It was a house whose architect was time. It was old then, even then, when the boy was but three years old. In a time far past, it had been a single room of log and dab. But when the boy first knew it, it had grown into five rooms under heavy cottonwood and willow trees, with two frame additions winging from the east and west sides of the original log, the log and dab hidden, for the most part, by plaster. The east addition, a large closet where for the first year or two his sisters had slept, and beyond that a room where the boy’s parents slept, was plastered as well; but the west addition, the addition with the living room, dining room, and the boy’s closet of a bedroom, was a more recent construction and the boy could see, through the rough paint, the seams of the sheetrock. There was a wide, tall window in the living room that looked, past the dark, heavy trunks of the cottonwoods, over the fields; and the boy would lean on sill of that window or the rain stained sill of the narrow window in his room, and watch the wind wash over the wide fields of wheat and alfalfa. He listened to the whoo of wind in the high cottonwoods, watched their leaves silvering in the sun.
At the time, bees hived in a cavity on the north side of the oldest part house, the kitchen and small pantry. The bees had been discovered because the afternoon they moved in, the boy’s mother was placing her plates and saucers in a cupboard, and she heard the hives disturbed buzzing behind the cupboard panel. The boy’s father investigated and found a small gap in the clapboard siding that covered the log and dab, and for some time the hive cavity was a mystery for the boy’s mother and father. At the kitchen table, as they were eating, the hum of bees almost in the room with them, they wondered about it and spoke of rot and worried about it.
One summer when the boy was four or five, his father removed the clapboard from all the north wall, and with a beekeeper, moved the bees to a hive nearer the alfalfa fields. The cavity where the bees had built their home turned out to be a window that some earlier occupant of the house had covered when he clapboarded over the log and dab. For a time after the clapboard was placed over it, the window space inside the house had served as a small cupboard, and there were shelves covered with hexagons of honey comb. And sometime later, that occupant or a later one, needing more shelf space, built the cupboard that covered the cavity that became hive where bees built their addition.
That summer the boy’s father removed two heavy old cottonwoods from the yard on the north side of the house and built the third wing. When it was finished, smelling of wood and paint, the father and mother moved their bed into one of the rooms the new wing provided. There were two other rooms in the north wing where the boy’s two sisters and brother slept. The room where his parents had slept became the office/sewing room. His sister’s closet became a large pantry/larder. Until they were twelve and thirteen, his sisters slept in one large bed that took up most of their room in the new addition. Then when the boy was fourteen, his father built another small addition for the older girl. He did this by opening a corner of the living room and building another small room behind the boy’s room. The girl, insisted that the door between the living room and hers have a lock on it. At night as the he dozed toward sleep, he heard, mixed with the whoosh of the wind in the dark cottonwoods outside, his sister singing hymns and playing her 45rpm rock and roll songs on the record player beyond the thin wall.
. . . .
There came a time when he, no longer a boy, was alone in this time-rambled house. The key to the door of the room where his sister had sung her hymns had been lost, and since he did not need that space, he left it locked. His hair was white. The floors creaked. The walls groaned against the wind and the weight of time. The cottonwoods outside the frail walls moaned heavily in the winter winds over the silence that hovered in every room.
One winter the first cottonwood, it’s time come round to fall, leaned across the east wing and opened it and the old log kitchen to the wind and weather. It also broke two windows in the north wing his father had built. He boarded up the broken windows and walled the living room off from the disaster. He moved the kitchen range, the kitchen table, and the washer and dryer that had been in his mother’s sewing room into the living room. He was alone in the house and his room and the living room, remodeled as kitchen-dining room, was all he needed.
During the day he worked the fields, and at night he lay in the room he had known for seventy years waiting for whatever might come. Then one evening, as he spooned his soup at the kitchen table, he heard a humming like hymns coming from behind the locked door where his sister had played her rock and roll. Later, he lay as evening lowered and listen to the humming, thinking of her singing and of his brother and the other sister, of his parents and the bees they had found living in the house that first summer. He remembered the smell of pine and paint when his father added the north wing and then again when he built his older sister’s room. He remembered the beekeeper moving the bees to the sweet-smelling alfalfa field.
In the morning the humming was still hymn-like in the room beyond the thin wall. And one might think that his curiosity would spur a search for the key to that room. But he had no need for a key. He knew what the hum beyond the door was. It was bees. They were building their combs, adding their honey pantries to the old house. It was bees, and they had come to claim, and improve to their need, the house that he, in his time, would leave them.
Posted in response to Ragtag Daily Post, architect.