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My Room of Choice
By Larry Stephens
How do you like my room?
True, it’s really not much to look at; nor is it well-furnished—not like the dozens of other rooms in this rambling, sprawling mansion where generation after generation piled more rooms on top of older rooms in a crazy, haphazard way that actually gives me a headache when I consider the overall construction of this… monstrosity.
There are older rooms in this place—some dating back to the first construction in the early 1700s, buried in the rolling hills of southwestern Pennsylvania. But I avoid those rooms. They scare me; feels like they’re haunted and they creep me out.
No, this is my Room of Choice, and while it looks old, I actually have not a clue how old it really is. There are no dates scratched in the paneling, no roughly-etched heart shape with two sets of initials bisected with a plus-sign. There’s no evidence that so-and-so was here in 19-something-or-the-other.
But the beat-up paneling tells so many stories, as does the charred fireplace and the worn, spotted floor, so really, it’s pretty easy to get lost in here.
I found a chair—like the most austere chair I could find in this endless cluster of windowless rooms, rooms with doors that open onto brick walls, doors that open to winding tunnels carved out of the raw earth—and brought it to this room. After all, a man’s gotta sit, right?
I come here every day; burn a little weed before I get here and wash it down with some Johnny Walker Blue, then I grab some H2oH, then trundle down some steps, out of the ‘waking world’ of sunlight into this room that time forgot where I take up my super-austere chair and then find a story.
I don’t have a creative bone in my body. You ask, ‘How can that be?’ And the answer is straightforward. Because I don’t. I’m not built that way.
It’s this room. Without this room, I’m nothing. There would be no best sellers with my pen name gracing the spine.
But this room…
There are so many stories that this room commands me to tell. Look here at this panel just to the left of the fireplace. What do you see?
Worn panel. That’s funny. And stupid.
Why is the paint on that panel worn differently than the ones on either side of it? Maybe it has something to do with the fireplace? Maybe that’s the perfect panel to lean against to get just the right amount of heat and light from the fire. The one to the right? Too hot. One to the left? Not hot enough. So why not lounge right there while puffing on a pipe while a lady perches right in front of the fire? Maybe she’s knitting.
Maybe it’s 1902 and she’s asking her man why he has drops of blood on his rough, wool shirt. Again. And perhaps this time he’ll finally tell her why. And then show her.
Understand? No? Okay, let’s look at that fireplace. Now some of these spots on the floor that look to be more worn than the rest of the floor. What’s that stuff telling you?
You’re cracking me up, but it’s good to hear that you’re a little more serious in your answer. ‘Favorite spots where people gathered ’round the fire.’
What if those people consisted of all one family? An entire family’s lives lived in one room. Think about that. Now, what if it were two families? And they were slaves.
But we know there are defectives in every group, right? All sorts of defectives; some with physical deformities and some with mental ‘problems,’ especially if there was inbreeding, which I heard was common in situations like this at the turn of the 19th century.
But folks were not stupid; they knew how to thin the herd no matter the cost in personal, emotional pain.
Doesn’t that just open up all sorts of possibilities? Now, look at that spot right there, right in front of the fireplace. Look at the color of that spot. Kind of looks like the floorboards are… stained.
Don’t look so shocked.
Now please leave me; the Room is calling me and it’s very, very demanding.
You can see yourself out.
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