4023 Feemster St., Visalia Ca

4023 Feemster St., Visalia Ca

A Story by by Lauren

This is a response to the cue "Old Abandoned House." I wrote it for my writer's workshop in college.


I could tell you that this is a sad story. And when you read about the ‘creepy’ or ‘eerie’ signs, I’ve told you how to feel about it. But writing is not as simple as ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ because we cannot tell our readers how to think. They already know how they think. All we can give them is detail. The right details arranged in a powerful sequence will trigger emotions that we could not access any other way. Instead of dictating how others should feel about a word picture, learn to create a scene that evokes emotion. This is how readers can have a strong connection to a ‘sad’ story; deeper than sadness, they will have sympathy.


Our professor in workshop gave us room to write freely, describing an abandoned house.  The exercise has nothing to do with the house. It is merely a symbol of a major theme such as death or loss. 


This is a short essay I wrote for the class in response to the cue:

“describe an old, abandoned house”


4023 Feemster St., Visalia, Ca

by Laurén Seeger


All the windows and doors are open but the smell does not leave.  It sits on the couches and spreads itself thick over the sponge-like linoleum.  It curls in the peelings where floor meets wallpaper.  The ratted carpet soaks it up, compressing as my parents, my aunt and uncle, and two of my cousins step on it. They are walking toward my grandmother’s hospice bed.

The covers have been stripped since the night before, when we all stood looking over it; and a man I don’t know is dragging the mattress pad through the entryway.  He leaves a hollow structure behind.  Its metal bars form a bedframe, cold to touch.  The gold carpet reveals sunken spots where heavy furniture lived for years.  This was before the hospice bed.  Now, the coffee table and loveseat crowd in the corner waiting for it to leave.

I’m 7 and I don’t understand what an estate sale is, but the adults have to talk about it.  They wipe down a small round table in the kitchen before dropping the bulk of their paperwork in the center and taking a seat.  The mismatched office chairs squeak when they lean forward.  I am sitting on the brown linoleum tracing diamond shape patterns, looking for bobby pins.  I find one and interrupt my aunt to drop it in her hand. She is not as appreciative as grandma was. 

There are not many things to do at grandma’s house, and as the duck clock quacks 10:00am I know it will be a long day.  My parents lay out my paint set in the same room by the screen door, and I begin to tune out their dull conversation from the kitchen.  What should I paint?  I inhale the breeze through the screen; by this morning I am no longer stopped by the smell of manure and dew. My senses are accustomed to the farm town.  But the scent that lingers in the woodwork of the house my grandfather built remains distinct. 

I want to leave the house and paint in the garden, but lavender flower bushes have grown over the stepping-stones.  So instead I watch bushes rustle and the pear tree’s branches sag from inside the house.  The wrought iron chairs on a small slab of concrete outside my screen door have the best view.  They face the garden.  Their arms and legs have rusted golden-orange from all the foggy mornings they have sat and watched.  Today is overcast, and the sun has not yet burned off all the droplets clinging to their sides. 

The adults pack up their papers in a folder that expands like an accordion and cross the room to sit near me.  I look down at my blank canvas and quickly cover it in pastel blue, wanting to be taken as a serious painter.  They take turns standing over my shoulder to acknowledge the blue in my sky and then choose one of the stiff chairs by the screen door to drop themselves into.  No one sits by the fireplace. It hasn’t been touched in years; the cobwebs reach out onto the hearth and threaten to drop a spider on anyone who sits near it. 

My dad and my aunt decide together that it’s time for pie and coffee " something I can do too.  I leave my paints on the carpet by the screen, knowing they will dry out and the brushes will become brittle; they will stiffen and crack, and I’ll have to buy a new set.  But I cling to the lighter mood and follow the adults back into the room where the hospice bed was.  The man I don’t know and the hollow bed frame are both gone now, and my dad is pushing the old loveseat back into its comfortable home.  The screws on the wood coffee table sigh when my cousins drop its legs into the familiar notches in the carpet.  I can see the room like a Polaroid from our 1960’s photo album " Grandpa, in his suspenders, folded into the corner loveseat shielding his face from a foot as my older brother and sister are wrestling next to him.  Or in another picture, Grandma is sitting, ankles crossed, holding one of her teacups and wearing a Sunday dress, pausing her story long enough for the camera.  I flip through the photo album as I remember it until my dad calls me.

“Laurineekins,” He says, standing at the entryway, “Let’s go have some dessert!”

I like that idea, and I follow them all out the door, waiting for my dad to lock it.  He closes up the last window and forces the splintering door to shut from the outside.  My mom empties the mailbox of all the letters and advertisements addressed to Fama Seeger while she waits.  I kick an old soccer ball into the rose bushes.  Not knowing where we’re going, I get in the car with my parents; and no one speaks.   One of the porcelain dolls grandma gave me is buckled into the seat next to me from the ride up.  As we pull out of the driveway, I lean over and whisper to her that no matter how old I get, I’ll never let her go.

© 2012 by Lauren

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Added on November 1, 2012
Last Updated on November 1, 2012
Tags: old, abandoned, house, grandparent, watercolor, oil, death, senses


by Lauren
by Lauren

Apple Valley, CA

I'm a Communication graduate with some experience in journalism and writing copy for advertising. I don't have an agent and am somewhat "undiscovered" but would like to increase my readership. I w.. more..