John and Mary pass the cottage often. It stands _ or rather, slouches, for it is in serious disrepair _ on an overgrown wooded lot in a picturesque California town with a rich Bohemian, artistic past.
The trees save the cottage from appearing a derelict, though derelict it is _ an old cypress, a few pines and a live oak, neglected and unruly, provide a kind of camouflage.
On a bare lot, the cottage's charm might give way to eyesore, the porch buckling, the siding's paint hanging in shreds, a window pane or three gone. It hasn't been occupied for years; at least, not legally.
When the afternoon light is just right, as it was this September day, just days ago, the interior of the living room is clearly visible from the street, and what intrigues John and Mary most about it is not the few pieces of old furniture they can make out, but the massive bookcase filled top to bottom with old books.
In its time _ it's eighty or hundred or more years of existence _ a great many writers and poets had stayed or lived within easy walking distance of the cottage and, the couple guesses, must have walked by it just as they have been doing over the years.
Jack London, Robinson Jeffers, Lincoln Steffens and Mary Austin were several. You could add George Sterling, playwright John Patrick (``The Hasty Heart''), Langston Hughes and Jimmy Hopper and Sinclair Lewis and Emlyn Williams (``The Corn Is Green'') and Charles Warren Stoddard, likely Ambrose Bierce, the tragic Nora Mae French, perhaps even John Steinbeck and Clark Ashton Smith, both of whom lived over the hill, and more.
The couple fantasizes about the books. Are there signed first editions? With revealing notations? Did the one-time owner or owners know Hughes or London or Austin? Did Sterling and muckraker Steffens, perhaps a slight buzz on, which can come from talking literature while hoisting drinks, stand in front of the grand bookcase? Were there important letters and author observations tucked into the pages of the books?
This day, last week, as John and Mary approach the cottage on their afternoon walk they see a bulldozer, engine reved, pointing at the cottage and, as they watch, transfixed, unbelieving, it tears into the weakoned framing, through the splintering windows, and into the bookcase. It gouges, tears, lifts and drops its contents into several gigantic dumpsters parked on the street.
It is done quickly, efficiently _ siding, roofing, plumbing, furniture and hundreds of old books are thrown together into a twisted mess, puffs of plaster dust rising cloudlike from the dumpsters in a kind of exhaled death throe.
In a few more hours the house, furnishings and books begin a return to their organic roots, becoming landfill.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...