Thursday, August 27, 2009

Three Versions

What Just Happened, 2003


The homeless man came to Florence’s back door asking if there was any work he could do around the house in return for a hot meal. A widow of more than ten years, Florence asked the man to bring down several boxes of Christmas decorations from the attic and clean up the debris in the yard from a recent storm, then invited him back in while she fixed lunch. While she was out in the kitchen, the man stole a silver tray off the sideboard and slipped out the front door. Florence called her son Carl to express disappointment over the man’s behavior. Carl called the police and the man was apprehended walking on the road out of town. That night she heated up the uneaten lunch and took it to the jail, explaining to the amazed sheriff, “He’s still hungry, I expect.”


All the authorities would say was that the old man was already dead when they got there. There were no signs of a struggle. The deceased was known to be in good health. Yet, there he was, alone and dead from no obvious cause on the floor of the front room of his home on Market Square. There had been wives. But they rarely came out and each eventually left him for other men. He’d been a powerful man. He owned many farms and most of the property around the Square. But he was more respected for his power than liked as a person. He was not known as a kind man. Few people beyond the cook, the maid and the handyman had been inside the imposing mansion. His death might have gone unnoticed until the next day had the cook not returned to bring him a mincemeat pie to have with his Christmas dinner.


She crept up to the house quietly and left the basket at the foot of the door, hoping the sound of the baby crying would not arouse attention until she was well away from the grand house. She hoped that by leaving the child the night before Christmas the family who lived there would take the infant in and give it a good life. She knew they had children. When she passed the house on her way to and from work music and the sound of children spilled out. She hoped she’d be able to walk by the house every day from now on and watch her baby grow.

Feel free to add your own version.

1 comment:

  1. 4.
    The building had looked inviting enough: two bountiful wreaths graced the massive front doors surrounded by stately columns. A single candle glowed from a shuttered window; tidings of the season. But the cold air enveloped her as she exited, sadly disappointed that her pleas on Christmas eve had fallen on deaf ears.

    Iona's husband, Eusebius, had recently lost his long battle with cancer, and she was in failing health herself. Months ago, they'd received official news that the home they'd shared for years was slated to be torn down to make way for a big highway that would meander right through their street, bringing the hope of new businesses and needed revenue to the faltering town. As young emigres from Canada to this quiet town, the couple had worked hard to build a life and raise a family here. Their roots were here. Eusebius had been the fighter in the family, and he'd engaged every official he could, pleading that they route the road elsewhere. Iona was not accustomed to challenging authority. She'd spent her years faithfully supporting her husband and children, and now they were all gone: her husband dead and her children off to follow jobs elsewhere. She'd pushed the stressful news to the back of her mind as she nursed her husband to the end.

    Two days after she buried her husband, Iona got word that she would have three months to evacuate her home. She couldn't sell it and she couldn't stay. She put on her best dress and a long woolen coat to ward off the winter chill in the air as she walked, in one last desperate attempt, up the steps to the city planner's offices, to entreat them to change their minds. Undaunted, the gentleman told her that there was nothing else that could be done, and he tried to assuage her grief: he had his assistant give her a cheery holiday greeting, a mug of hot chocolate, and several Christmas cookies in a bag, sending her off into the cold night.