The bottle sat on the window ledge half-full of water with the stem of a drooping daisy leaning on the lip. It was small, with a rounded top, the kind they plugged with a cork in the days long before the twist-top was invented. Shelby wondered what was in the clear glass container originally. It was too small to hold anything of substance, wine, soda--or “cordial” she was pretty sure they called it back in the day. It had a long narrow neck and she could picture it stacked among others in the backroom of an old time apothecary, where sunlight streaming through dusty bottles of potions painted green, amber and white rainbows on stained wooden shelves.
Henry dug the bottle up yesterday when he was yanking the crab grass from around the granite boulder at the end of the patio. “Here's another for your collection,” he said, passing the muddy container to her. Grabbing the hose, she rinsed out the dirt and later, placed it next to the other three he dug up earlier in the week. They were starting to realize, she and Henry, that in the time before landfills and recycling centers, people simply buried their trash out back.
The house was over one hundred years old, with tilting bones and squeaky floors. She loved the way the panes in the windows waved, distorting the images outside like carnival mirrors, although she wasn’t sure those windows were going to be much of a blessing in the winter. But still, the house had character, that’s for sure. The three sided porch had beckoned her right inside the first time she saw it—gosh, was it three months ago already?
That day, as Vera Smyth toured Henry and her around what seemed like the countless split-levels and track built ranches in their price range, Shelby hardly dared to hope that they could afford something like this. But then Vera pulled over, Shelby looked up and knew, that whatever it took, she’d find a way to make sure this house became their home. It stood as it had since the 19th century--a country Victorian, built close to the street, with peeling white paint and faded cranberry shutters. The right side of the porch was screened in; she could see a wooden swing hanging from chains just beyond the door.
Shelby had gripped her arms in disbelief as she gazed around the inside--at the original wide pine planking in the living room, the cast iron wood burning stove in the corner of the brick floored breakfast nook, but it was the picture on the stairway wall that did it. As soon as they saw that, they went right back to Vera’s office and signed the offer papers.
Buying it meant just about emptying their bank account; they wouldn’t be replacing the quivery windows anytime soon. Sydney shuddered a bit when she thought about heating bills and the winter winds that would shift and blow right through her billowing panes. But she didn’t care because now, behind the kitchen, up a half flight up on the narrow stair landing, the faded black and white framed photograph was hers. Left by the former owner, who had told Vera it was there when she bought the house, it was taken at the turn of the century. In the picture, the road wasn’t paved yet and the left side of the porch was missing. It must have rained that morning. The driveway leading to the barn was embedded with water filled tracks.
So many times as she climbed the stairs, Shelby would pull the picture off the hook and stare, searching for clues to the history of her home, imagining herself laced in a whalebone corset underneath a white muslin blouse and a sprigged skirt that swished above her ankles. She saw herself approaching the barn with a tin pan filled with mash that she spread out to chickens that clucked around her like school children. And she envisioned dosing a tousle-headed toddler with a teaspoon of elixir from a bottle like the ones that kept appearing in the backyard, whenever Henry tried his hand at landscaping.
The brain is fried, but scene storming still seems to work. This started with one of the bottles we actually did dig up from the boulder by the back of the patio, but the rest is imaginary. What kind of things from real life do you use to jog yourself to write?