There is house in central Vermont at the apex of a cul-de-sac. The address is 385 Champlain Circle. There are no other houses in that particular cul-de-sac. There are no other houses in that particular community. There are piles of decaying wood and plaster in each lot of that community, but they have all but turned into hillocks dotting a long abandoned landscape. In the basement of 385 Champlain Circle there is a staircase. At the bottom of the staircase, just to the right, there is a burlap sack hanging on a rusty hook. It is slightly green from mold, and if you were to see it at night, it would look quite full. This is where Morsel sleeps.
When anyone first hears about Morsel there are a few assumptions that must be immediately addressed and put aside. First of which: Morsel is not a child. At first glance he might appear as a child, if you were to unfocus your eyes and tilt your head to one side, but he isn’t. He is only about three and a half feet tall and he wears a loose fitting handkerchief around his waist, but he is not a child. The second: Morsel is not abused. He is a whimpering figure with not much aside from his bleakness, but he is not abused.
You see before he hung his bag on a hook in the basement of 385 Champlain Circle–well, even before there was a 385 Champlain Circle–before there was a Gradier Heights–there was a tall elm tree in the middle of a shorter copse of elm trees. In the highest creaky bough of that elm tree was a hook. Hanging from that hook was a burlap bag that–if you were to see it at night, would look quite full. But now he lives on a hook–in a basement–of a house–on a cul-de-sac–of a community where there are no houses, no people, and no idea of what the future may hold. Perhaps we should talk about that first.
385 Champlain Circle is the only house left in what was supposed to be a planned community within driving distance of the capital, Montpelier. There is a faded sign at the front of what is now a two-hundred acre lot that reads “Gradier Heights”. In the early fifties, a man heretofore regarded as Mr. Gradier, who owned a construction company, Gradier Industries, came up with the brilliant idea to build a planned community, complete with a grade school, high school, library, community center, and even a shopping plaza, in the middle of a patch of forest in Vermont. The land was cleared, incidentally cutting down a very tall elm tree in the middle of a copse of shorter elm trees, and roads were paved, and houses were built and painted in pale green and light brown, and power lines were put up, and water mains were laid, and finally, a sign was installed. On that sign the words “Gradier Heights” were painted in pale green and light brown letters.
No one ever moved to Gradier Heights. It wasn’t for lack of trying, that much is certain. And it wasn’t that people came to look at the homes and decided that it wasn’t for them. It wasn’t that the prices were too high, or that the location was too remote, or that they didn’t like the forest, or that the roads were too difficult to navigate, or that the community was badly planned, or any of the usual things that might cause a community like Gradier Heights to fail. It is simply that no one ever turned up to have a look. Mr. Gradier put up billboards, and ads in newspapers, and commercials on both the local television and radio stations, he called several realtors and commercial agencies involved in realty to let them know about it. It wasn’t for lack of trying, that much is indeed certain. But, all the same, no one ever called, drove by, showed up, made an appointment or even asked a question. It was like Gradier Heights didn’t exist at all.
Mr. Gradier, having put almost all of his money into what he was sure would be a sure thing, was surely upset by this turn of events. He grew more and more desperate. Running a construction company, Gradier Industries, with no capital, and a number of loans tied up in a project which no one seemed to know existed, Gradier Heights, can be very hard on a man like Mr. Gradier. After a number of years he decided to tear down the whole development, and he did. He called together the small team of workers that he had left and stepped into the community himself to tear down his dream. Every single house was demolished. Every single house except for 385 Champlain Circle.
On the day that 385 Champlain Circle was to be demolished, the day when the last house in Gradier Heights was to be torn down, thus putting a period at the end of Mr. Gradier’s death sentence, Mr. Gradier never showed up to work.
Mr. Gradier had a heart attack while in his car on route three-oh-two and drove off the road and into a tree. He died instantly. His group of workers waited for Mr. Gradier to arrive until around half-past-noon and decided to call the office to see if plans had been changed. None of them dared to carry out the demolition of the last house in Gradier Heights without Mr. Gradier being there in person. When they called, his wife, who was the secretary for Gradier Industries, answered the phone and told them that he had left that morning at six and should have been there by seven at the latest. Not long after she hung up, Mrs. Gradier got a call from the police.
If you were to find Morsel and ask him about Mr. Gradier, he probably wouldn’t have the foggiest idea who you were talking about. He wouldn’t know anything about 385 Champlain Circle, or Gradier heights, or Gradier Industries, or that his tree had been replaced by a vacant pale green and light brown house with a basement in which he now spent his nights. Morsel is rarely concerned of matters of what, where, when, who, and how. Morsel simply wakes up each morning, drops out of his bag, peeks up the narrow stairway out of the wet basement and into the bright sunlight as though it were his first. That’s not to say that he doesn’t remember anything from before, just that it doesn’t much seem to matter to him.