The first time I ever saw the cottage I don’t think I noticed it. I drove by it and kept driving, oblivious to the obsession that would soon find me. I had a habit of looking for worn out old houses back then, which was a nice little hobby, albeit one that distracted me from what I should have been doing. I should have been working harder to sell more houses, but instead I had this sense of duty to a concept that my father instilled in me. If you weren’t working hard, you weren’t working. The concept of working smart only came to me later in life. When I finally noticed this cottage I reached out to the owner via letter. Letter after letter, without reply. I upped my effort and sent offers. One after another, offers on the house. I wanted to buy it, I told the owner. I needed to buy it, I told myself. The owner would stop at the house and the footprints through the fresh white snow only went one way, from the car to the front door. For a week or more, only the one way steps. But the house had no heat, and the water was off, or so the town told me. How was that possible? The owner was a nice man, strange, but nice. I couldn’t understand what he did for a living, or where he did it, and when he told me what he did, it only left me more confused. I listened to him, anyway. The price on the cottage was $120,000. We had agreed, it seemed. But later, when the dust had settled the price went up. $180,000, not a penny more. Time passed. I drove by the cottage wishing to own it, wondering why the owner wasn’t responding to me. The price, he told me, would be $220,000. Up modestly from before, but the market was increasing and the cottage was deteriorating. Raccoons lived in there, the neighbor said. And when summer turned to fall and fall to winter, the car would come back and the footprints would only go one way. It was like this for weeks and I wondered if the old man had died. Years would pass and I never owned that cottage. One day, the old man’s family called to tell me that he had died. I wondered about his last days, if they were here or somewhere else, the footprints in the snow that only went one way finally made sense.
SHFCP Shorts, continued.