The Old House – Part 1
Woodford, New South Wales
Driving past his childhood home, Barry Cummings couldn’t believe that for the first time in years a sign was posted in the front yard that the house was for sale. The last few months had been hard for Barry due to his divorce and resultant loss of his job, due to depression affecting his performance. Turning the car around he parked outside the cottage and jotted down the estate agent’s name and made his way to their office. Walking in the front door, he was pleasantly surprised to see that an old school classmate, Heather Duncan, was the receptionist. Barry had always been sweet on Heather but was always too shy to talk to her. She gave a wide smile, recognising Barry as he walked in the door.
‘Barry. Nice to see you. I haven’t seen you for quite awhile.’
‘Likewise. How have you been?’
‘Good, no problems at all, just enjoying life with hubby and the kids. What about you?’
Barry feigned the full truth.
‘Oh, I can’t complain. I broke up with Lynne awhile back and just now I’ve left my job for something better.’
‘I heard about you and Lynne – I’m so sorry.’ Barry shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
‘Well I’m sure it will all work out in the end.’ Heather smiled sympathetically and Barry felt a twinge of longing he hadn’t felt for Heather since school. Heather broke his reverie.
‘Well how can I help you? Are you looking to rent or buy?’
‘Maybe buying actually. I’ve got my share of the old family house and a pretty worthwhile redundancy package. I noticed my old home on Leichhardt Street is up for sale.’
‘That would be number thirteen wouldn’t it? The little weatherboard cottage.’
The word ‘thirteen’ stroked Barry’s memory for a moment, but he couldn’t work out why.
‘That’s the one. I still remember you lived two doors up in number eleven.’
‘I sure did. I don’t remember we had much contact though. We didn’t even speak much waiting for the bus.’
Barry blushed. ‘I know. I was a shy one with the girls for sure.’
Heather smiled and Barry felt the old shiver of his bus stop days.
‘I think I remember thinking you were very cute, but as you didn’t speak to me. I thought you were a bit stand offish, and certainly not interested in me, and maybe you had a girlfriend.’
Barry blurted out a reply and realised he’d overplayed it. ‘No, of course not. I thought you were gorgeous. I guess I was a fairly introverted kid, maybe because I was an only child.’
Old times discussed, Heather and Barry moved to the business at hand. As the home was very old, Heather had made some inquiries of the previous owners.
‘I found out that the house was originally built by a travelling magician who used it for rest between his engagements. He finally became a recluse there and went mad, and they eventually had a hard time taking him away from the house. He said his doll had tried to poison him. They were trying to drag him out the front door when he collapsed and died. Did you know anything about this?’
Barry shuddered at this information, as it may have explained some eerie events that occurred to him in the night as a child; events that his parents considered were probably due to Barry’s vivid imagination.
‘No I didn’t know that, but it somehow explains a few things.’
They both laughed and spoke about the old school for a few minutes: their classmates and teachers. Heather told Barry she couldn’t leave the office unattended, and gladly gave Barry the key to his old house, so he could have a private inspection.
Standing at the front door he turned around to survey the yard and vista towards the hill in the distance. He remembered that every year near Christmas a little carnival would roll into town, and from his bedroom at the front of the cottage he would gaze up at the sparkling coloured lights and the glittering, slowly turning Ferris wheel. On Friday evenings at that time, his parents would take him up to see the carnival, and for a moment he imagined he could still feel the excitement of his cocked head peering down the barrel of a pea rifle, attempting to knock over the metal bunny rabbits, or trying his luck at the smiling clowns; their scary painted faces twisting from side to side, as you popped ping pong balls into their mouth and hoped they landed on the winning numbers. He smiled as he remembered the night he was lucky with the drop of the balls, and won a magic set. The shouts of the spruikers still rang in his ears.
‘Come on everybody. Have a go – only sixpence a pop. Everyone’s a winner!’
Barry imagined the smell of the fairy floss, and the way it tickled his nose like strawberry smelling pink cotton balls. Remembering the fun of riding a pony on the merry-go-round, he imagined the organ playing – the spinning feel of the ride – the children laughing, when a sudden chill came over him as he remembered how scared he was of the little sinister mannequins who clapped cymbals, or hit a drum as their creepy heads turned, while they appeared to leer at him with their frightening smiles.
The organ stopped playing and Barry’s daydream faded. He looked down the front stairs leading to the entrance path, and remembered the first memory of his life, when a taxi cab driver helped his father up the steps to the verandah with their luggage when Barry was three years old. Turning to open the door, something he’d forgotten since his family left the house when he was thirteen flashed into his mind. He’d been crying that last night in the house, as he didn’t want to leave his childhood home, and had made a pledge to the house itself. Unfortunately for the moment he couldn’t remember what that vow was.
To be continued tomorrow …
Bio: A little while ago David noticed the house he grew up in as a child had new owners. He introduced himself and the new owners let him visit. He says that all the old memories came back to him and most of them, and the things described are in this tale – but a little bit scarier of course!