An assortment of winter sounds surrounds Pembroke Cottage today: the gravely rattle of the city snowplow as it prowls past our house; snow flung from driveways and walks with a vigorous sssuk tik. (I’ve posted some scenes in the entry prior to this one.)

What’s with the name, Autrice? Cottage? Is it a small home? (Yes, thank God!) Does it resemble a cottage? (Of course not. It’s a Craftsman.) What is Pembroke? (A name. All the streets in this particular residential area have names like this; we are the Country Club. Homes here range from Craftsman such as ours to large stone manors and modern mansions. It is eclectic and we are located close to the main avenue. I am pleased with that arrangement; we do not have to pay the slightly higher taxes in the inner area of the Country Club estates. Our home, however, was one of the first here, built at the same time as the Country Club itself. Our street is narrow and we haven’t any curbs. The homes across the street are from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. Our neighbors all chat with each other. We frequently tramp to each other’s porches or, in the case of our neighbors behind us, through our yards to visit at the fence or behind the garages and shrubs. It is quaint and beautiful.)

I have always named my homes. My first apartment was dubbed Paisley Palace in tribute to the wild and wonderful wallpaper found in the entry. Carnage House was an actual 1890 carriage house (you were apt to die by falling through the floors or stairs.) Beanworld was a flophouse that I crashed in a few times but I did not name it that. There were a few places here and there.

The Crypt was a basement apartment that Better Half and I shared prior to marriage. He is probably unaware that I called it that. The house (Royer House) stood on a lot that had housed bodies in a previous life: it was a cemetery. Due to the advanced state of casket decay, not all of the bodies were relocated. There was an article in the museum downtown that described in Victorian detail the ghastly story involving a heavy rain while a foot of water, stained and rotted bonnets still attached to some of the women’s skulls. This was the same year that Emma Crawford’s coffin was dislodged from the top of Red Mountain. She flew down the side of the mountain like a raging bat out of hell, coming to land somewhere on the side of Red Mountain. (This is the birth of the Manitou Springs annual Coffin Races.)

The Crypt was haunted. I don’t mean that in jest. It was the basement apartment of an old 1890’s home, which itself was divided up into two more apartments.

I spent a lot of time at Royer House. I was a tenant in the top floor apartment, so often did I crash there after a night of revelry and mischief. My best friend rented it for herself and her two children. It was a four-bedroom and bath converted into a 2-bedroom with common room and kitchen. There were three doors in (kitchen, common room and the main doorway downstairs) and a narrow porch connecting kitchen and common room, replete with rickety wooden stairs going to the pavement outside.

There were afternoons when we’d hear someone tromp up those old stairs, yet no one would be there. The kitchen door would yawn slowly open although there wasn’t any wind. I spent an hour vacuuming the stairs leading up from the front door, dragging the handheld attachment over the hideous pale rose carpet until the pile stood at attention. I then went onto the front porch to have a cigarette. Upon my return, there were imprints in the carpet leading up the stairs (none leading down) that were dainty in size. No one could have walked past me while I was outside and no one was upstairs when I investigated.

Oh cool, I thought. I love this house!

I moved into the main floor apartment when there was a vacancy. I shared this apartment with a slob. It was a two-bed, common room and kitchen, with a side room and bath. At one time, this had been a grand old house, for the kitchen downstairs was large, and the bedrooms had once been the dining room and parlor, with the common room probably serving as a music room. This apartment also had three doors (a side door into the common room, a kitchen door and a locked door that would have lead to the hallway maintained by the upstairs tenant.)

My “upstairs” friend and I had just returned from the grocers and we decided to drop off her milk before heading to my apartment. We opened her downstairs door and saw a figure standing with his back to us. Before we could say a word, he walked away, through that common door. Of course we deposited all our groceries and bolted around to my front door. A short fumble with the key and we were in. No one was there.

My roommate moved out shortly after and I returned to my old haunts. The basement apartment became free eventually and I moved into that. Have you noticed my fascination with the macabre?

The basement was creepy. I liked it. I had lived there for a month when I was 19 (that friend now occupied the main floor apartment.) It was too bizarre a space to describe accurately. You would walk down a level of stone steps (only one door in) and enter a horizontally long room. The microscopic kitchen and bath were at one end and the main room was in front. It was a large room, which we divided into a television area and an area for Better Half to tinker with. There was a bedroom and a small room that I used as an office of sorts (which later became a junk room.) The window in the bedroom was intended to satisfy fire code by serving as an egress. The only way one could egress would be to pop it open and crawl out of the earthen pit like a mole. It flooded the bedroom when it rained.

