It was a picture, drawn on a piece of cardboard, and as I looked at it, I was in awe of the details and also troubled by them. The artistry was stunning and the shading made the picture seem lifelike and ready to literally jump off the paper.
If she had drawn it, I wondered what she had been thinking. It was dark and even more haunting than the painting I found and named “The Mysterious Blue Forest.”
It was a picture of a strikingly beautiful man. He was sitting on top of a rock, looking as though he was admiring his kingdom. I thought for a moment he must be an angel, as he had wings attached to his back, but they were not made of feathers. They closely resembled the wings of a bat and had claw-like barbs on the top.
His face was expressionless but somehow, whether imagined or not, I thought I detected an evil look in his eyes. Suddenly, I realized that I had completely missed the horns on his head. Could it have been the artists’ rendition of the devil?
The little girl who left the notes and the picture of the horse, was obviously afraid of the devil, and of going to Hell. I just wasn’t sure that she had drawn this man. If she had gone to church, as I had, she would have learned that Lucifers’ beauty was beyond compare. But he became guilty of self-generated pride and was cast out of Heaven. If this was a picture of him, and she had drawn it, then in my eyes she had without question, captured that beguiling beauty.
As disturbing as I found the picture, I must admit that I was absolutely captivated by the exquisiteness of the man. I considered taking it downstairs, but decided to wait because I just wasn’t yet sure. However, I was sure of one thing. I wouldn’t destroy it. I returned it to the box and covered it with an old newspaper.
Before I headed downstairs, I realized that I had forgotten to look for a date or signature. When I pulled it back out of the box, the bottom right corner was badly bent. Part of it had been torn away, or possibly nibbled on by rats, but I could see what I thought looked like 1968.
A quick search of my memory did the calculation. In 1964, she wrote God and told Him that she hated Him. In 1968, if that is the real date, she is drawing a picture of the devil. What happened to her during those four years?
Later that night, I began reading the notes. The first one was absolutely endearing. It said, “Dear God. If you are real, would you leave me a dollar so I can buy a hamster?” Dated 1959. Even though I knew that wasn’t how God worked, I was really hoping to find a “thank you” note.
I began putting her notes in chronological order, and it was difficult. I forced myself to only look for the date and not read the words. By doing that, I believed I could determine when her faith began to wane. I wanted to play detective, without feeling like I was betraying her secrets, or invading her privacy. I wanted full disclosure, but I also wanted somewhat of a mystery to remain.
I still had much work to do to the house, and as much of a temptation as it was, I decided to only read one note a day, and I was almost certain that I had not yet found them all.
I had been so busy with the restoration of my house, not to mention the all consuming task of being a collector of all things mysterious, I realized that I hadn’t met any of my neighbors.
Walking to the mailbox one day, I crossed paths with the girl who lived next door. I had seen her before, but had never spoken to her. She was what my parents’ generation would have most likely called a hippie. She had full sleeve tattoos and long purplish black hair. She introduced herself as “Dawn Rising.”
I tried not to laugh as I shook her hand and introduced myself. She walked down to the mailbox with me and then back to the house. She was brash and bold and pushy, and invited herself in. I liked her right away. She seemed uninterested as I explained that things might be a little disheveled, as I was working on restoring the house, and she didn’t mince words as she asked, “have you cleansed your house with sage?” I didn’t know what she meant.
“I’m a seer of sorts,” she said. “Would you like for me to read your house?” I wasn’t a believer in that kind of thing and I tried to be polite as I told her that I thought the house would be fine.
She walked around, looking like she was in some kind of trance. She even asked to go up to the attic. I thought it strange that she even knew there was an attic, but maybe all the old houses on the street were pretty much the same. Huge rooms and attics.
I showed her the way. She could have been a serial killer, but like I said, I liked her. I stayed at the bottom of the steps, maybe waiting for her to have some kind of fascinating epiphany.
After a few minutes, she came down the stairs and asked for some water. As I handed her the glass, she took a sip and said, “this house has seen much sadness and it bleeds with great sorrow.”
I asked what she meant and she said, “your house needs to be cleansed and I can do that for you.” I was thinking there had to be a catch and was waiting for the sales pitch. A fool is born every day, but I wasn’t one of them. However, I don’t believe anyone wants to hear that their house is bleeding…something.
