The Light In The Middle Window – Chapter Eight

She was the second person to ask about the light.  As he hurried to catch up with her, calling “wait!  Tell me what you know about the light,” she politely but firmly reminded him that it was time for her afternoon nap.

She and Hiram had both been so cavalier when asking about the light.  Had they seen it or had they just heard about it?  Jones decided that it was time to pay Hiram another visit.

He walked the extra thirty-nine steps to Hirams’ house and knocked.  After three tries, Jones sighed.  He wasn’t sure if Hiram was gone or couldn’t hear him or just didn’t feel like company.

After walking up the driveway of the grand lady, he took his daily stroll under the weeping trees.  More than once he had asked aloud, “why do you weep?”  Of course, trees don’t talk…at least they didn’t talk to Jones.

Just as he got to the side door, something caught his eye.  He bent down and picked it up.  He was delighted to see a tiny, green toy soldier but it was disfigured.  Whether through the attack of an animal, a frustrated child or simply the ravages of time, both of his arms had been amputated.  As he held the tiny soldier in his hand, he wondered how old it was and how long ago it had been discarded or lost in the yard.  To him, it was another treasure.

He had a collection of treasures and he had purchased a two-tier table just for them.  His treasures ranged from old cafe curtain rod holders with an “L” and an “R” imprinted on them, to an army folding shovel and pick, to numerous skeleton keys in all sizes.  He had old cast iron hinges, elaborately decorated as well as hand-forged nails and a rusted iron rest.  The little soldier would take his place on the two-tiered table, nestled between two milk glass doorknobs.

Jones loved old things.  He loved the craftsmanship.  It was, to him, as if old things had a story to tell.  They had belonged to someone.  Someone had once treasured them.  But he also knew that old things most often, gave way to new things and became nothing more than memories.

Although he enjoyed modern amenities, he had memories of old outhouses, chamber pots and wood-burning stoves for cooking.  He had memories of wavy windows that rattled when the wind blew like a large, angry bellow.  He had memories of when you could get a good, peaceful nights’ sleep with your doors unlocked and your windows open.

He sometimes wondered if his love of the past, kept him in the past.  He loved feeling nostalgic, although he knew that the word meant pain from a past wound.  Wondering was all he did.  He was unapologetic about his loves and remembrances and those would be put aside for a while.  His love now was getting more information about the grand lady.

The next morning, Jones made the trek to Hirams’ house.  He knocked loudly and heard the familiar “hold on just a darned minute!”  Jones smiled as he thought “Hiram is what I would describe as the true definition of a curmudgeon.”

When Hiram told him to come in and “set a spell,” Jones got straight to the point.  “Hiram,” he said.  “Will you tell me everything you know about the grand lady?  I spoke with Miss Tinsley and she told me that she believes one of the original owners still lives in town.  Do you know if she’s right?”

Hiram didn’t feign deafness.  He put his head down and said “I’m going to need a little of that..what they call, liquid courage.”  He got up and brought back a bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey and two glasses.  Jones politely declined but Hiram was insistent.  Jones reluctantly accepted and periodically touched his lips to the rim of the glass, as if he was drinking.

Hiram looked down and began to talk.

 

To be continued__________________________

 

 

 

The Light In The Middle Window – Chapter Seven

Jones had been a “counter” since he was a lad and he was counting the hours until his meeting with Miss Tinsley.  He wasn’t an obsessive, compulsive counter…just a counter.

As a boy, he knew how many steps it took to walk to school.  He knew how many steps it took to get from one class to the next.  He even knew exactly how many pieces of paper his notebook held at any given time.

He had carefully counted how many stairs he ascended and descended in the grand lady.  He counted how many steps it took to get from one room to the other.  He knew that there were 38 windows on the first floor alone but what he didn’t know was how the house came to be.

