Stanford Chaparral

The house was a dump when they bought it. Broken windows, rats in the bathrooms; the lawn had gone to hell over the summer. The realtor laughed when they'd asked about the house. Still, it was prime California real estate. And they had a dream.

Carl first had the dream three years ago when he was still working as a consultant in Des Moines. That was long before they'd even met. Deb claimed she'd had the dream too, before Carl had mentioned it. Carl would just laugh and tousle her hair. Their love was gentle and strong.

Friends laughed when Carl mentioned their dream, but he didn't care. Deb believed in it, and so did he. And now they had the house, with ants in the sink and toilet handles so rusty they couldn't be flushed. The house had broken glass all over the living room floor and pipes so caked with lead that they were clotted with poisoned fish which had floated in from the leaking sewage system.

Carl and Deb would sit on the rotting porch swing and watch the sun set, talking about the future. Soon, the porch swing broke, so they'd sit on the porch. Then the porch rotted through, so they'd sit in the road, diving out of the way of traffic.

A dream is a strange and powerful thing. A dream can keep a couple together when the attic is too carcenogenic for any contractor to renovate. A dream can keep love strong when the bed breaks the first night and the only place to sleep without being bitten by spiders is the hollowed-out, broken refrigerator.

Carl and Deb would spend hours inspecting each other for lice and splinters. They'd lie in bed at night staring at the ceiling, ready to dodge falling beams and diving bats. They'd wake up each morning to find that the living room had caught fire again and that all their pets were dead. Their pets were the snakes that lived in the furnace. But they didn't complain. They didn't fuss, or argue, or curse, or despair. They never lost hope. They believed in their dream. Their dream was to have the shittiest house in the world.