Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Old Shed

It was about the size of a one-car garage, sitting alone in a corner of a large fallow field. An overhead door in front, a small window on one side. It was utterly forlorn, if a building can be said to be forlorn. Leaning, sagging, peeling. Layers of roofing material exposed like ancient rock strata.

Tom Robbins invented a character who stands on a busy city sidewalk and turns, but turns so slowly you can’t see him turning. Look away for a moment and when you look back he has turned; stare at him and you swear he doesn’t move. Like that strange man’s turning, this little shed was collapsing, but in slow motion. Passing by it almost daily for several years, I had been surprised that the panes of glass in the door and window were intact, because the frames had become so distorted by the steady relentless pull of time and gravity. The building was a cartoon – nothing square or plumb.

The shed offered a pleasant diversion on my morning commute. Who owned it, I wondered, and why would they let it sink slowly into the field? What, if anything, is in there? What were the hopes of the people who built it, and have those hopes suffered the same slow moldering?

Late last autumn, it finally caved in. A wet early-season snowfall was too much for the swayback roof. Ironically, this had been the warmest, driest November in anyone’s memory. The brief snowstorm that delivered the blow came and went without much notice around here – the snow had melted by noon. But it was enough.

And the shed was empty. I really did expect to see a rusty Farmall, some piles of discarded flower pots or building material, a few fruit crates -- something to show that the old shed had been useful and used. But nothing was in there except puny weeds that grew, slowly, in the dark.

I guess I was disappointed that there were no treasures or clues, but only a little. It was just an old empty shed.


Bleeet said...

I grew up in Northern Minnesota; I think fields up there are required by law to have one of these types of outbuildings clinging to existence.

Thanks for the imagery.

Coincidentally enough, Shari and I briefly touched on Tom Robbins's Turn-Around-Norman character in a conversation this weekend. Neat to see it pop into this piece as well.

Jim H. said...

Yeah! Turn Around Norman -- that was the guy. I was too lazy to look it mup and my laziness has been rewarded.