The first thing Kent noticed about the house was that it was chilly. On a bright summer day. But houses in the Pacific Northwest are seldom as warm as they look — move out of the sun and you feel at once a clammy breath. Fogs and rainy winter cold must have entered this house for a long time almost without opposition. It was a large wooden bungalow, ramshackle though not austere, with its veranda and dormers. There used to be a lot of houses like this in West Vancouver, where Kent still lived. But most of them had been sold as teardowns. The two large connected front rooms were bare, except for an upright piano. The floor was scuffed gray in the middle, darkly waxed at the corners. There was a railing along one wall and opposite that a dusty mirror in which he saw two lean white-haired figures pass. Sonje said that she was trying to sell the place — well, he could see that by the sign — and that since this part was set up as a dance studio she thought she might as well leave it that way. “Somebody could still make an okay thing out of it,” she said. She said that they had started the school around 1960, soon after they heard that Cottar was dead. Cottar’s mother— Delia — played the piano. She played it until she was nearly ninety years old and lost her marbles. (“Excuse me,”
said Sonje, “but you do get rather nonchalant about things.”) Sonj e had to put her in a nursing home where she went every day to feed her, though Delia didn’t know her anymore. And she hired new people to play the piano, but things didn’t work out. Also she was getting so that she couldn’t show the pupils anything, just tell them. So she saw that it was time to give up. She used to be such a stately girl, not very forthcoming. In fact not very friendly, or so he had thought. And now she was scurrying and chattering in the way of people who were too much alone. “It did we ll when we started, little girls were all excited then about ballet, and then all that sort of thing went out, you know, it was too formal. But never completely, and then in the eighties people came moving in here with young families and it seemed they had lots of money, how did they get so much money? And it could have been successful again but I couldn’t quite manage it.” She said that perhaps the spirit went out of it or the need went out of it when her mother-in-law died. “We were the best of friends,” she said. “Always.” The kitchen was another big room, which the cupboards and appliances didn’t properly fill. The floor was gray and black tiles— or perhaps black and white tiles, the white made gray by dirty scrub water. They passed along a hallway lined with shelves, shelves right up to the ceiling crammed with books and tattered magazines, possibly even newspapers. A smell of the brittle old paper. Here the floor had a covering of sisal matting, and that con- tinued into a side porch, where at last he had a chance to sit down. Rattan chairs and settee, the genuine article, that might be worth some money if they hadn’t been falling apart. Bamboo blinds also not in the best condition,
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