Mama asked Daddy why there was no sign on the house, no FOR SALE, nothing hanging from it saying UNDER CONTRACT. He said it was because it was already a done deal and the sign had been taken away.
We pulled into the driveway, overgrown as it was with weeds and grass growing in the middle. A small house, weathered but with roof and windows intact, perched nicely beneath four maple trees. I thought if it could be raised up, like Daddy said he was raised up when Jesus spoke to him, it would sit like a treehouse halfway to the sky.
When Daddy said the house was ours, that we were moving in that very afternoon, Buddy and I jumped out of the van and ran to the nearest door. When we couldn’t turn the knob, we ran to the front door. It was black and blue, like a bruise, but we didn’t care what color anything was. It would be a house of our own instead of shabby walk-up apartments in the terrible heat of the city. This was a country house, cool under the trees. We would be country people. Buddy and I would get on a yellow bus and go to school instead of darting across streets filled with noisy traffic. It was heaven. Daddy believed that heaven was somewhere above us, but in that moment I knew that heaven was right in front of our eyes.
“Hold on,” Daddy called after us. He went to the side door and we followed.
“But it’s locked. Do you have the key?” Instead of answering, he took a small tool from his pocket, played with it a minute, and then worked it into the key slot. It was magic. The door swung wide, an invitation to explore that we immediately accepted by running through the few dusty rooms.
A tiny kitchen with faded wallpaper and a rusty sink greeted us. Cobwebs hung from doorways and a mouse scurried across the floor. We didn’t mind. Our mother was just behind, quiet and frowning as usual, but we knew she would soon have everything shipshape, and even if Buddy and I had to share a room again, it would be better than sleeping in the old van where we had spent the last three nights waiting for Daddy to see the sign that brought us to the house. Not just a sign in the front yard. It was how he found the places we would briefly call home. Daddy, always waiting for a sign. When I asked, “What kind of sign?” it always had something to do with God or Jesus or heaven. This time he’d said, “You gotta trust in heaven. Heaven will send a sign.”
“Like God sent Jesus?” I said.
“Sorta like that,” he replied, “although this one involves real estate.”
“Real estate?” I asked. “Like houses?”
“Exactly,” he said. “This house you will now sleep in? I saw it just sitting here. All by itself. No one to care for it. That was a sign. That I even thought to turn down this dead end road? Well, that was a sign, too.” He finished with, “God works in mysterious ways,” and then told me to stop asking so many questions.
It was Buddy who saw the car first and pointed it out to me. Swanky, I thought. It reminded me of a beautiful big red bird with shiny wings. It went up and down the dirt road trailing a cloud of dust while we stood and watched. Mama was inside the house scrubbing something as usual and Daddy was out back trying to pry open the stuck window to the tiny bathroom. Otherwise, we had pretty much settled in and couldn’t wait for school to start so we could meet other kids.
We stared while the car passed us several times and then disappeared. The man driving stared back.
Soon, a police car parked in our driveway, and right behind it, the red car. The drivers, a policeman and a big guy who had to unfold himself from the inside, talked together beside the vehicles and then started for the door.
Buddy and I ran to find Daddy, who told us to go inside and help our mother.
Too soon, we were gathering what few belongings we possessed and filing out to the rusty old van. I asked Daddy if the shiny red car was a sign. “It certainly was,” he said, “It brought the Devil.”
is a New Hampshire native and UNH graduate who writes in her childhood home. Her stories and poems have appeared in print and online for many years. Her work has been a finalist or semifinalist in several contests, and a novel excerpt has received a Pushcart nomination. She is the author of two nonfiction books: Centennial and Tavern Village Tales (the latter, written for The Weare Historical Society in NH). Her latest fiction appears in Around Concord and Pen & Brush Literary Magazine. One of her poems recently was a winning entry in an A3 Review and Press contest and is pending publication.