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Pariah : His Name Is Red (Part 1)

I have been writing poems and short stories for years, some of which I have published independantly. I also blog. Writing is a loved hobby.

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”

— Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

pariah-his-name-is-red

Introduction

This is an almost forgotten story, but funny how later on in life, a certain someone can remind you of another you met years ago. Perhaps it is the similarity in their stories. It convinces me that I need to tell the tale of this shadowy figure from my past.

After all, every story needs its own chapter in the grand book of life, and every story need an attentive reader to give the telling of its justice.

Every story needs to be told, because that is what stories are for. This is the story of the pariah, and his name was Red.

Illustration: A curious little girl

Illustration: A curious little girl

Chapter 1

I once knew of a man, and everyone called him Red. On a good day (I still do not know what determine a good day where this matter is concerned), people called him, Old Man Red.

I remember asking once from my mother if that was his real name. My mother said that for as long as she had stayed in our little town of Oak Tree, that was what everyone called him.

(Obviously, he would have his real name permanently inked on his birth certificate, but since no one had ever seen that particular paper, then everyone just called him Red, and that name stuck.)

For as long as I knew of him, Old Man Red had always remained the same. He was seemingly immortal but had the appearances of an elderly man. I believed he was old though, probably in his late sixties.

Aesthetically, his appearance was a source of many intriguing and somewhat fearful tales. Tall, reed-thin, his face gaunt and weather beaten, with big hawkish nose, hair scraggly and streaked with grey, his arms long and spindly thin like a scarecrow’s, his bushy eyebrows perpetually drawn over in a frown and dark stormy eyes which glared at the world, his clothes worn and showed signs of repeated mending.

In a way, now when I think about it, he reminds me of the actor Keith Richards, during his 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movies days.

Altogether, Old Man Red was an intimidating figure of a man which stroke wary trepidation in many a people, young and old, of both genders, whenever they saw him.
“Creepy!” was the unkind opinion of many others.

“Scary!” was the cries of the general population.

Still, the kindlier inclined would shake their heads in mild rebuke of the whisperers, while murmuring in uneasy misgivings and nodded in guilty agreement.

It probably didn’t help Old Man Red’s cause that he had always worn on his head a raggedy-edged big straw-hat which cast a foreboding shadow over his eyes and upper face, making him looked all the more ominous.

For as far as I knew, only a handful of adults would bother to greet him and made efforts to talk to him. At which point, Old Man Red would reply abruptly and gruffly, before turning away as if he didn’t welcome the attention or courtesy.

Yikes!

I did wonder though, how he came to be called ‘Red’ since nothing about the old man came remotely close to being anything of bright color, or any color for that matter. Everything about him was dark and somber.

A ‘gothic relic’, one of my friends once called him when she was visiting with me.

“What do you know about being a gothic? You’re ten! Come to think of it, what do you know of relics?!” my older brother mocked with the smug look of a know-it-all.

(Yes, I have a brother. Lots of male cousins too, for that matter. They were nuisances, and still are. I say that fondly. My sisters are alright. Anyway, I digress as I am wont to do.)

“More than you!” my friend mocked him back. “It means he’s very old, like you! And he’s strange and creepy like you too!”

My brother would have said something back, probably something totally inappropriate, but my mom overheard us and interjected. She told us not to call anyone ‘creepy’, then she chased us out of the house to go be underfoot elsewhere.

Cackling, my brother went off to parts unknown. My friend and I both stuck out our tongues at him - behind my mother’s back, of course - and went off giggling elsewhere.

But one thought stuck with me throughout the day: my friend was right about one thing; Old Man Red was strange. If anything, my curiosity burnt within me to know the story of this man.

Illustration: Old Man Red

Illustration: Old Man Red

Chapter 2

I found myself asking questions, such as, what is his real name? How old is he? Is he as alone in this world as he seemed to be? Is there no wife? Does he have children or relatives somewhere?

And for as long as he had practically been a familiar albeit unfriendly hermit to the people in my hometown, I wondered, who took care of his needs, and how did he earn his living?

Ten years old, and I already possessed a very curious mind. It would be to my advantage when I am older and wanted to write about drama and life, but back then it just gave me headaches and wild imaginations.

The questions of Old Man Red’s survival and continued existence was of paramount concern to me, admittedly not because I cared about him all that much since I didn’t know him, but more because I was naturally curious, and mysteries had always attracted me.

Alone, but is he lonely? Did he know what people were saying about him behind his back? Did he know of the persistent whispers around him when he made his rare visits to town and when people he encountered quite obviously made a wide detour around him, but stayed near enough to stare and gawk, not to mention gossip? How did he feel, knowing children were quite certainly afraid of him, and most adults stayed out of his way?

I admit that as a child, I had this fear, when all I heard told of this man was the same tale other children heard from adults around them, that Old Man Red was so called and looked the way he did, because he was actually a monster in disguise.

But no one bothered to explain further to us ‘kids’ what kind of monster or what this ‘monster’ really looked like. They just gave the impression that the monster looked like Old Man Red.

However, I did remember that a neighbor visited with my parents once. He was telling us in exaggerated hushed whispers, that one dark night he saw Old Man Red digging a deep hole in the forest behind his, Mister Red’s, house. He was putting a big and long wrapped bundle into the hole before submerging it with dirt.

The neighbor theorized (or most probably spreading unfounded rumor, now that I have thought about it) that it was the body of Red’s victim, someone who probably displeased him in something or other.

Why he didn’t inform the police of his suspicions, I had no idea. There was also the fact that no one was reported missing from the neighborhood or the surrounding area since forever! Unless one counted Mrs. Hayfever (yes that was her real name) who went missing that one time, but it turned out that she went to visit her sister in another state and absolutely forgot to inform her immediate family members about it until she returned two weeks later, during which time, as you can imagine, tongues were wagging, and fingers were pointing, and guns were literally cleaned. My neighborhood was small, but everyone was so absolutely dramatic.

Anyway, it never occurred to any of us listeners to ask the neighbor what he was doing behind Old Man Red’s house at that time of the night, or why it sounded as if he spent his time spying on and stalking Old Man Red.

I suppose the only suspect worth being suspicious of was Old Man Red, simply for being who he was: a loner and a hermit.

That was probably one of the beginnings of whispers of ‘monster’ which soon started to spread like wildfire.

People generally were not nice or wise when they latched on to some juicy gossips.

Why are adults so unkind when they gossip? Why do adults' gossip, for that matter? Why would anyone?

And so it was that to us children, imaginative beings such as we were, ‘monster’ was a frightening, fierce, growling, tall, thin, scraggly, straw-hat wearing creature which lurked around in dark forests and in dark houses waiting to grab at and eat misbehaving children. We called the monster, “Old Man Red”.

(....to be continued...)

“Don't be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.”

— Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

© 2022 Lynne Samuel