House of Horrors…4

…That evening, at supper, nothing was noted or said about what Timmy and I had witnessed. After what we had witnessed, the whole dinner scene was surreal in its normalness.  We didn’t dare say a word or question Mrs Redfern’s antics, especially with her butcher knife in hand. There we sat, somewhat self-conscious of our surroundings, as we were newbies here. So we sat there on one side of the large dining room table, silent yet polite in our countenance.

Being the first at the table, we could observe the comings and goings on of this household at dinner time. First came Robert. He sat at the head of the table. He introduced himself, we ourselves, telling us without us asking that he had a very important job at one of the city’s daily newspapers. Okay, we thought. But there was something off about Robert that we both sensed but couldn’t quite put our finger on. He was about 40 with a balding comb over scalp of thinning hair. His face was thin, angular, somewhat soft and feminine, but featureless with protruding eyes, a straight nose and pouting lips that surrounded a pouting mouth. We would learn in due course that he pouted a lot. He would never make eye contact when addressing or talking to you. He always seemed to shy away from confrontational opinions and conversations, or questions. Perhaps socially he was a passive aggressive individual although at that time I had no idea what a passive aggressive person was.  He was also extremely boring yet pretentious, the most dangerous type of individual to come across.

Then came My Johnston. He was a young 91. You could tell that he spent most of his life working outdoors in hard physical labour. He looked the part: a face rough hewn and full of wrinkles. Turns out he was in logging all of his working life, a “faller” by profession, extremely dangerous work. He had a thick cropping of snowy white hair, all of it there, but curly on top and on the sides. It was lowly cropped and made him appear years younger than he really was.  He had a square face, a tough and prominent jaw and the bluest of eyes I had ever seen. Indeed, his eyes were so blue and so deep and so crystal clear in their gaze and their outlook that they seemed to draw one into their aura, like some visual, virtual magnet, pulling one deeper and deeper into his soul. I had to give my head a shake. His hands were huge with long bony fingers with palms as hard as granite and as calloused from years of hard, tough, physical work in the bush.

Mr Johnston was of a very high intellect even though he lacked any formal education. What he learned or grasped from this world he acquired from books, from personal experiences, from relationships and from living a long and fruitful life. On the downside however, he had no family to speak of and all of his friends and associates were long dead and gone: just memorial blips or flashbacks of his past occurrences. It must be hard, I thought, to watch all of your friends and acquaintances fade away to a dustbin of personal historical record. And what must have seemed important at the various stages and moments of living a life soon become irrelevant in death in the overall fullness of time.

Finally there was Scotty. He arrived non plussed and took his place not at the table but at the kitchen sink. There he stood, forthright, upright and downright paranoid at something or other that was on his hands, his fingers, or his palms. Scotty only knew. He would turn on the faucet and let the water run over his hands and forearms all the while looking straight out the window mumbling something to himself or someone that only existed in his fragile mind.  Once in awhile he would look down at his hands, at the water cascading over his palms or the backs of his hands, rubbing them for what seemed to be an eternity. It was as if he was trying to eradicate some unknown scourge on his person. Something that only he could grasp or comprehend.  Timmy and I turned and looked at one another, in disbelief, incredulous; words that could not accurately come close in describing how we thought about this latest character in this House of Horrors.

Finally, Mrs Redfern walked over to the sink, leaned precariously toward Scotty then turned both faucets off. This seemed to snap Scotty out of his funk. He turned and took his place at the table. He sat there, looked straight ahead at nothing in particular. Feeling somewhat uncomfortable and not waiting for Robert’s introduction I introduced Timmy and myself to Scotty. He looked at me, then at Timmy, briefly, grunted an acknowledgement I think then returned to his own sense of a warped reality…