The Snohomish County courthouse was built in the late 1950s. I’m guessing. It looks like it came from the same manufacture as the Pacific Science Center, built for the World’s Fair in Seattle in 1962. To say architect is along the same lines as complimenting the chef at Denney’s. Although the waiters at Denney’s invariably ask, “How was your food?” I mumble back because, well, it’s food at Denney’s; my wife, however, will cheerfully exclaim, “Give my compliments to the chef!” because this sends them scurrying away to refill her ice tea. The courthouse had a plastic mould quality. White pebble conglomerate pieces had been assembled like a hastily and somewhat glue intoxicated toy store kit construction. Everything seemed period, that is, it seemed like it had just come out of its cellophane wrapped box and had been left to sit — used by the various civil servants and citizens involved in legal proceedings — but not modified in any substantial way except for the wear of forty years of lawyers, policemen, jurors, clerks, entering the place. The landscaped trees had grown out of their planters and cracked the cement. The daffodils had died and rotted and turned to mold. The mold had dried out, and blown away leaving behind the oxide casing of the flower cups around the central sculpture that looked the same as everything else, as if it too had come out of a cardboard box with plastic wrapping and been airplane-glued to the base. There was a plaque honoring the valiant men who died overseas. The statues were melted bronze monstrosities that repudiate everything else about the courthouse. One appeared as if his torso had been stolen, and the rest recovered from a cow field ditch. He’d been re-welded to his legs. He had long, slender legs, leaving a gapping cleft between his legs, and then a chest starting at his breasts and his arms drooped like melting cheese. One of these slender arms draped out and connected him to the other figure. A woman, overweight and wearing jogging pants and a sweatshirt sat with her daughter or granddaughter on one of the benches, and she watched me as I circled the statues. The benches were two pieces, an angular jutting of preformed conglomerate material and a long, hexagonal bench. A seagull squawked from the roof. His beak flashed over the tall face of diamond shaped windows, each window edged with jet age chrome and bisected with an almost churchlike (or maybe jet plane icon) of chrome. The grandmother, or maybe mother, I couldn’t really tell her age, really, glanced up at the gull and then turned to look to where it was calling, down the hill, to the ripped up street where backhoes installed cabling for the new Everett hockey stadium, to the vast, air between the city and the blue foothills, swamp, river, and nothing.
Under the stand of Douglas fir, the cabin rotted. The owners hadn’t driven out to the place in ten years, or if they had, they weren’t able to do anything about the state of the house. They didn’t sell it for one thing. They didn’t even take the dishes out of the cupboard. They kept the place even though the roof had collapsed on the southwest side. The rest of the building still, technically, stood. The majority of the interior was damp, but not wet enough that the tacked up Life magazine covers hadn’t foxed. It was only a matter now of a couple of years, another season even, before the bracken ferns now growing in the raw, red earth spread across the floor, and moss began to creep down the walls. The two bedroom packed with box springs, blue quilt sleeping bags with checkered linings, matching art deco dressers, and a lamp with cowboys and raw hide trimmings didn’t look damp at all, and the only sign they hadn’t been used was the layer of brown, furry dust the covered everything and the cloud of cobwebs floating against the ceiling. The light switch didnt switch. It wasn’t a switch, but a thick plastic button that clicked off with a direct hit against the surface. The button marked on popped out. The light came through the windows coated with webs and stray cedar tree needles. The light filtered down through the Douglas fir boughs and the maple tree branches and then finally through the hole in the roof, this light didn’t change at all when I hit the on button. The blue glass phone terminal sat on a pole visible from the kitchen. Cedar boughs curved in through the hole, leaving behind long, fuzzy strings of cones. A streamlined white enamel stove sunk in one kitchen corner, with oven door still open, revealing a rack with long burned, long molded, long dried up and fossilized baked things. Everything still lay stacked in the cupboards, plates with pale blue streaks on them and coffee mugs with matching saucers. The drinking glasses, short, and modestly sized, diner glasses, really. From the center of the room, I could hear the river slosh and drag gravel along the bank. Birds relayed twirls and chirps up and down the forest. The ferns around the house draped against my legs, leaving the thighs of my jeans wet. I came out into the soggy, grassy yard, now a tangle of short salmonberry bushes and looked across the river at the neatly manicured lawn of the neighbor there. A man sat on his desk drinking a cup of steaming coffee and reading his newspaper. His cell phone rang and he leaned down to pick it up. I couldn’t hear his voice, just the sudden cut off of the beep beep beep. It was just the sound of the birds again and the river and the wind knocking water loose from the branches and the drops fell down each drip making a slight tic as it met leafs, and fronds, and stones.