The Light In The Middle Window – Chapter Ten

What Hiram hoped was going to be a joyous reunion was instead, a tragic discovery.  He had forgotten about the well deep in the back yard, covered with rotten boards.  That’s where they found Jenny.

He watched as they pulled her little body out of the rancid water, covered in leaves and dirt.  Her pink ribbon fell out of her hair as they carried her away.  He finally admitted to the sheriff that he had sent Jenny outside to play.  Even though her death was ruled an unfortunate accident, he would never get over the guilt nor would anybody let him.

He recounted the aftermath to Jones.  “People in town stopped speaking to me.  Some of them called me a killer.  Thessie divorced me.  My business was ruined.  I became a recluse.  I still went to church for a while but everybody pretended that they didn’t see me.  After a few weeks, Deuce got nervous and asked me not to come anymore.  He said that my presence was ‘too disruptive’.”  

Hiram managed a sarcastic little laugh when he said “and they’re supposed to be God people.  Isn’t He supposed to be forgiving?  Aren’t they?”  He took another swig of whiskey and said “I guess some sins are just unforgivable.”

Even though Hiram was a self-proclaimed coward, Jones felt sympathy for him.  He and Thessie didn’t have any children and they weren’t attuned to the fact that children are curious by nature and must be watched like hawks.

Hiram told Jones that he stayed in the house for a few years but it became unbearable.  “All of those memories,” he said.  He told him that he had seen the light in the middle window and believed that it was Jenny’s spirit.

“And the trees,” he said.  “The trees began weeping the day they found her and they never stopped.”

He asked Jones if he would like to have the little pink ribbon.  Jones was surprised but said “yes, if you’d like for me to have it.”  Hiram said “you can put it with the rest of your treasures.”

Jones was startled.  Had he told Hiram about his treasures?  If he had, he didn’t remember.  Had Hiram sneaked up to the house, peeped through the window and seen them on the two-tier table?  Or had Hiram been the one who left them behind for him to find?  Obviously the doctor hadn’t found them or if he had, he wasn’t interested.

His thoughts were interrupted when Hiram began to speak again.  He said “you know, I think we’re put here for a reason but I don’t know why I was put here.  When I was young, I did everything right.  I was a good son, a good friend and a good husband.  But I was selfish and that selfishness caused the death of a little girl.  Was that why I was put here?

He looked at his now empty glass and said in an almost sneer as if reprimanding himself.  “I didn’t want to be bothered.  I didn’t want to be bothered, so I sent her outside to die.”

Jones tried to placate him by saying “you made a mistake.  We all make mistakes.”  Hiram looked him in the eye and said “how many little girls have you sent to their death?”  Jones didn’t answer and Hiram said “exactly.”

He didn’t look at Jones when he said “I have to pay penance and my penance is length of years.  I have swallowed a bottle of pills every night since Jenny was found, hoping that it will cause the big sleep.  But every morning, I wake up to my world of exile.  Sometimes, I wonder if my debt will ever be paid.”

He handed Jones the ribbon and opened the door.  Jones thanked him for the ribbon and the information and headed back to the grand lady.  When he got there, he wrote down Hiram’s story and sealed it in an envelope.  “This will stay with the house,” he said to himself.

Jones put the little pink ribbon between the armless green soldier and a pair of milk glass doorknobs.  It was in start contrast to the other hard, rusted, time-worn pieces of metal.

Jones never went back to see Hiram.  He had gotten the story and he knew that Hiram wasn’t looking for a friend.  He just wanted to be left alone.

Eleven months later, Jones got word that Hiram had died.  There was no fanfare, no funeral, no wake, no service, no place to leave flowers and no one to cry for him.  He had left a will, stating that he was to be cremated and his ashes were to be “scattered to the wind.”

Jones mourned for him.  He was a man who by all rights, had everything going for him and then one day, cruel fate stepped in.  After Jones heard the news about Hiram, he noticed that he never again saw the light in the middle window and the trees stopped weeping.

