Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Out of My Mind: When Mobile Homes Start to Look Good

Last Saturday my husband left to get a haircut at 9:30 AM and returned at noon to tell me out-of-the-blue he had just bought a trailer. A used mobile home. Not a travel home but a used 14' by 52' refurbished dwelling-type trailer.

Those who disapprove of trailers always SAY the same thing. "Sixty percent of dwellings flattened by tornadoes in Alabama are mobile homes." But what they are thinking is this. Dang, they're ugly. It is best not to speak this last thought out loud, however, because way more than sixty percent of the people of Alabama still alive and not killed by a tornado have at one time or another lived in a trailer. You don't want to hurt anybody's feelings.

I should have suspected something was up when a couple of weeks ago as we were driving down Gunwaleford Road in Lauderdale County my husband, deep in thought, murmured. "Under the right circumstances, a trailer looks pretty good." Gunwaleford Road is a showcase of Alabama trailerdom. It is like the living encyclopedia of inhabited trailer history. Expensive double wides, 1950s rusted turquoise models, travel trailers used as permanent residences, you name it. One 4th of July weekend I will never forget, a towed, full-sized trailer sat at a jaunty angle half in Gunwaleford Road and half under a live oak where the large hulk of the trailer had somehow slid almost completely off its towing mechanism. Driving down Gunwaleford Road, one had to slow down and navigate around the abandoned trailer and get a good look at it. It appeared as though it had already been abandoned for a decade before this last fateful voyage, its windows open, faded curtains flapping in the breeze.

Something was up, alright, but I failed to take note.

The 'right circumstances' turned out to be that Goody Hill (not his real name, but you may remember him from my fiction), has been run off from his rental house in town by Shauntrice (not her real name, but she was Goodknight Hill' s wife, remember). Now Goody is homeless and he and my husband have a scheme. Goody has two acres of land left to him by his daddy and granddaddy up in the country, two acres just begging for a trailer. My husband knows better than to come ask me, a woman elbow-deep in income tax documents, trying desperately to find a few more deductions. My husband just pulled out his checkbook, closed his eyes, and wrote. And now Goodknight Hill has a trailer.

When my friend Virginia Shirley heard that my husband had bought a trailer, she wrote "Anita, have you lost your touch, dear?"

Yes, Virginia, I have. Obviously. And also, by the way: there is a Santa Claus.

So yesterday around sunset, my husband and I ride with Goody out to see the two ancestral acres.

And this is the part of the story I am not expecting.

When I wrote about Goodknight Hill in fiction, I did not know that Goody HAD two acres. I certainly did not know where it was.

But when we pass the church (Goody points to it and says he was once a member) and turn into what the sign says is "Hill Lane," it was just as I had described it in the story. In the story, Goody and the husband narrator of the story have a footrace down this very sandy unpaved lane. In the story, there is an abandoned frame house "falling down in a tangle of bare vines and saplings" and a bent cedar almost in the road, victim of a long ago ice storm. And here it is, right in front of me--land/cedar/house/vines--just as I had imagined, just as I had thought it would be, the house even on the same side of the road as I had seen it in my mind.

A lovely spring evening unfolds as we walk around on the two acres, Goody showing us all the possible places to put the trailer.

Later, back at home, I share my fiction deja vu with my husband. We explain it away as coincidence. We're in Alabama. Everyone has a falling-in 'home house' somewhere.

But the reality is that there are no lanes on Gunwaleford Road. All the houses and trailers are right on the road. There are no long sandy lanes with an abandoned unpainted frame home, covered in re-growth, on the left, a bent cedar serving as a landmark for a footrace.

The reality is: I am in another world when I write. Or out of my mind.

Which, let's face it, we have all suspected for a long time about ourselves when we write.

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