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A Remembrance of Things Past
A bed sits in the middle of a small room. The sheets are rumpled and smell of disease. An eighty four year old man is lying on his side on it, staring at a miniature Raphael drawing of Jesus being crucified, with a faraway look in his eye, mumbling words to himself. He turns over to stare at a small black dot on the ceiling. To the right of him, a door opens and a man walks in - his son - and sits down on a ratty wicker chair next to him. The man stretches his hand out and feebly takes his son’s hand in his. “Did I ever tell you about the Smiths, son?” he whispered.
“Not that I recall”
“Well, it’s a story you ought to know before I go, it won’t be long now.”
Spring turned to summer; summer to autumn, and school had started. The nip of cold had crept its way into the lives of the students. Withered leaves began to cascade to the ground and the faint aromas of wood smoke and apple wafted through the air. A soft but brisk breeze sauntered through the town of Brattleboro and people waited.
When the Smiths first came to town, those who even noticed paid no attention. As the seasons moved on, more took notice but by then it was too late. Everybody had a different story about how they first met them. In a store, on the street, at their house… My story, however, was different. It all started a fine May morning, and from that day on, I was never the same.
The moving truck roared by me, spraying a fine mist of muddy water and gasoline fumes into my face as I prepared to sprint across Main Street, now bustling with the newfangled contraption called an automobile. I stared as it continued its cacophonous journey up Canal St towards ‘Esteyland’, what we called the area dominated by the Estey Organ Company – where I lived. Curious, I ditched the idea of crossing the street and began a fast jaunt up towards my house, if you could call it that, a heap of rickety timber and drafts galore. Put up and “maintained” by the Estey Company where my pa worked.
Five minutes later I came huffing and puffing up to my place and was surprised to see the Smiths van parked on the side of the street as well, doors open and two burly men wielding large pieces of furniture and boxes as they moved the Smiths items into the second floor of our duplex house.
“Hey!” I called out to them, curious as to whom these strange new people were.
They turned around and stared at me; sweat beading up on their foreheads “Huh? What you want boy?”
“Who are the people moving in?”
“The Smiths”, one of the men grunted.
Being a young and, potentially ignorant boy of only thirteen years of age, I was more than happy to introduce myself to the new family on the block, so I ran right up the stairs and smack bang into an a body with two arms, two legs, and a stern looking face of a middle aged man.
“T-terribly sorry sir.” I stammered.
The man stared at me for a few seconds and then his face softened and a grin appeared on his face. “Well, hello there boy, come upstairs and I’ll introduce ya.”
The apartment was small. Too small for two people and it was apparent even before all the Smiths personal effects were moved inside by the two burly men. To the left of the door at the end of the staircase, there was a small hallway with a door on the left side (which led to the master bedroom) and a door on the right (which led to a very small bedroom, probably designed for a young child). At the end of the hallway was a bathroom with a simple cold water sink and no shower or bathtub of any kind. To the right of the door was a kitchenette with a woodstove and another cold water sink as well as a side cranny with two dusty armchairs that had clearly not been properly maintained.
“Come, sit down, have a cup of coffee.” The man said as he drew up a chair to a small kitchen table. “Names Robert Smith, by the way, case you wanted to know” He poured a cup of coffee into a small tin cup.
“Thank you sir” I breathed as I took a small sip of the bitter concoction.
As the weeks passed by, odd occurrences began popping up in places one wouldn’t normally expect in Brattleboro. At 286 Western Avenue, a large, beautifully carved chest of drawers was stolen. In a poorer part of town, Elliot St., a young man was found dead, his pockets void of any contents. Peoples suspicions grew: was it the Millers? Whites? Robinsons? And where were all the stolen items going to do? It was I, however, that found out that the Smith’s were behind it all.
It was around eight o’clock at night on November twentieth and I was asked by my ma to go and ask Mary Smith upstairs for a cup of flour for the bread she was baking. Assuming the Smith’s were home, I ran right up the stairs, knocked twice, and opened up the unlocked door.
“Hello?” I inquired, looking around the dimly lit apartment. “Anyone home?”
I walked through the apartment, suddenly overcome with curiosity as to where their possessions were placed and it was at that moment that I opened the unused bedroom door… I yet out a small yelp as I saw a whole assortment of fancy items like antique paintings, jewelry, fur coats, and so much more.
My feet flew up and I hit the wall with a thud, a hand holding me there with a force that seemed supernatural.
“Just how much do you know?” Robert Smith spat, face turning red.
“Not. Much. Sir.” I gasped. My ribs felt like they were about to shatter. “Just. Looking. For. Some. Flour.”
And again, I felt the same sensation of flying as I soared onto the floor. I rolled over, and saw the last of Robert disappearing around the door. Then the surprising thing happened. It all happened extremely fast, hearing the front door fly off its hinges, the sound of dozens of feet pouring into the apartment, and then the yell of a man’s voice “Don’t move!”
Apparently, when I hadn’t come back downstairs in a timely manner, my ma had become concerned as to my whereabouts. Creeping upstairs, she had heard me being held against the wall and ran back downstairs, out the door, across the street, into the Estey Organ Company’s telephone room, dialed party line 911, and called for the police.
The days passed into weeks, weeks into months, and the legend of the Smiths piracy scheme passed into a void of memories. People resumed back their normal routines and those who could go their stolen items back. The legend of the Smith’s was over; another legend was just about to begin…
“And there you have it” the old man sighed.
The young son sits there, a faraway look in his eyes, thinking of times gone past.
The old man turns over again, this time to his left. “It’s time now” he whispered. “I’m ready”