. I’m grateful enough for him though, having lived with him for 15 years, he’s grown to be like a father to me now. Most days I want for nothing, but when times get tough, a doctor’s life can be hard. That’s Uncle George—the town doctor and the one who blames himself for the passing of my parents 15 years ago when he had just finished medical school and moved out to the pit of life itself.

But as for me, the name’s Willie. William Bartholomew Brown. I live in Belvidere, South Dakota in Jackson County not too far south of the Missouri River. My parents were one of the firsts to settle in this here town and though it isn’t much to speak of, it’s what I know as home and the only one I’ve ever known.

When the government began giving out parcels of land to unsuspecting Americans in the middle 1800s, my grandparents took up that offer and moved west, taking my mother with them. She met my father at a young age, a transplant and farmer himself, and their story ended with the birth of me and a tragic cholera epidemic in 1897. I hardly even remember them. But this story isn’t about my family tragedy. It’s about something far different. Uncle George felt it was time for me to become a man, so each day I go to town to find employment, doing odd jobs wherever I can. One particular day gaining a job unlike no other job before.

“Just a coffee today, Sam. I need to find some work.”

“You need some work?” he says and turns to get me a cup and also one for the man sitting next to me.

“I do. Know of anything?”

“Actually, I know of something that would be just perfect.”

“Well, that’s great! What’s the job?”

Sam hands an address to the man next to me and says, “Clark Lyons who lives in the yellow house on Maple street is looking for someone to do some work on his house.”

“Hm… is that the house that sits across from…”

“Across from the big white one on the corner. You can’t miss it. Well, you’d better get going before he snatches someone else up to do the job.”

I nod and say, “Thanks, Sam.”

Sam tips his hat to the man next to me as he stands to leave and I hurry as I grab my jacket and hat and wave while moving through the front doors.

As I walk through town to Mr. Lyons’s house, I give a glance here and there, tilting my hat as I walk past, but mostly my thoughts are distracted by the job and the reality that I will be working directly across the street from…

“The house on First and Maple,” I whisper when I get to the house and stare up at it.

Feeling like an idiot just standing there staring, my hands in my pants pockets, face glued in its direction, as though I was being drawn to it, I shake my head and turn my back to it, preparing to walk across the street.

“Hello,” a gentle, faint voice says.

“Hello?” I look around myself on the sidewalk but there’s no one.

“Hello,” she says again.

Peering over the iron fence, I now see the most pleasing face staring up at me as she picks roses from the bush in the corner.

“Hello,” I say. “I was unaware anyone lives here. I pass by here every day, yet I never see…”

“Shh…” the young woman says, holding her finger to her lips as she stands and hands me a rose. “For you.” Then she turns and walks away, disappearing through the front door of the house. I stare for a moment at the rose as the thorns prick the skin of my fingers, and I think on her face and how she has the prettiest blue eyes and skin with freckles dotted all over her cheeks just like stars in the night’s sky. Her flowing blonde hair blew in the wind as she walked away and I’m certain that her youthful features mean she can’t be any older than I. She left me baffled, however, because I’m certain that no one lives in that house. After waiting only a few moments for her to reappear with no luck, I slip the rose into my pocket and walk across the street to Mr. Lyons’s house.

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© 2020 Meg Sechrest All Rights Reserved.

This is only an excerpt. This novel may be purchased soon in its entirety in either digital or paperback version.

This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

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