Magazine article The New Yorker

OUT OF THE WOODS; HOLIDAYS Series: 5/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

OUT OF THE WOODS; HOLIDAYS Series: 5/5

Article excerpt

It was an awful house. A broker would have called it a charming Swiss chalet; what it should have been called, really, was a dingy A-frame, mud-brown, damp, afflicted with an air of unrelieved gloom. An ad might have claimed that it was nestled in the Oregon mountains--in fact, an ad did claim that it was nestled in the Oregon mountains--but would fail to mention that it was nestled in what was possibly the only cramped, cluttered, suburban subdivision in the Oregon mountains. It was probably when we saw a gang of children furiously pedalling their bright-orange-red Big Wheels up and down the sidewalk--Big Wheels? A sidewalk? In the mountains?--that we realized that this vacation house, which we had rented for a four-day getaway, might not be quite as dreamy as it had sounded.

This was the first actual vacation that my boyfriend and I had ever taken together--the first official, grownup type of vacation, rather than our more usual short-term residences on friends' sofas. We weren't very old, and neither was our relationship, and the visit to the mountains was a watershed moment to see what it felt like to have a place of our own. The chalet had sounded ideal. It was also inexpensive, and since we had only a couple of nickels to rub together, we thought it was quite a find.

The inside of the house did seem tolerable. Granted, it was a worn-out, weary place with lots of aches and pains--floorboards that complained, mattresses that wheezed, windows that shrieked when you pushed them open--but it was decent shelter. We walked around, opening cupboards and checking behind doors, taking inventory. Bedroom, fine. Bleak little kitchen, fine. Living room, fine. Bathroom, we must have missed it. We walked through the house again, opening every door a second time, then a third. There appeared to be no bathroom. Had either of us inquired when we arranged to rent the house whether it had a bathroom? Of course we hadn't--who would? It would have been like asking if the place had, say, a roof. We glanced out the kitchen window. In a mangy patch of yard, there appeared to be a heap of two-by-fours, which revealed themselves, upon investigation, to be the remains of an outhouse that must have been blown down in a storm. There was no righting it; the structure hadn't just toppled--it had exploded. So the house had once been equipped with a bathroom-type facility, although the fact that it was an outhouse seemed like something a broker might have wanted to mention. …

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