The House With No Windows | Bringing Chuckie In
Christina C. Franklin | Lakshmy Mathur
Although it was not on my regular route, I had driven by the house with no windows many times. And each time, I would give it a glance and wonder what kind of people could possibly live in a house without windows. The funny thing is, no one around here ever realized that this house’s windows were bricked up until the owners started clearing out their front woods several years back. Then suddenly when the leaves dropped, the hidden house appeared. And that’s when the gossip started.
Adults whispered about it standing in line at the grocery store, and kids picking up on the oddity came up with their own stories, along with a new tradition of yearly Mischief Night egg bombings. Of course the local folklore speculated the occupants to be everything from unsocialized albinos to Jehovah’s Witnesses, to all sorts of mysterious or deranged individuals, but no one really seemed to know for sure. And although curiosity abounded, no one ever bothered to find out the true story, myself included. Instead, we all seemed content enough sitting in our newly built homes on our well-groomed cul-de-sacs just speculating. Until today. Little did I know I was about to find out just who exactly lived in that mysterious brick house.
You see, it was a normal day just like any other, and I was driving home from my job. I worked until 3:00. The sky was a beautiful blue, the air breezy but warm, and I had my window down enjoying the beautiful spring day. I had heard a hawk screech and watched him fly just ahead of my car. I tracked his route, taking the long way home while enjoying this chance to be outside. But as I followed that hawk listening to his call, I thought I also heard a woman’s scream. That’s when my peripheral vision caught a blur and my head whipped to the side. Coming down the driveway was a boy that looked about the age of my own 15 year old. He was running, but in a peculiar way. I knew instinctively that something wasn’t right.
Immediately I stopped in front of the driveway entrance to block the boy’s path. Jumping out of the car, I quickly jogged up to him.
“Hi there,” I said. “Are you okay?”
“I’m out, I’m out, I’m out!” was all he replied.
Puzzled, I proceeded with caution, “What’s your name?”
“Chuckie!” he exclaimed pacing, his eyes darting back and forth. “I’m out, I’m out!”
Oh God, I thought to myself. What’s going on here? Reaching in my pocket for my cell phone to dial 911, I saw a woman about my age running down the hill toward the street. When she neared, I could see that she had tears in her eyes.
“Oh, thank God,” she cried. “Oh, thank you. Thank you so much,” she said pulling the boy toward her.
Her genuine concern caused my hand to retract from my phone as I nervously wiped aside my bangs. Still on guard though, I responded with a simple, “You’re welcome.”
“I’m out, I’m out, I’m out!” Chuckie exclaimed again.
“I’m so glad you stopped your car. Chuckie’s been escaping again lately and running toward the cows across the street, he — I’m sorry, let me explain. Chuckie’s autistic.”
“Au-tis-tic, au-tis-tic, au-tis-tic,” Chuckie now chanted in the background, as he started tapping his head like a character I once saw in a popular movie.
My heart leaped and choked my words. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I finally managed.
“No, no. Don’t feel sorry for me,” she said shaking her head in protest. “I’m Betty, by the way.”
“Hi Betty. My name is Karissa.” I extended my hand to shake her outreached one.
“Karissa? Oh, that’s a beautiful name. Won’t you please come in?” she gestured toward the house.
“Oh, no, that’s okay. I don’t want to be a bother. I was just on my way home anyway,” I waved off, feeling awkward and uncomfortable now for having listened to all the rumors.
“No really. Do you have a few moments to spare?”
I hesitated, gazing at the brick house with no windows until Betty caught my stare.
“I’d love to chat with you a few moments Karissa, and then I can tell you about our windowless house which I’m sure you must be wondering about.”
Ashamed that she caught my gaze and knowing that my own kids were busy with afterschool activities, I caved, “Well, okay.” I shook my head at the sound of my unenthusiastic words, “I mean, of course. I’d love to,” I swiftly followed, silently admonishing myself at my lapse in manners. What was wrong with me?
I pulled my car up the drive and followed this unexpected pair into the house.
That afternoon I shared some laughs along with a heartfelt conversation as I learned about how Betty’s husband left shortly after Chuckie turned four. One day he simply told her that he couldn’t take it anymore and then gave her an amicable and fair, albeit modest, divorce settlement. Although her hurt was transparent to me through her unwavering eyes, she calmly told me it was better this way. She didn’t want her child to have a father that wasn’t fully vested in his upbringing and future. So Betty took her settlement and bought this house with every penny she had left, and had struggled on her own to raise her child.
Betty had been managing as best she could, but she quietly told me how several years ago Chuckie started crashing through the windows, and after repeated trips to the ER, a doctor suggested that Betty board up all the windows in the house to prevent future accidents and to help calm Chuckie’s overly active brain. He thought that the outside stimulation was too much for Chuckie to process. So wanting to help him in any way possible, Betty hired a contractor to brick in the windows. However, now in hindsight, seeing that this method wasn’t working the way she and the doctors had hoped, Betty wished she had windows again, and instead had installed a perimeter fence with alarms. Although this time, she just couldn’t afford the additional expense.
Almost two hours had passed by the time I finally headed home. I surprisingly found out many things this day, including how many things I actually had in common with Betty. We talked about recipes and life in general. She loved to garden and craft, but had given up many of her hobbies in order to care for Chuckie. I had left with a feeling of sadness for her plight, happiness for a new friendship, and regret for listening to the local gossip. But as I now drove home, a thought persistently tickled the back of my mind. What if I could help Betty with her windows? I mused this thought over a few times until it finally came to me — the women’s group at church. They were always looking for charitable endeavors and this might be the perfect one. What better way than to help someone in the community who genuinely needed a hand. What better way than to make former outsiders insiders?
That’s when I decided it. I was going to help bring Chuckie in.
I counted my blessings that evening around the dinner table as I recruited my husband and the older kids to make phone calls to various church members. Happily, the elders at the church had embraced my idea, and we soon set about finding volunteers to donate their time and money to help construct a fence with alarms and dismantle the brick window coverings on Betty’s house.
I couldn’t wait now to tell Betty all about it, and to drive up to the house with no windows.