by Joelle Steele

I've always had this feeling that Rose Court, that little block-long lane off of Palm Avenue, was haunted. Well, maybe haunted isn't the right word exactly. Maybe enchanted is better since I haven't seen ghostly apparitions floating around or witnessed poltergeist activity of any kind. The little walkway just seems somehow detached from the rest of the city, as if some wicked witch or sorcerer cast a spell on it, leaving it with a life — or non-life really — of its own.

First of all, it's always so deathly silent no matter what day of the week or what time of day you walk there. No one is ever around, even at the house where they have a children's day care center. I have never seen or heard a child there, yet the yard is positively littered from fence to fence with toys. There are swings, a playhouse, toy phones, little Tonka-type trucks, jump ropes, dolls, and a variety of other kid things scattered all over the lawn, as if the children had just dumped them and gone inside to have milk and cookies. But, the toys just lay there collecting dust and leaves because the children never come back to play with them.

There are no sounds of life on Rose Court. Not even the buzz or hum of traffic or airplanes in the distance breaks the spell. I have never heard so much as a dog barking or a TV or radio playing softly in the background. I have never even heard the faintest whisper of a human conversation. I have never seen anyone in their yards and I have never passed anyone else walking down that street. And, I have never seen a face at a window — no, on second thought, I did see a face through a screen door once. It was a woman with long blonde hair sitting on a sofa playing a guitar. Actually, she was just holding it like she was going to play it, but she wasn't making any music as I walked by.

Then there's this weird nature thing. Nature itself seems to take a detour from the rest of the city. When the air is still elsewhere, there is always a slight breeze on Rose Court. It's a haunting, chilling breeze that very gently rustles the leaves on the trees. The city could be sizzling, but this little lane is always cool, almost unbearably so at times. There is also a mildewy dampness that permeates this short stretch. The soil in the yards always looks newly moistened and there is that ozone smell in the air, just like after a big winter rainstorm. The sky looks different too. It always seems to be white without even the slightest glimpse of blue through a dense, high cloud cover.

Plants and trees overhang the walkway and I always have to duck several times between Palm Avenue and the traffic circle where Rose Court ends. The yards look pretty clean for the most part, but they're a little overgrown and the plants never look completely healthy. In fact, they all look kind of dusty and neglected. They don't seem to thrive in their environment at all. They're all a little leggy and the flowers are always kind of wilted. And, speaking of flowers, I don't know why they call it Rose Court since there isn't a single rose bush on the entire block.

What Rose Court has plenty of is insects. There are so many of them flitting about and sometimes they are so thick in the air that it is unpleasant, if not impossible, to walk through them. I've also seen some incredible spiders scaling the fences and gates along the way. One was orange and green. Another had a brown hairy body and was about the size of a small tarantula. Maybe it was a tarantula? Anyway, there are these huge, ugly Jerusalem crickets that cross your path periodically, and I have never been anyplace that has so many big blue dragonflies and black shiny beetles — stink bugs. But, the oddest thing, is that with all these insects you'd think there would be a lot of birds around too. Not so. I don't know if I have ever seen or even heard a bird singing on Rose Court.

During the first two months that I lived on Candlewood Street, I used to walk down Rose Court at least once a week on my way to Al's Market at the corner of Palm and Hudson. It was the most direct route, and when you're carrying a couple bags of groceries, you want to make the trip as short as possible. But nowadays, I walk down Millwood Street and cut across to Palm Avenue by way of Church Lane. It's a far nicer walk but it's about four blocks out of my way, so I bought a little shopping cart to hold my stuff. Sometimes I glance down Rose Court when I pass it on my way down Palm Avenue. It looks so pretty from a distance. Up close, it's quite a different story.