Thief...

... the road that ran past my childhood home curved through a hardwood forest and ended at a stretch of the L &N railroad track.. just prior to the tracks was an ancient gabled house where an original Grumpy Old Man lived... he had shared his ancestral pile with his siblings for many years after his parents died.. brothers and sisters living contented together in the old two-story clapboard... and gradually over the years, time took each of them to his bosom... and in the end, the Old Man was all that was left... none of his brothers or sisters having ever married...

... my brother and I, in the midst of playing cowboys and Indians (or VC and Marines) would watch him from the bushes on summer evenings as his rickety old Ford would creep along the gravel road towards his home... he scared the living hell out of us... all gnarled with age and twisted by farm work... he looked like a Vincent Price clone who had been attacked by some sort of soul-sucking beast... that had left him merely the husk of the once proud clodhopper he had been back in the day...

... he died when I was about twelve and his house lay vacant for nearly two years... one fall evening just before my fourteenth birthday, a friend of mine and I were wandering the oak thicket behind my home with our squirrel guns when we suddenly found ourselves on the edge of the field behind the Old Man's house...

... goaded by my hunting companion, we approached the spooky place and found the kitchen window unlocked... we entered the house with our squirrel rifles locked and loaded... expecting to fire upon the first haint that dared attack us.. doubtless that the house was haunted by a myriad of ghouls and long-dead relatives of the Old Man...

... the place was littered with old newspapers and magazines.. many from the 1960's and earlier... the hermit lifestyle was in full evidence... even after lying unused for such a long period of time, the place was still clean but cluttered... stacks of old mail in shoeboxes were stacked neatly in one corner... looking back now, the poor old man probably had some sort of mental illness.. then again, maybe it was just the result of an insurmountable loneliness, this clean clutter...

... in one of the shoeboxes, I noticed some yellowed envelopes that had unusual stamps affixed.. 2 cent stamps.. decorated with George Washington.... I took them... yes, I stole the letters...

... later that evening, I secretly read my stolen booty in the privacy of my bedroom... pouring over handwritten tales of men hunting buffalo... and being bribed with pints of whiskey to cast their vote for Sam Houston as the first president of Texas in 1836... letters written by a young, adventurous Tennessean who had ventured westward from McMinn County... and who was now writing home to his Mother back on the farm... the same farm that I had taken the letters from... the same ramshackle white clapboard that had stood for centuries... and I was ashamed....

... I couldn't take them back, though.... so I stowed them away in my closet and forgot about them and my crimes... four years later, on leave after bootcamp, my Father told me that the Old Man's home had caught fire during a thunderstorm and burnt to the ground... no one had ever moved into it... and it had lain just as it had been for the better part of ten years... and I remembered the letters... still tucked away in an old coffee can in my closet...

... in the days that followed, I re-read those letters and took note of the names... Borden... William Borden... taking up the telephone book, I started making phone calls... with no luck, I remembered that my old high school algebra teacher, Mr. Borden, might know who William belonged to....

... in my dress blues, I drove to the school and asked to speak with my old teacher during lunch... he readily agreed, and as he quizzed me about my training and where I was about to be sent, I asked him about William... after thinking for a few seconds, he told of a story that his Grandfather used to tell.. one about a long, lost Great Great Great Uncle who had headed to Texas during the War and found it over before he got there... no one knew what ever happened to him...

... it was at this point that I told Mr. Borden of my crime... my breaking and entering... and my theft... and I handed him the bundle of letters... letters dating from 1836 to 1855... all written in beautiful penmanship by his long-dead Uncle...

... I was expecting to be chastised for my crimes... punished in some way... but as it turns out, he was thankful that I had saved those wonderful family heirlooms...

... funny how sometimes you end up doing the right thing even when you thought it was wrong to begin with...

by Eric on November 22, 2005 | Bullshit (13) | TrackBack (0) | SWG Stories
Bullshit So Far

This is a keeper, Eric.

Bullshitted by Bou on November 22, 2005 06:26 PM

wow, great story.

Bullshitted by shoe on November 22, 2005 07:09 PM

I'm still waitin' for that time. Bou's right. It's a keeper. Most time's when I've done somethin' "wrong" I've had to pay. The times I've done something wrong, and didn't have to pay... I just got away with it.

Didn't make me feel any better about it later though.

Bullshitted by RedNeck on November 22, 2005 07:16 PM

"who had been attacked by some sort of soul-sucking beast…"

Heyyyyyyyyy, were you talking to my husband?

Great story as usual!

Bullshitted by Maeve on November 22, 2005 07:17 PM

Wonderful.

Bullshitted by vw bug on November 22, 2005 07:25 PM

Beautiful

Bullshitted by livey on November 22, 2005 07:32 PM

Really, really good.

Bullshitted by Richmond on November 22, 2005 07:53 PM

Wow...

Bullshitted by Ann on November 23, 2005 05:30 AM

Great story, Eric!

Bullshitted by zonker on November 23, 2005 08:53 AM

Great story, bro. I could just picture it being my brothers and me... I think I'd have done and felt the same.

Bullshitted by That 1 Guy on November 23, 2005 09:03 AM

Wonderful story.

Bullshitted by Contagion on November 23, 2005 09:58 AM

Excellent! Thoughtful for Thanksgiving.

Bullshitted by Indigo on November 23, 2005 11:52 AM

*slides back from edge of seat*

Well told.

Bullshitted by Harvey on November 25, 2005 08:21 AM