Copyright is held by the author.
HE WAS a scurrilous old man, disguised in plain clothes: a red plaid shirt, khaki pants and dusty beige work boots. He knew what he was doing. Those old guys; they’ve been around the block. They’re manipulators and masters of every coarse and fine granule of living and dying. It was no accident. He looked. He knew the sum and substance of it. Of that I’m certain.
A deserted country lane on a bleak New England day? Of course. He knew the loneliness of it, and how to work it to advantage. He could have smiled. He could have raised an eyebrow. He knew their impact. He was scheming. He was testing. What did he want of me? My life? My soul? Not recognition of his existence; he wanted more. I’m sure of it.
He saw me coming forty yards away. He had all but to execute his plot. As I approached, he stepped off the road. How dramatic; histrionic if you ask me. He waited till my car was 20 feet away, and then he looked straight at my eyes. Straight. There was no warmth, no emotion in him, but for sure a devil was dancing on the point of pin inside his head.
A look so blank, but he looked. I should have waved; I should have called his hand. What was the worst that could have come of it? Would he shoot me? Would he laugh? Instead, I didn’t wave and passed him by. He got his way; his calculations were working. He’s playing with my mind, twisting it in his grip, and planting in it doubt and guilt.
I saw him again two weeks later, walking the same road. Again, he moved his head and cast that same calculated look into my eyes. It locked my mind and body into a cramp. I tried to wave, but could not. I passed him by. His calculated look obsessed me. I could see it day and night. There would be no relief until I waved at him; for better or worse, for life or death; there would be no relief.
I drove that road on many days, but didn’t see him again. I needed to wave and to see his reaction. Instead a devil dances on the point of a pin inside my head.
Unsuspecting on a cool autumn morning, he appeared on that road again; he, the old man spinning an insanity inside my head. The sight of him made me squirm. I hit the brakes. He saw me and cast his penetrating blank look straight into my eyes. To appease my sanity, I stopped, left my car, and accosted him. A spark appeared in his eyes that lured me to him. I could not discern the difference between his being an evil demon and my own demon devouring the sanity in my head.
He suppressed a smile as he began to speak, “Hello neighbor, I see you driving by on many a day.” His voice was calming like that of every old man. The fever in my head began to abate.
“I live here,” he said as he waved his hand across the expanse of a farm.
He put me at ease as I decided to take the time to talk with him and be neighborly.
He pointed his finger through the morning haze at some figures moving near a barn in the distance. “That is my family and some guests. We have lived here for many years.”
My imaginings now seemed ridiculous. A calmness overtook me. I decided to talk with him and become his friend.
He gestured to me to walk with him. “Come and meet my family. I have mentioned you to them. They will be glad to meet you.”
I walked with him along the edge of the farm and through a small opened gate.
“This is our little bit of heaven on earth,” he said as he turned and swung the gate. As it closed, I saw the sign on the gate from the corner of my eye. It said Hell.
As the old man turned and looked at me, the spark that was in his eyes turned into an eternity of flames. His mouth opened wide into an enormous cavern of deathly fire. He sucked me into it and set me dancing on the point of a pin inside his head.