The hour finally came and Jones walked the forty-seven steps to the church.  Reverend Deutch and Miss Tinsley were already there, enjoying the usual doughnuts and coffee.  Jones politely refused the refreshments…he was too anxious to hear what Miss Tinsley had to say.

Miss Tinsley wiped her mouth with a delicate, lace-trimmed handkerchief and said “you want to hear something about the house, correct?”  Jones said “yes ma’am.  Anything you can tell me will be greatly appreciated.”

Miss Tinsley was apologetic when she leaned toward Jones and softly said “I’m sorry dear.  I’ve forgotten your name.”  The Reverend Deutch smiled and “introduced” them once more.

“Well,” she said.  “As I recall, the family who had the house built, lived upstairs and ran a funeral parlor downstairs.  It seems to me that their name was Mills, or Merchant or Meade or something like that.  I can’t remember.  It’s been a long time and age does things to a girls’ memory you know.”

Jones asked if she knew what happened to the family.  Miss Tinsley said “well, if not mistaken, I seem to recall that there was a tragedy.”

“Do you remember what the tragedy was?” asked Jones.

Miss Tinsley said “I don’t know the particulars.  I was just a young girl and Mama and Papa didn’t talk about it but I’m pretty sure that there was a death.”

Jones was afraid he would offend Miss Tinsley but he couldn’t help himself when he said “well, isn’t that what a funeral parlor is for?  Because there has been a death?”

“Oh, yes,” she said.  “But this was an unexpected and accidental death.  I do know that it brought a lot of shame onto that family and they were shunned.  After that, when there was a death, folks started going to the next town for the services.  I remember when I got older, Mama said ‘now, don’t you walk by that house.  You cross the street.  Don’t even look at that house’.”  She smiled when she said “I always thought it was haunted.  It looked so desolate and nobody ever saw any lights in the house.  But even as a young girl, I remember a feeling of great sadness when I walked by.”

“Did you ever look at the house when you walked by?” asked Jones.

“Oh my Heavens, no!”  Miss Tinsley said.  “I didn’t dare disobey Mama and Papa.  They would have ripped the hide right off of me.”

“And you don’t know what happened to the family?” Jones repeated.

Miss Tinsley said “most of them have gone to be with their Lord…well, hopefully.  He is a forgiving God and even though nobody else forgave them, I hope He did.  But I did hear that one of them stayed here and became a recluse.  If I could just remember his name…oh, land sakes.  It’s just been too long.”

Jones said “well, I’ve lived there for several months now and I have never had a sense of foreboding or even sadness.”

Miss Tinsley smiled and looked at Deuce.  In her soft, proper Southern voice, she said “Reverend, if it’s not too much trouble, could you take me home now?  It’s time for my afternoon nap.”  Then she looked at Jones and said “it was so nice to meet you dear and I’m sorry but I’ve forgotten your name.”

Reverend Deutch and Jones both smiled as if sharing an inside joke.  Jones wondered if she couldn’t even remember his name, could he rely on the information she had given?  But he also knew the phenomenon of old age stealing the present but almost totally recalling the past.

Just as Deuce and Miss Tinsley reached the door, Jones was startled when she suddenly turned and said “have you seen the light in the middle window yet?”

 

 

To be continued____________________________

The Light In The Middle Window – Chapter Six

Hiram didn’t strike Jones as the type of man to have ribbons laying around his house.  Still, he felt he was an interesting man who had secrets and as thought before, stories to tell.

For several weeks every Sunday, Jones had heard the rhythm of a bass drum in the distance.  He understood church bells but not drums.  He decided to walk up the street and investigate.

A large antebellum house stood on the corner and from inside, he could hear the singing and the drums loudly beating in perfect cadence.  “Why not go in and have a look?” he thought.

As he opened the double doors, he saw a rather tall man with a Chartreuse green Mohawk, standing at a pulpit.  Like a balladeer, he was singing the teachings of whoever you perceived to your God to be.

