The old house stood beside the railroad tracks. A satellite dish turned its ear to the dead sky. Some of the windows were covered over with clapboards, like blind eyes. A freight train rumbled by, screeching and grinding.
A man came out of the house. He lifted a TV into the back of the pickup. Then he loaded in a chair and a table. He stretched a black plastic tarpaulin over the load and tied it down, jerking the rope and muttering. The black tarp shimmered in the March sunlight.
A woman leaned her head out of the door. “Get lost,” she yelled. “I don’t care if I never see you again.” The door slammed. A turkey vulture circled overhead.
I sat on the sidewalk across the street, painting quietly. Cigarette butts were scattered beside my feet.
The man got into the truck and started the engine. The train passed and the crossing gates lifted. The truck roared across the tracks.
A half hour later the woman came out, wiping her eyes with her sweatshirt sleeves. She walked by, pushing a baby carriage, slowing down a little to see what I was doing.
(Note--I did this painting on location last week, and parts of it happened--the action of the truck and the train and the vulture, but the human story was imaginary. Sometimes I can't stop my mind from overlaying a story onto a scene, and I'm attracted to sketching in bleak neighborhoods because of the strange glimpses of human existence I encounter there.)