A lone street lamp shone its dim yellow light over the pocked and crumbling pavement beneath it. The lamp, green from years of neglect, stood sturdy and dignified nevertheless; its scrollwork base and lantern top the result of the insistence of a tenacious city council member long since forgotten. Its light spread over the area like a thin blanket, not quite reaching the ends of the old street.
A socialite famous for a gluttony of grand parties, an unquenchable thirst for written works of philosophy, and a limited understanding of himself had once owned all of the land through which the street now traveled and some of the adjoining property, as well. He was the son of a railroad baron, had observed his father’s business from bottom to top, had never been invited to take over the business and had never asked to. In all of his life, the son, Courtney Clive Tice (Clive after his grandfather on his mother’s side), had never known want. He had never had to care for himself in all of the ways mankind finds it necessary to survive, he had never had to sweat, nor to make his own money. It was all there for him from the time he was born until his last breath.
It was this last breath, this last uttered thought, that had made his land even more marketable to those who had the means to buy some of it. So it was sold in large parcels, then later resold in smaller pieces, then divided into lots that were smaller still. The passage of time, the decline of societal standards, and general neglect had finally led to the street’s current condition. Most passersby made a wide detour around it, but those who had the nerve to pass by that now decaying part of the city still recalled its first owner’s words: “What was good could have been better.” Those were not his only words, but since they were the last sentence of his final musings, they were what the people recalled.
A sarcastic city planner had later named the street ‘Plato Street’, thinking to himself that its owner, his head full of useless philosophy, had thought in vain the property could be improved. Indeed, its current conditions proved the planner right. Ramshackle houses dotted the small, crude lawns, and those who now lived on Plato Street wished Courtney Clive Tice had told the truth. But it was obvious to all who passed by and especially to those who lived there that he had not.
One house, by now nearly bare of paint, though the chips that remained told of an original Hershey’s chocolate brown, stood on the exact spot where Courtney Clive Tice had once slept – and where he had died. The plat reached to where the edge of his smoking room had been. A hard-packed dirt path led from the boulevard in front of it to the street beyond.
A “For Sale” sign had stood in front of the house some fourteen months, taken down several weeks here and there to fool passers-by that it had been sold and really was worth something. Up it would pop again, though, in a renewed effort to bring something – anything – from property whose owner had since died in a nursing home. Then one day it was taken down for good.
It is this house – and the people in it – that taught me about the man Courtney Clive Tice could have become or maybe had become unawares to those who were closest to him.
They moved in without fanfare and I expected they were the kind that lived quietly and unobtrusively, for that is how they lived. At first.
to be continued . . .
Photo: 800px-Light_In_The_Dark_2886931703-wikimedia-commons.jpg Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License