The congregation consisted of young folks who had every visible inch of their bodies tattooed, to a little old lady with snow white hair, sitting all the way in the back by herself.  Being an old-timer himself, naturally he gravitated toward her.

Before he could take a seat, the preacher interrupted his sermon to announce a loud welcome to the newcomer who had just wandered in.  A bit embarrassed, Jones sat down beside the old lady.  He could see that every day she had experienced in her life was etched into her face when she glanced his way just long enough to offer a smile.  He felt a bit guilty, hoping the service would soon be over just so he could talk to her.

It was a non-denominational church that welcomed Protestants, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists and Muslims.  Even self-proclaimed agnostics and atheists, if for no reason other than partaking in the free coffee and doughnuts at the end of each sermon, were more than welcome.

“Whether you’re a believer or not, the word of your God reaches us all,” the preacher sang.  “The word of God reaches us in ways we may not see, hear or understand but believe me when I tell you, it reaches us.”

Jones would have at one time given those statements a hearty “Amen,” but through the years, he had become so angry with God, he didn’t speak to Him anymore.  He reasoned that God had His favorites and he also reasoned that he was not one of them.

The sermon ended and Jones was anxious to talk with the old lady.  Quicker than a fly on stink, the preacher descended.  Throwing out a hand he said, “welcome brother.  I haven’t seen you here before.”  Jones shook his hand and told him that he had heard the music, or rather the drums and had more or less only come to explore.

“That’s alright,” said the preacher.  “My name is Reverend Deutch but everybody calls me Deuce.  I know I look like a freak of nature but God doesn’t care what color our hair is.  He only cares what color our soul is.”

Before he could catch himself, Jones quipped, “I’m sure He does and I’m sure He understands that sometimes a soul is too dark to ever be light again.”  Before Deuce could offer any soul-mending sermons, Jones excused himself and said “I need to get on.”

He ran outside, hoping to catch the old woman.  To his dismay, he saw her getting into a taxicab.  The decade old joke of getting into another taxicab and saying “follow that car” crossed his mind but there were no more taxicabs around.  Who took taxicabs anymore?  He guessed she did.

Jones had already decided that he would be going to church again the next Sunday and he would be going early enough to catch the old lady before the service began.

Next Sunday came around and Jones walked up to the church with his devious plan to hijack the old lady.  Much to his chagrin, she was already there…sitting in the back of the church…all by herself.

He walked over and sat down beside her.  “Hello,” he said.  “My name is Jones.”  She looked at him and said “my name is Flossie Mae Tinsley.  And you are?”  Jones laughed as he once again introduced himself.  “May I call you Flossie?” he asked.  “No you may not,” she said.  “We have not been properly introduced.”

Jones was at a bit of a loss as to exactly what she meant.  He wondered if maybe he could get the Reverend Deuce to “properly” introduce them.  He sat through the sermon, half listening and half wondering if he had made a mistake or had perhaps fallen through the looking glass.

Finally, the sermon was over and once again, with lightning speed, Reverend Deuce was in front of him.  Jones asked if he could properly introduce him to Ms. Tinsley.  Deuce laughed and said “it’s Miss.  Never refer to her as Ms. or Heaven forbid…Mrs.  She’s a throwback to a time when women were ladies and men were gentlemen.  I’ve never been sure how she ended up coming to our church but as I said…all are welcome and yes, I will be happy to introduce you.”

They walked over to Flossie and Reverend Deuce formally introduced them.  Jones didn’t miss a beat when he said “I was wondering if we might we talk a bit, Miss Tinsley.”  She looked at him and said “of course but not without the proper supervision.”

A puzzled Jones asked “and what might that be?”  Miss Tinsley said “there must be a chaperone present.  I am a single woman and I must protect my reputation.”

The Reverend Deuce offered to serve as her champion and the following day was set for the meeting, which would be held at the church.

There was an extra step in Jones’ step as he walked back home.  He had so many questions and he was hoping Miss Tinsley had answers.

 

 

To be continued_______________________