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Counting houses 

Our time in the doublewide overlapped by a few weeks the time we lived in the singlewide that blew off in the tornado, never to be seen Naugahyde nor hair of again.

And the triplewide arrived before we got the doublewide sold and moved off the lot after it was irreparably damaged from falling off the blocks after the bear attacked it. I think it was a bear. Martin Kirby theorized that the Fouke Monster had done it, while the investigating deppity tabbed a large, growly, moonshiner neighbor of ours distraught at the time over the Jezebel he lived with having just run off with a passing-through Bible salesman. Could've been God waxing wroth as in the olden time when trailers not altogether unlike ours measled Gomorrah. In any case, I don't count those minor overlaps as times when I was the owner of multiple homes.

I was just thinking it must be easier to answer nosy questions about how many houses you own if you've never had the good fortune of owning more than one at a time. In mine and the helpmeet's 40-odd years of marital bliss we've gone through a mess of houses — and we called ourselves “owning” two of them, though again not at the same time. Such “ownership” is an old mortgage bankers' joke, permitting us peons the hoity of pretending ourselves homeowners while for 30 years Milburn Drysdale holds the paper and retains the privilege of charging us for the thing four or five times over. One of the essential components of the American Dream.

I can think of a couple of reasons why I clearly and vividly remember all of our houses — the ones we “owned” and the ones in which we were mere transient squatters — and why Sen. McCain was evidently unable, when asked last week, to remember any of his seven, or 12, or, this was the latest figure I've seen, 10.

One of those reasons is that lack of residential overlap. It's a kind of Marxian consolation to those of us who can afford only one house at a time that we are spared all the fuss and bother that seemingly beset all of the notable slumlords, even those who get stuck with only the tumbledown properties along Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues. If Sen. McCain does have 10 homes, I have only a tenth of his caulking worries, for example, a tenth of his concerns about foundations settling, or gutters clogging, or being eyed as a mark by unscrupulous siding salesmen. I'd be in denial too if my concerns over copper thieves were multiplied tenfold. I'd go blank upon surprise interrogation from ambuscade. Especially if I were explosively inclined and a little looney tunes in the first place.

The other reason that my owning one house is easier for me to remember than his owning 10 is for him has to do with the relative tawdriness of my one and the relative opulence of his 10.

Something's always going wrong in a lesser house that fixes it in your memory. The late Marvin Mangrum told me once that the house he best remembered was the tight-built shotgun house that he and his family floated 87 miles on the roof of in northeast Arkansas during the great flood of 1937. My wife's late kindergarten teacher had a sewer-backup problem that created such a septic situation in her home that it finally killed her. The lethal organisms like swarming proles in “Zhivago” made her home their home and then made her their home. An acquaintance of mine at Redfield had a live-in grocery store on Old 65 that four different times was nigh obliterated by vehicles whose operators were either over the limit or asleep at the wheel. 

One of our houses — it was in Media, Penn. — had so many field mice running wind sprints inside the walls at night that they built themselves a rectangular racetrack with marked lanes upon which they would run very long and very rowdy relay races between 1 and 5 a.m., with the participants passing little bitty batons and the winners uncorking tiny bottles of bubbly that eventually left 90 per cent of the wallpaper stained.

Another of our homes had the woodpecker trapped on the fireplace damper ledge one time and the sumbitch drilled a Jesus-size hole clear through my palm, and through both sides of the White Mule leather work glove that I thought would protect me, when I tried to get him out. Just a hunch, but I can't see Sen. McCain ensconced in any of his double-digit pleasure palaces bothering to liberate many chimney-cooped perckerwoods. Unless of course it was aide-staged as a photo-op.

Republican zillionaires with more Architectural Digest homes than they can keep track of don't have such plebeian hearthside memories to draw on. They have people who are well paid to rescue their peckers and scatter their meece, and those people pay other people to do the dirty work, and so on down through the trickle-down model that Republicans love so, and as a result nothing much ever happens in one of Thurston Howell's residences to give his gin-fogged memory of it place specificity.

Another of the crosses big money requires you to bear.

 

 

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