This is the third in a series of pieces from Millburn High School's award-winning literary magazine, WORD, that will be published on TAP Into Millburn once a week. The author, Josh Kao, graduated Millburn High School in 2014.
The White Tudor
Medical Journal of Patient 101 of Ward C, deceased 10/08/81
Pilgram Psychiatric Center
Long Island, NY
Originally compiled on the twenty-first of February, 1979
No one has lived in that white Tudor on Amber Pass for more than thirteen years now. Its windows and doors are all boarded over and the paint on its white shingles has been crusted off by years of rainfall and sleet. The estate is guarded by sharp thistles and wildflowers that rise up over five feet. A family of speckled cats has been seen on occasion wandering about the premises.
Some say that the property is possessed by some paranormal powers. Its last resident was allegedly a music director of the Baptist Church on Third Avenue, a notorious late-night boozer who, for no explicable reason, stopped attending Sunday Mass altogether. The next year, he jumped off the roof of a downtown drug store. The papers say he only managed to twist an ankle and a few days after the incident, his family admitted him into a psychiatric clinic out of state. But stories like this have fallen into folklore over the years and nowadays the Tudor has been reduced to the subject of standing dares among the children at the old Brick-top Elementary. At best, they would consist of nothing more than climbing over the rusted chain-linked fence separating the house from the outside world. As far as I know, no one since that day in ’78 has dared to step any further inside.
At fourteen, I was thought of by my schoolmates as a something of a loner and a bore, certainly not the type who would grow up to be a cowboy like the ones on the Saturday Morning serials. At recess, instead of prancing around the jungle gyms, I spent the half hour in the shadow of an oak, flipping through the Funnies while jamming to my Walkman. During baseball games and practices; I was assigned to the most undesirable positions, catcher or right field. I must admit I was a lot better at the plate, but a far cry from any of the older guys, who always got all the credit. In just about all childhood circles, in and out of school, I was a social dinosaur.
It was the spring season of ’78 when I was first introduced to the house. We had just been knocked out of the playoffs by a bare margin of two runs. Naturally, everyone on the team was bitter and dejected coming off the field. I and two of my teammates, Hiller and Stevens, were on our way home cutting along Fordham Terrace when Hiller decided to go off for a sherbet at the Sandrich Creamery. We tagged along with nothing important on our minds. On the way there, we took a detour onto Amber Pass.
The street itself was extraordinarily poorly preserved. The sidewalks and roadways were all spongy with soppy piles of twigs and leaves. We had to slosh through it with every step just to get from one end to the other. The houses themselves were motley yellow shacks with climbers emerging out of every chimney and crag that clung onto the hedges like varicose veins.
I had perceived the infamous white Tudor to be equally, if not more, run down than the pitiful hovels we had just been walked past. But while some of its windows were still boarded up at the time and ravenous weeds had eaten nearly every inch of flower or shrub that once existed on its grounds, there was an aura of splendor about it, quite unlike its neighbors, that hovered over the walls. For starters, the sheer size of it nearly took your breath away. To think somebody ever figured on designing anything like it in our humble little town was astonishing in itself. I could imagine behind its columns the ghostly figures of a past era waltzing ceaselessly to the strains of The Blue Danube atop a majestic marble floor beneath an array of chandeliers. It was too much for us, certainly too much for our crude little town.
A few round pebbles lay on the side of the curb. Me and Hiller each grabbed a handful and drew out our bean shooters. I’m not sure what it was, the baseball season being cut off early or the desire to destroy something beautiful that stirred our animosity towards this strange and elegant structure before us. We scaled the chain-link fence and began taking pot shots at the windows which had not been boarded. Stevens, too chicken to take part in the wrecking, waited tenuously at the edge of the curb. At the first breaking of glass, there was a hiss followed by a sharp spraying of dust from one of the second floor windows.
As we continued to blow out windows, we moved closer and closer, trampling over soft weeds and dead branches. Pretty soon, our cleats were touching the porch-front and through the cracked windows, could catch a glimmer of sun on a dusty oak mantelpiece.
“Well here it is, end of the line. Nowhere left to go but in.” Tossing the remaining pebbles into the bushes, Hiller retreated back towards the sidewalk. I, for one, was not ready to simply walk off. I remember watching Stevens help Hiller over the fence and briefly hearing their stifled voices call out my name. By that time, I had waited on the porch steps for a few minutes and had made up my mind that I was not going to leave the property until I had checked every nook and cranny of that house.
The front door had an ornate copper lever handle that had greened significantly. It was locked, of course, so I tried jerking it at first. After numerous thrusts and kicks, which left both my shoulders and feet throbbing like hell, the door remained still wholly intact. My two teammates stood there awhile amused at my failures, but when the clouds parted and early evening thunder and showers started giving way, the two of them took off in separate directions, leaving me alone to face my undertaking.
Next to the door was a window that had been chipped slightly. A basket of logs lay beside me. I picked one from the pile and began to bat it against the glass. After a few solid swings, the entire opening caved in and for the first time I could see for myself the expanse of the interior living room.
A spotted tomcat strayed up and under the upholstery in the next room. Without thinking of consequences, I climbed in after it.
The Millburn High School Literary Magazine, WORD, is a juried publication that showcases the extraordinary talents of this school's writers, artists, photographers, craftspeople and illustrators. The editors and staff take the process of creating the magazine very seriously. We hold regular open meetings from September to February to read submissions and to identify potential pieces for inclusion in the next volume. Then we choose selections that exemplify the diversity and strength of our student body and spend several months working on a unifying theme, on layout and production. Since we are constantly amazed by the abilities of our peers, we consider the magazine a tribute to the virtuosity, skill and creativity of our student body.
The Millburn High School Literary Magazine, Word, is a juried publication that showcases the extraordinary talents of this school's writers, artists, photographers, craftspeople and illustrators. The editors and staff take the process of creating the magazine very seriously. We hold regular open meetings from September to February to read submissions and to identify potential pieces for inclusion in the next volume. Then we choose selections that exemplify the diversity and strength of our student body and spend several months working on a unifying theme, on layout and production. Since we are constantly amazed by the abilities of our peers, we consider the magazine a tribute to the virtuosity, skill and creativity of our student body.
To download the 2014 edition, click here.
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