More About the History of Our House

I wanted to get back to the conversation we’d been having when I first met George C.  I wanted to find out more about the old lady who lived upstairs, next door, when I first moved in, but George knew no more about her than I already did.  She was just a former high school music teacher, who after she’d retired gave private music lessons, and he occasionally washed her windows.  So, I asked him about Dr. Henry’s suicide in my house; did he know in which room it had taken place?

“That was a terrible scene,” George said.  He didn’t die in any of the rooms.  He had simply hanged himself from one of the hooks from which my porch swing was hanging now.  At the time there had been no swing, and so it had been pretty easy to do.  Mrs. Henry was the one who found him.  She had been sweeping inside and came out to sweep the porch when she saw her husband just hanging there.  She was really angry when she saw him.  She picked up her broom and began beating the body as hard as she could, cussing and yelling at him all the while she did so.  Dr. Henry had accumulated a lot of gambling debts on his trips to Washington, where he participated in a regular, high stake poker game.  She now had no idea of how she was going to make ends meet or pay off the debts that had accumulated with almost all the merchants who provided services.  So, she was angry and she beat that corpse with her broom. Finally, she stopped, but it was a terrible scene.

Now that the suicide had been clarified for me, I asked George if he knew what had happened to Mrs. Henry afterwards, but he didn’t know any more than what he had told me.  So I asked him if he knew anything about the barn fire.  Oh, yes, he said.  That was the Rat Boy.  Who was the Rat Boy?  The Rat Boy was the doctors Henry’s son, and he was crazy.  But why was he called the Rat Boy I wanted to know?  Simple, George said, he just looked like a rat.  One night he got really drunk and set the barn on fire.  Actually, he was caught, and arrested, and spent a lot of time in reform school before being transferred to a psychiatric hospital.  No one liked the kid, but still, it was not a good way to wind up.

Now that I had gotten the whole story of what had happened in the house before I’d bought it, I was rather pleased with myself.  I had achieved some sort of completion, and I could tell Melissa that the man had not hanged himself in her closet.

It had been a long talk, and the sun was beginning to set.  It was time for George to leave, but I invited him to come back whenever he was in the neighborhood or could remember anything else about the house.  George limped off my porch, slowly made his way to his car, and left.  I never saw him again, but his story didn’t quite end there.





About AlexLevy

Dr. Alex Levy is a retired English teacher who survived World War II and the "Final Solution" by hiding in a Catholic orphanage for girls in Belgium for several years.
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