(114): Southern Gothic: Wherein We Find a Hidden Path Across From the Junior High School
My husband and I used to rent a rundown house on a residential street that had a junior high school on it. Our house was flanked by mostly elderly people, and then the houses stopped and the woods began, right across from the junior high school. We would walk up and down the street quite often, and we discovered a shortcut through those woods that came out across from a cut rate grocery store in a rather sketchy neighborhood.
Sometimes we would take that path in the summer because it was a rich source of blackberry bushes. Across from one of the little blackberry patches was the remains of a broken tractor. Set off behind it was a brick chimney that was the only emergent part of a burned out house. As the summer turned to fall and winter, the foliage died back and revealed the remains of the house, mostly the floor and a bunch of fused glass. It looked like it had been abandoned for years and years; there was nothing left that would identify its vintage.
One afternoon, we went in there, just to pass through to the grocery store this time, and we saw a makeshift clothesline with several pieces of clothing hanging on it. It appeared that someone was living there! We heard rustling and saw the suggestion of movement, perhaps only sunlight shifting as branches moved in the breeze. But whatever it was, we didn’t stick around to find out. We turned right around and headed back home. No convenient grocery run was worth meeting up with whoever inhabited those clothes.
The junior high kids often cut through there and sometimes cut school altogether and just stayed back in there, but there was something about those clothes that spoke of long, rough use. And some of those clothes were underwear. They likely didn’t belong to hooky-playing 7th graders.
What probably DID come from those junior high-schoolers was something we found right around the opening to the hidden path — a Beretta .25 automatic pistol. My husband spotted it in the grass right across from the school; it must have been stashed there by one of the students and didn’t look like it had been there very long. He flagged down one of the slow moving police cars that sometimes patrol up and down after school and showed it to the officer, who promptly thanked him, took the gun and then put it in his pocket. No report was taken. The officer had just gotten himself a free gun. My husband was miffed.
“I’d have just kept it if I knew he was just gonna take it home for his own collection!” He said it was a really collectible and expensive gun too. That was close to 20 years ago, and he’s STILL miffed about it!
Anyway, we didn’t take the hidden path very often after we found the clothes hanging in there. I do wonder if the path is still there or if, like much of America’s towns and cities, it has been cleared out and made into apartments. It had such character to it, and the best part was the fact that it was totally invisible from the street, a hidden ruin from the past.