We all stopped and ran back through the house, with mom telling us to slow down. Grandfather was sitting in his rocking chair. We sat down on the rug in front of him. He always told great stories. “Well, let me see,” he began…
“Yes, here’s a story. It happened many years ago. There was a young boy, not much older than you, Stephen. He grew up to be a fine young man. He met a young woman and fell deeply in love with her…”
At that Frieda and Carol began to giggle. Stephen let out a groan. I frowned. This was not starting out very well. I hoped it would get better…soon…very soon…
“So,” Grandfather continued, “they got married. Almost a year later they had a little baby – a brown-eyed bouncing bundle of joy – a little girl they named Amy. She was the apple of her father’s eye. Everyday you would see them sitting together in a rocking chair on their front porch. When the weather was nice, he would rock her back and forth there every night until she fell fast asleep. He would then take her and lay her down in her bed, always kissing her on the brow goodnight. Even when she was older, she would sit in his lap and he would rock her back and forth in that old rocking chair…”
I was wrong, I thought. This story wasn’t going to get better. I feared Grandfather was losing his storytelling skills. I hoped that was The End. It wasn’t.
“Then,” Grandfather continued, “on a dark, dreary, rainy day, the man’s wife and his little girl took a trip into town in their car. They were late getting back and he was getting worried about them. Suddenly, he heard a knock on his front door. He opened it and there was a police officer who said, “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your wife and child were in a car accident. They have been taken to the hospital. I’ll be glad to give you a ride there…”
We all sat still. This was not at all the kind of story Grandfather usually told. His tales were filled with excitement and even, sometimes, just a little scary. But this one was the pits. But I found myself asking, “What happened, Grandfather?”
“The man’s wife and his little girl were hurt badly. In fact, they died,” Grandfather said in almost a whisper.
No one said anything. I saw tears in Carol’s eyes and Frieda was sniffling. I admit that even tears began to fill my eyes. I felt Stephen squirming beside me. After a moment I said, “Grandfather, that was the saddest story I have ever heard.”
Grandfather nodded his head and said, “Yes, it is a sad story. What makes it sadder still is that it’s a true story.”
“Who was it?” Frieda asked. Before he could answer, Carol asked, “Where did it happen?”
“What happened to the man?” I added. Grandfather replied, “The man lived in this very neighborhood. I think he still lives here.” Grandfather said nothing else. He leaned back in his chair and began rocking…
I blurted out, “It’s Mean Mister…I mean…it’s Mister Mullins, isn’t it?” Carol, Frieda, and Stephen looked at me in shock and then at Grandfather, who nodded his head.
“He’s even older than I am,” he said. “Last I heard he’s not in the best of health, poor eyesight and doesn’t hear very well at all.” We sat there for a moment then slowly got up and went outside. We sat down on the ground beneath a tall pine tree.