I politely declined and wondered if she really was some kind of seer, as she said. I was surprised when she said her services were free, and it was not about money. It was about releasing pain and agony.
I asked how long she had lived next door, and she said she hadn’t been there very long. I then asked if she knew if there were any original neighbors that I could talk to. I wanted to try to get some information about the people who had once lived in my house. She said, “yes, there’s one person. I think her name is Mrs. Cartwright. She lives behind you, and I have heard that she was actually born in her house.”
Just as quickly as she had invited herself in, she was on her way out. “Thank you for the water,” she said, “and let me know when you would like the cleansing.” I was more interested in talking to Mrs. Cartwright, but I thanked Dawn and told her that I would certainly think about her offer.
It was late in the afternoon, but I decided to go knock on Mrs. Cartwrights’ door. From inside, I heard a voice say, “I don’t open the door after five o’clock. Come back tomorrow.”
I smiled as I walked away and found myself looking forward to the next day. The next morning, I went back to Mrs. Cartwrights’ house and knocked. I heard, “just a minute.”
After about that long, the door opened and a smiling, toothless, white-haired, wheel-chair bound little old lady beckoned me inside. “Mrs. Cartwright?” I asked.
“Oh, child please. Call me Mabel, and wait a minute while I get my teeth.” She rolled her chair over to a doily clad table, and pulled her teeth out of a ceramic mug that said, “Here The Are!”
“Okay,” she said. Got my teeth in, and let me tell you something straightaway. I am not a Mrs. I’m not married, never been married and never intend to be married. All men are skunks and they should all be put down.”
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when she said that. I said, “Miss Mabel. I almost feel the same way.”
“You’re the young girl who bought the house in front of me aren’t you?” she said. I said that I wasn’t sure I would call myself young, but yes, I was. She shook her head and said, “you’re young to me. How old do you think I am?” I was a little hesitant to answer because I didn’t want to offend her. I thought she looked to be at least in her eighties, but I erred on the side of caution, and said “seventies maybe?” That made her laugh. She said, “honey. I’m one hundred and one years old.”
“Let me roll into the kitchen and get you a cold Coca Cola,” she said. I wasn’t a soda drinker, but I didn’t want to be rude, and I wanted information from her.
She came back with two bottles of Coke and said, “I drink a Coca Cola every single day, smoke one cigarette ever afternoon, and watch Jeopardy every night, except on the week-ends of course. That’s what keeps my mind sharp.”
To say that Miss Mable was a hoot, a holler and a hi-de-ho, would have been an understatement, and she had already endeared herself to me.
I could tell that, even in her wheel chair, she was a diminutive woman. Her yellowing, yet beseeching eyes, somewhat obscured by cataracts, peered through thick lensed wire-rimmed glasses. Her snow white hair was close-cropped, but not so that she would be mistaken for one of those aforementioned “skunks” she called men.
Stockings which had been rolled down to her ankles, peeped sheepishly from a tattered quilt, resting across her twisted mangled legs.
After taking a few sips of her Coca Cola, she said, “now then. Tell me what’s on your mind.”
I told her that I wanted to know a little about the people who lived in the house before I bought it. I got right to the point and asked, “was a little girl living there?”
Miss Mabel said, “yes’um. There sure was.”
I asked if by any chance she remembered her name. Miss Mabel was a little insulted, I think. “Of course I remember her name.” she said. “I’m old, I’m not senile.” I gave her the “okay, tell me her name” look.
Miss Mable, revisiting old memories said, “her name was Katy Engel and let me tell you. A sweeter child never drew breath.”
I was grinning from ear to ear and my excitement was almost tactile, until Miss Mabel said, “that precious little child never had a chance.”
My smile broke and I stammered a bit as I asked what she meant. Miss Mabel intentionally ignored my question and I could tell that I was not going to get an answer, at least not then, so I changed the subject.
I told her that I had been finding little notes that had been hidden all over the house, and also in the attic. I said, “she seemed to be very religious and she prayed for her grandmother.” Miss Mabel said, “yes, she believed in the Almighty Lord, she loved her grandmother, and although she never said it, I believed she loved me, too.”
I told Miss Mabel about the picture of the horse and the painting of the blue trees, but I didn’t tell her about the drawing of the beautiful man. She said, “oh yes. Katy was quite the artist. That child could draw anything.”
I asked if she had ever seen any of her art.
She smiled and said, “come with me.”
To be continued___________________________