October 1983 to July 1985
Lila Spear was a spry old woman living on the side of a hill in La Honda. I liked her instantly. The ceiling of her bedroom was sagging, leaking strings of dust from the attic onto the tufted coverlet of a double bed. There was a single pillow, not in the center but off to one side.
When I quoted my price, she flinched, then accepted.
That flinch still haunts me.
She had a bearing of pride mixed with resignation. The interior was slightly spooky and had seen better days, but she kept it tidy. She offered me drinks while I worked.
There was a shed-like garage full of old lumber, which she said I could use. The lumber was silent testament to the absent pillow — like a ghost. Every house needs somebody to watch over it.
We'd chat, Lila and I, though I can't remember what we talked about except that once she asked if my back was hurting. "It always hurts," I said.
She nodded. "We just keep going," she said. "What else can we do?"
A year or two later I got a call from a lawyer representing her estate. Lila had passed away. Teenagers were breaking into the empty house and holding beer parties. Would I go over and board up the windows?
"Of course," I said.
As it happened, I could do it right away. There was lumber in the shed.
had a wavering voice,
when I met her,
and a house full of memories