I turn the radio down as I round the corner of the busy road, staying in the slow lane and glancing to the patch of trees to my right. If my estimation is correct, the house will be set into these trees and - bingo. It's exactly where I thought it would be, but the driveway is still cordoned off by police tape and orange reflective barricades. Talk about the slow wheels of justice - its been three years since the property went up in flames. I look around, still creeping in the right lane, for a place to park my car. I decide to ditch the wheels a quarter mile from the property in a church parking lot and prep my gear and the dog.
Once we're ready to go, I look around. I can't hop the barricade with the dog quick enough to avoid being noticed by passersby. I need to hike in through the woods on the backside of the property. As we walk along the sidewalk towards the property, I'm looking to make a beeline for the backwoods, but I find something much better. There's a construction site that cuts through to the backyard of the house. That's an easy fence to get around without drawing too much attention. The dog and I hop over and stroll through the muddy lot filled with backhoes and other equipment and duck into the back end of the property.
Three years ago, the owner of the home set fire to a couple propane tanks in the garage and left the house to explode. The blast was said to shake the neighbor's walls. Even though it took the fire department hours to put out the fire and the roof was torn off in the explosion, some areas of the first floor were still intact. There was food still in the refrigerator, the remote controls to the television sat in their stand on the coffee table, pill bottles on the counter tops and throw blankets were draped on the back of the leather recliners. A sandbox was still in the backyard, Tonka trucks overturned like children were just called in for dinner by their mother.
Zade and I dodged cacti growing around the outer perimeter of the house. I hoisted myself into the house through an open window then leaned out and lifted Zade inside with me. We had only a few minutes of daylight left so we drifted from room to room, careful of the crumbling foundation taking photos. Three years later, the evidence of the owner and of the madness that moved him to torch the home, still remained. The house felt hollow and busy all at the same time as if in another time a family still lived inside.