House of Horrors


My cousin, let’s call her Bernice, has been living in my Aunt Marie’s house for the last three and a half years. This started out as a good thing; Bernice needed a place to live, and having only been grafted back into the family (after prolonged estrangement which began in her childhood because of her father) in the last seven years or so, renting from my aunt seemed an excellent choice. It brought her closer to the family by virtue of interaction and geography; the house is in the same neighbourhood where many of us, myself included, live.

It was a good thing at first. But after a year or so (coinciding with Bernice’s marriage to a man who now resides in the county jail) she started slacking about the rent. Then she had a baby, despite claims that she and her wretch of a husband were broke. Her rent paying became even more sporadic and she was about six months behind. The obvious conclusion was that she was taking advantage of having a landlord who was her mother’s sister.

Aunt Marie finally had enough. One thing led to another, and she finally told Bernice that she and her daughter would just have to move. She had until July, but she vacated the house about a week and a half ago.

Enter me and another cousin, Julie. We agreed to help Aunt Marie by going to the house to get her things. She was selling most of the furniture and artwork, but wanted some of it set aside to keep herself, and we were planning on doing the dividing.

We walked into a horrific scene. I don’t know how anyone could live in those kinds of circumstances — and trust me, what we saw was not a result of moving out hastily. Dirty dishes filled the sink, there was old food throughout the refrigerator and even a prepared plate of food left in the oven. Remember, she’s been gone for more than a week. This was not a pretty scene, and that was just the kitchen.

Julie and I set out to begin cleaning up. We gathered up trash and garbage and placed it in 60 gallon “leaf and garden” sized bags. Within a few hours, working only on the first floor of the four story house, we had ten bags filled, and were working on number eleven, with plenty more to do. We were gathering up everything from the aforementioned old food to dirty diapers. I’m not kidding.

Bernice had left unbelievable things lying around, or stuffed into garbage bags. I can only assume that some of the stuff in the bags was intended to be thrown away, because it was sitting in a pile of bags with trash in them, bags that Bernice never took out.

None of the bags were actually tied, so we were able to see that some of them were not filled with trash at all. One was filled with clothes for Bernice’s daughter, some of them clearly never worn, still bearing tags. We also found brand new shoes, never worn, heading to the trash. This got my ire up — Bernice was always, always crying poor, always looking for a handout, a free meal, a way out of something because of a lack of money, and here she was, not even giving away perfectly good clothes, but just walking away, throwing them away. It was unbelievable.

Julie salvaged all of the clothes; she has a granddaughter who is now going to have a brand new wardrobe for the summer. I have to check to see if the shoes will fit Dreama, who is going to return to the house with us tomorrow.

The clincher of all of this is that Bernice told Aunt Marie that she had paid someone to come clean out the house for her. There’s just no way.

Since I don’t work tomorrow, Julie is coming to pick me up shortly, and we’ll be going back up for a few hours tonight. There is plenty left to be done; for some reason it seems that the task will fall on everyone but the party who is supposed to be responsible.

Bernice has burned all of her familial bridges. She will have a lot to do to make up for this one.

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