The first time I saw the house, I noticed a little girl on the side, touching the snap dragons. She was as thin as a splinter, reminding me of a praying mantis with her long skinny arms and legs.
Rechecking the address for the all men’s boarding house on the slip of paper, I opened the gate. Walking up the slight path to three steps, I knocked on the door. Pleasant smells filled the air. Baked goods, stew on the stove, and fresh laundry brought back a time that I wish I could walk back in to. When the little girl in the yard was mine, and the pleasing aromas where my wife’s love for her family, carefully displayed, as I entered our home.
Trying to make a better life for us had resulted in paying for my wrong decisions. Losing everything, but this could not be dwelt on at the moment. If I was to move on in life, then I would spend my time doing whatever was asked of me at my new address. My new life.
My first step out in the real world again, I felt like finding some lunch. As I looked at the ads in the Indy Star, I felt like someone was watching me. Casually, tucking the paper under my arm, I began to walk the streets. The hot dog now feeling like a rock in my gut.
Whoever, or how many there were following me, they would soon make themselves know. Forever beholden to them to carry out their deeds. Entering an alley would make their job easier if they wanted to rough me up a bit.
Each step I took became louder, and sweat began to form in my hair, and slide down my back. Alone, then a man was beside me. I stopped, expecting to see more. He handed me the slip of paper, and said this woman needed help. “All men’s boarding house. Live there till you here otherwise. Keep the place in order. Get rid of any trash.”
My knuckles barely rapped on the door, when she answered. Average height, large build, heading out of her 60’s. Mamaw to the tiny girl, who was calling for her. As she ran around the side of the house, she stopped, hands on hips, eyeing me up and down.
The aroma of food drifted pleasantly around the fresh, clean, modest home. She asked for the slip of paper. Her request was direct as she stood squarely in front of me. She took the paper, looked at the handwriting, then studied my face. She stared right in my eyes for a long fifteen seconds. Being a grown man, I still squirmed under her brief scrutiny. “Follow me, Wayne.” Never having given her my name, I stumbled across the words, “Yes, ma’am.”
She lead me to my room. Two single beds were on opposite sides of each other, sharing a single window in the middle, with a side table for each. “Unpack. Met my daughter and granddaughter. You’ll meet all the men at supper tonight.”
Her daughter was an unruly, pirate of a woman. Foul language seeped out, an one could see the insanity in her gaze. She was loud and mean and large and I never wanted to cross her. She had had the tiny praying mantis much older in life and showed no sign of being loving and motherly to her.
The pirate woman loved her mother, though. And, the mamaw loved her granddaughter. I would soon find out she would be there daily, helping her prepare the large nightly meal for the men. Cleaning up what dishes were dirtied during the baking and cooking, then taking her daughter and walking home.
The rules of the house would be given to me later. Stepping back out on the front steps, a plan was forming to follow them to their home. Protecting this older woman and her granddaughter would become my every thought. My life.