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Infinite Loop


Small, quaint house painted white with red trim and red front door and a white picket fence

The metamorphosis for the house at 3765 Prater Mill Road began when the rumors about its owner spread like vapors through the neighborhood. Penny McIntire was in the hospital because her cancer had returned and it seemed unlikely she would ever enter the house again. The house was frozen in time as people strolling the neighborhood, with dogs and without, shared little bits of information that always began with, "did you hear?"


Penny lived alone in the house. She was very old and was one of the first residents of the neighborhood. She never married or had children, and she had been separated from her family by some combination of human friction and time. Penny was very polite. She waved and smiled at the neighborhood children while they waited for the bus. She always said hello when people passed her yard. But she was also known to write very formal letters to neighbors in an attempt to draw their attention to matters for which she card deeply such as potentially unhealthy trees and trashcan placement. She would occasionally corner someone and share her thoughts on salvation and other things people closer to the end of life than the beginning spend their time considering, but due to the mysterious complexities of human life, nobody knew her well.


The vapors increased when Penny died. People spoke with the reverence of someone considering what might be said about them when they die, but could do little to hide the buzzing energy from the anticipation of such a significant change to the neighborhood. Curious faces filled windows as different variations of the same question swarmed through the street: who will the new neighbor be?


The scavengers crawled over the house first. Cars carrying carrion devouring shoppers clogged the street as people raced to sift through the remnants of Penny's life. People crawled over every nook and cranny and each other racing to find the bits that weren't rotten. The frenzy inside was more activity than the house had experienced in years, and there was a steady stream of people carrying the fragments of Penny's experience down the front walk and away from the house. Items with hidden stories were being scattered for miles around becoming meaningful pieces of new lives. The chair Penny sat in when she watched Jeopardy. The machine that brewed her coffee. The painting she bought after meeting the artist in the early 1980s. The table where she ate her meals. The TV that played Jeopardy.


Once the stream of scavengers had slowed to a drip, decomposers came in to clean the last dregs of Penny from the bones of the house. Dumpsters were filled with the parts of Penny's life that nobody had any use for. The carpet soaked with her presence was ripped from the floor and tossed. Towels, pans, bath mats, and all the other elements related to the feeding and maintenance of the human body were tossed and forgotten. Even the mailbox, which leaned slightly to the right ever since she got a little too close that one time, was yanked out.


As the decomposers scurried off in search of the next carcass, the pollinators moved in. The pollinators zipped in and out spreading the ingredients needed for the house's rebirth. All of the dents and dings created by clumsy human life were repaired. Fresh carpet was unrolled, and the scuffs and scrapes in the hardwood were sanded and lost forever in a thin layer of varnish. Walls were brightened with fresh paint and cloudy windows were replaced. A new mailbox, shiny and erect, was placed in the empty hole where the front walk met the street.


As the house bloomed, the people in the neighborhood watched and wondered. They whispered with each other trying to assemble a full prediction of the final blossom from the snippets of activity they had each observed. They critiqued choices and swam in speculation. They complained about the noise, but with the timidity of people that knew they would one day need to also make noise. Nobody mentioned Penny any more.


The pollinators faded away. The revitalized house stood proudly, yet empty. A temporary appendage sprouted in the front yard to lure a new occupant inside. Potential inhabitants poked and prodded and considered. All were very careful not to leave any signs of human life. Dozens of versions of the future were imagined, reimagined, and discarded. The house waited patiently, blank and generic, to be chosen. It waited for the final step in its metamorphosis and the beginning of its new life.

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