As a very little boy he hid some of Sambo’s puppies in a drawer and walked everywhere everyone else did with flashlights out in the dark trying to find them not saying a single word. He was small and meek then but even at that, no one could reason why his parents didn’t chastise him some for putting everyone through such work and worry in the middle of the night. They just chuckled and poked him like it had all been done in fun. Even while young, it wasn’t unusual to find Harry with a flying insect on a string or pulling off the tail or wings of something — but the older he grew the stranger he became.
Harry’s mother had two other children, one his older sister by the same father and another his younger brother with the man that was Harry’s stepfather. His mother always seemed to be sick and taking some kind of pills but mostly was friendly and happy seeming. She was found dead in her bed of an over dose and it was the talk of the neighborhood for quite some time — wondering if she had done it on purpose. Harry was still fairly young at the time.
Harry’s stepfather, Mitchell, who had found his mother dead, was a big lumbering silent type that liked to plow his field and plant corn and other vegetables and could blow his nose by holding one of his nostrils closed and blowing out the other. Everyone thought of him as a gentle giant who loved his family well. He cleaned up nice and looked rather handsome when he did and smelled good like Old Spice.
It was Mitchell who would save her little sister from choking on a piece of butterscotch candy thrown out at a parade. He yanked her up by her feet in a split second and started pounding on her back while Clara stood there wringing her hands in frantic fear of her sister dying. Clara could never eat that butterscotch round again without thinking of that day and making extra sure to be careful she didn’t suck it into her windpipe like her sister had. Clara’s other, older sister was one of the Brownies marching in the parade, throwing out the candies. She wouldn’t have panicked like Clara had. She would likely be holding one of her sister’s legs as Mitchell knocked the candy out — and it wasn’t because she liked her littlest sister less than Clara did, it was because she “took things in her stride”, according to their mother.
Mitchell was one of Clara’s hero and she loved to watch him in his field tending to his corn. It was just a few strides from her house past another in the little set of four houses where she lived and could be seen out the front picture window of their living room — which she sought to see quite often. All of the kids of the neighborhood played together in all the fields around, his bigger than most — but they all traipsed through it on the edge of the corn to get to other fields and then back home again.
Mitchell had a shed he was planning to tear down that was right up next to a fence that separated her plot of four houses from his, but they all decided it would make a great playhouse so everyone went to work getting rid of the junk that was in it. Even Clara’s father came one day to make a floor to continue out past the stage that had first been made and where they had all been putting on plays.
The boys were in the plays too at the beginning. They all did The Three Little Pigs and even made the various houses with cardboard and all the neighborhood adults came to watch. Whatever chairs or stools they could scare up were sitting below the stage off the dirt on top of pavers at that point.
Clara wasn’t sure she liked the continuous floor without a stage, but she had never seen her father do anything quite so worthy and that made him kind of a hero to her too — not like the failure he mostly seemed to be — always lying in a bed hung-over from heavy drinking or fighting with her mother.
After the floor was extended and it looked so nice, the putting on of plays seemed to dry up and then dressing dolls and keeping house became what the girls wanted to do. The boys weren’t much interested in that, so they all started throwing dirt clods and stink bugs, Harry too, pretending war and ruined the whole thing except for what they wanted to do with it. There seemed to be nothing the girls could do to dissuade them. The girls got tired of sweeping the dirt out so quit playing in it and left it for the boys to finish making it a mess and ruin.
Harry’s parents didn’t seem to care. Her parents did because of all the work and money they’d put into it — but it wasn’t theirs to care that much about. Having to keep your madness in can be useful as an excuse for a person to want to have a drink or take pills so Clara’s father was seldom seen doing things like that again and it wouldn’t be much longer that Harry’s mother would be dead from all her pills.
“Did Harry become a serial killer?”
They were all a little suspicious but no one ever did know what became of him, not even his older sister — if she did, she didn’t say. He certainly never got any better while they all knew him and eventually faded into a fray, mind fully addled by drugs by that time too.
Many years after Harry had never been seen again, there was no wondering if he had done it on purpose, Mitchell put a bullet through his own head.
Everything seems so innocent in thinking of a childhood neighborhood — Mitchell in his field of corn, the lady up the street practicing singing Opera loud enough for everyone else to hear and somewhat embarrass her kids, kids out riding bikes, mothers inside cooking or cleaning. The things that go on behind closed doors, no one knows for sure — but, there can always be a little bit of suspicion and sometimes the truth will out and others can fully know.
It probably wasn’t because no one wanted to know, but by the time Mitchell shot himself, that little neighborhood had expanded to as far and wide as those that had been in it went and they had all lost most of their touch.
Clara would feel very sad about it when she finally heard. She did wonder what had made him think he should do it and felt hurt herself thinking that he might have been feeling lonely. Mitchell had never been anything but good in her eyes, unlike Harry who was mostly bad. Maybe Mitchell would have chastised Harry for the puppies if it had not been for trying to be nice to Harry’s mother. Maybe Harry wouldn’t have ended up suspected of serial killing if Mitchell had been more demonstrative, but now no one would ever know.
Clara was grateful for the memory of Mitchell as a gentle giant who seemed to love his family and cleaned up good and smelled of Old Spice and of the good influence he had been on her through the work she had seen him do in his corn fields and, of course, for being big and strong enough to save her sister from certain death that time when her own father wasn’t.
Some folks are just made out to be bad and it was more certain that the evil that was Harry had nothing to do with Mitchell. Other men who wanted to play war instead of plant corn, likely didn’t either.