Followup: Homeless Man’s Home Becomes Subject of Poulsbo Student’s English Paper

Sarah Van Cleve, a Poulsbo student attending an east coast boarding school, recently wrote a great story for class based on the home of Chris T. Christensen.

You might remember Christensen, whose death in September 2008 revealed his meticulous home inside the woods just off highways 3 and 305 in Poulsbo.

“At my boarding school my English teacher just asked me to write a narrative with a prompt of ‘an event that revealed a divergence between a person’s ideas about who he/she was and other people’s ideas about who he/she was,'” Sarah wrote me. “As bizarre as it sounds, I immediately thought back to a conversation my mom and I had about this article a while back, and thought it would make for a good narrative.”

I was really impressed with they way she captured detail in what she called “Woodland Man.” But I’ll let you read it for yourself:

The red light switched to green and we sped along again. My cousin Josh sat next to me, with Mom in the driver’s seat. Beyond the window, ratty plastic garbage bags rolled across the highway. Drivers ahead of us were laying on their car horns.

“I think he lived right up in there,” Mom said, letting go of the wheel for a moment to point to the woods above a hill covered with dead grass and old cinder blocks.

“Who did?” I asked.

“The, the man in that article. The homeless man. You know, in the paper? He just died,” she stated with her pitying, maternal tone, her lips turned into a thin frown.

“What man?” Josh piped in. His British accent was thick with the undeniable charm and cheer.

“His name was…well, I don’t remember his name. But he, uh, lived up in there. They found his body and apparently he had, like a whole hut in there,” She took an awkward pause and a deep breath, “I mean, it was made out of garbage and stuff, and he obviously didn’t have many materials to come by. But you could tell he took some pride in the place, you know?” Mom shook her head gently.

The trees’ reflection and my own melted together on the car window. Mom turned on her left clicker. We were surrounded by cars crunched together at this particular stoplight, which always made us five minutes late.

“Maybe then…he wasn’t really a hobo, more like a…woodland man,” Josh grinned. He just bought flashy sneakers yesterday and his clothes all fit him perfectly. His face was clean-shaven, and despite all his piercings, his eyes remained soft, searching the trees with genuine interest.

“That’s just…really sad,” I lowered my voice.

Staring straight ahead, but rubbing her eyes far too often, Mom replied, “I just wish…I wish people knew about him, you know?”
Nobody answered her. Sitting beneath the apathetic grey sky, skinny trees surrounded the highway, but no lopsided tent or deteriorating shack peeked out from behind them.

The only sound came from Mom’s metronomic left clicker.

“Where are we going again Mom?” I broke the impassive rhythm.

“The supermarket,” she replied softly, “We’ve got to buy food for dinners this week.”

Sitting on the sidewalk corner, a homeless man clung to his flimsy cardboard sign. The sloppy sharpie words were difficult to read and his eyes were framed by matted mousy hair.

He tried to connect his eyes with mine, but I immediately avoided his pleading gaze. Was this what the woodland man looked like?
“What do you have in mind for dinner Mom?” The red light turned green and we sped along again.

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