This apartment was at casket level. Remember – the house was built on a graveyard where not all the bodies could be relocated. The basement was where some of those pioneer bodies ended up after a massive rain. My upstairs friend would knock on our door and hear voices laughing yet no one was inside the apartment. The saltshaker would be to the left of the tiny stove and then it would be to the right. I don’t think Better Half noticed any of this shit.

The good times (yes, they certainly were) came to an end after a falling out between all three of us. Upstairs neighbor was moving and was upset because I spent more time with Better Half than her. My Main floor friend with through a raging asshole phase that we won’t get into here. Better Half and I were planning to move into a house down the way. So, we parted, grumbling, and the landlord found himself sans upstairs and basement tenants.

I Hate This House house was a thrasher owned by a greedy Asian hairdresser. I thought it was charming and workable when I saw it the first time. Moving day came and I asked her if she would change the locks and install an actual doorknob on the side door. Can we say slumlord? It was like pulling teeth. We couldn’t get our mattress upstairs (which smelled like cat shit in the summer) so our living room became our bedroom and the dining room had to serve as dining room and living room. The claw foot bathtub was wonderful and so cozy to lie in. The kitchen, sans the new stove that she said she was putting in, was a nightmare to cook in. The back room hadn’t any heat and the ancient linoleum was peeling and cut my feet. The yard was long and narrow and workable but we never did anything to it. We did try to plant flowers in front. Nothing grew. This house had bad chi. It was a depressed old thing. On the day that we moved out, it rained, and a waterfall gushed between the main portion of the house and the kitchen. It was as if the house mourned my leaving. I was probably the only tenant who tried to give it love.

Mrs. J’s followed. We never named that one. We were in the process of getting married and had stopped to see this beautiful home. She was a sneaking bitch and had a rent bidding war right there on the spot. We couldn’t go as high as the other tenants, and she offered us a duplex unit for a smaller rental fee. (The “winners” moved out a month later and she didn’t tell us the larger place was vacant. In other words, the greedy beast lied.) There is nothing remarkable about Mrs. J’s. The tenant behind was a hooker working on getting her GED. She would constantly lament about her antibiotics making her sick, then stating that she didn’t want to take a cut in her rates when the customer was willing to pay more for bareback. This is the same tenant that we rescued our dog Mattie from.

The duplex apartment had a bad air to it. I hated it after a while. It was during our tenancy there that I had my biopsy and discovered the precancerous lesions. My old upstairs friend and her new husband stayed with us for a short while and they would fight over whose turn it was to change, bathe or feed the baby. I began to slip into a depression.

We moved to Parkridge eventually, a nice little house and a big back yard. Things improved for me there and we started enjoying life again. We stayed for a year or so before moving on to the House on Maizeland. This house was the biggest yet, a tri-level with a basement family room to die for. I was torn between looking for an old home and looking for another Maizeland when searching for a house to buy in Ohio: I went for the old home and regret; had I gone for the Maizeland type, I would have regretted it. Ha! Do you see how I am?

Maizeland had a beautiful deck, almost as lovely as the one we currently have. It had a nice yard in back. It also had a hot tub. You would wind your way downstairs and discover the laundry, or nooks for books, or a bathroom. You could wind your way upstairs and find an added on room. The top level had three bedrooms and a single bath. That the master suite and the guest bathroom, divided by the tub and shower, shared the same large room. Even the decks were a maze. We stayed there quite a while, and for a time we had my Upstairs friend and her family with us. That ruined our friendship (without going into detail) and I saw her for the worthless mother that she was.

We had our exchange students while in that house. We also had one of our students in the house that followed: Chestnut. This old home was tiny compared to Maizeland. It had the most exquisite tree in the front yard. The floors were refinished. There was a single bathroom where we kept our finches. It was a unique and fun house to live in.

Pembroke Cottage combines many features from most of the places that I’ve resided. I see shades of Maizeland, Chestnut and Parkridge. There is a touch of I Hate This House, as far as the narrow staircases go. There aren’t any touches of Mrs. J’s here, however. And the final sad note: It’s not haunted

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