A week later, Jones bought a bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey in honor of Hiram Meaders.  That night, he took a chair out and sat under one of the trees that no longer wept.  He poured a glass and raised it as he looked toward the star-filled sky.  “To you, Hiram.  Paid in full.”


C’estla fin de l’histoire.





The Light In The Middle Window – Chapter Nine

“Miss Tinsley was right,”  Hiram said.  “One of the owners does still live here, but not one of the original owners.”

“Okay,” said Jones.  “Can you tell me who it is?”

Hiram poured another glass of whiskey and said, “well, it would be me.”  Jones picked up his glass and this time, he did more than touch it to his lips.  He watched as Hiram got up and walked over to the little table beside the door.  He reached down and picked up the little pink ribbon that Jones had thought seemed so out of place.

“Old man Moody died,”  Hiram said.  “He owned the local hardware store and had been here for as long as anybody could remember.  Everybody in town knew him and respected him.  He was a kind man but he was no pushover.  He would walk ten miles to settle a debt he owed but he would walk twice as far to collect what was owed to him.”

“My folks had always talked about me taking over the family business but I wanted to travel and see the world.  When they died, it just seemed wrong not to honor their wishes, so I did,” he said.

“I had married a little gal named Thelma.  She was the cutest little thing I had ever seen.  Everybody called her Thessie.  Being a funeral directors’ wife didn’t bother her one bit, even though it meant that dead bodies would be resting in the front room.”  He looked out the window and in a soft, almost inaudible voice said “oh my.  How I loved Thessie.”

Jones was wondering why Hiram jumped from old man Moody to Thessie but he was patient and tried to gently nudge him back to the present.  “You were talking about old man Moody,” Jones said.

“Yes,” Hiram said.  “Old man Moody died and we took care of all the arrangements.  The viewing was on a Friday and it seemed like everybody in town came by to pay their respects.  His son, Oscar and his wife Lillian brought their little daughter with them.  Why, I’ll never know.  A funeral parlor is no place for children.  They don’t understand death and dying, and they shouldn’t.”

Hiram took another big swig of whiskey and refilled his glass.  He offered Jones another and wasn’t met with refusal.

Hiram sat and wound the little pink ribbon around his finger and then took another sip.  His eyes began to water as he continued.  “That little girl was running around all over the place.  She’d run up the stairs and then slide down the banister.  She’d run up the hall and then back down.  I knew her folks were grieving but they weren’t paying any attention to her at all and she was annoying me.”

After he took another sip of whiskey, he took a deep breath and almost forcefully said “I told that little girl to go outside and play.  I told her that there was a tree house in the back yard and plenty of room for her to run around and play without being under foot.”

Jones was still in a state of shock but not shocked enough to realize that Hirams’ hearing didn’t seem to be as bad as he had pretended earlier.  He finally asked, “what was her name?”

Hiram said “her name was Jenny.”  He held up the pink ribbon and said “and she wore this ribbon in her hair.”

That liquid courage was doing its job for both of them.  Jones held out his glass, Hiram poured him another drink and then Jones asked him what happened.

Hiram sat back in his chair and said “she went outside.  A few hours after the viewing was over, it was time for everybody to leave.  Old man Moody would be stored in the ice box and then taken to his final resting place the next morning.  Oscar and Lillian were the last to leave and they called to Jenny but she didn’t answer.”

“I was too big of a coward to tell them I had sent her outside.  They searched the whole house, while I sat there and said nothing.  They went outside and began calling her.  I joined them, still pretending that I knew nothing.  Oscar and Lillian called the sheriff and he and two of his deputies came over.  They were worried that maybe somebody had taken her.”

“The word was put out that Jenny was missing and almost the entire neighborhood came to join the search,” Hiram said.  “We searched all through the night, calling her name until we almost lost our voices.”

He sat there for almost a full minute.  His voice cracked as he said “it was might near dawn when we heard somebody say ‘I found her’.”



To be continued_________________________