Paul was only ten years of age when his grandmother told him the story about his father whose name was Strauss. Now eight years later he is seasoned and mature young man. As always Paul considered such a name to be very strange. Why would any parent call a child… a son at that Strauss? Never mind was always his conclusion. His father’s name was indeed Strauss Henry Franklin.
Paul’s mother Martha once told him that his father had died of Cancer when he was just a baby. But there were rumors all over the town that Strauss was still alive. He was somewhere watching everything but certainly not dead. In his subconscious mind the young man thought: this had to be true because even Grand Ma talks about the stories.
Grand Mother Stella spoke kindly of Strauss. She described him as tall, dark, handsome, intelligent and outspoken. However, she also admitted that he had a dark side to him. There had been so many unexplained incidents in this man’s life that something had to cause his demise. One night when Stella was alone with Paul she told the boy the whole story and made him promise that he would not whisper a single word to anyone else.
Strauss was well loved in this small town where he was born and raised. The son of a reputable barrister who had died when Strauss was still very young. Strauss was also a man of means since his father left him a few properties and a healthy bank account. But as a young man he lavished all in good times. As the saying went: he spent it all on wine, women and songs. Strauss lived well in a beautiful house on the hill with his mother once upon a time.
It was a cold December night as Grand Ma put it. There ensued, in the house on the hill an argument between Strauss and Ruben who were best of friends over Wanda. Wanda was Mr. Pascal Butcher’s only daughter. Mr Butcher was the principal of the town’s lone high school. Strauss and Wanda were in love and they were Paul’s parents. Ruben was the intruder who always tried to confuse Wanda. This was the exact way Grand Ma Stella’s accounted it.
The night of the argument between the two men over Wanda no one knew exactly what caused it. However, the result was just a brutal confrontation that got Ruben short, Wanda strangled and Strauss on the run for a double homicide. Grand Ma Stella said Strauss told her the story the night after the tragedy. Then, in a frantic dispatch, he disappeared and never returned to the town. The police continued their investigation, repeated enquires and continuously searched for Strauss. But since then not a clue had been found. Rumors spread, that Strauss’s father law partners and business associates helped him disappear and so for almost eighteen years no one ever set eyes on him anywhere in that town.
Paul Webster Franklin stood at the door of that same house on the hill and wondered what it would have been to have his mother and father home. With him… as a family. But this could never be… he thought. It was six o’clock in the evening and the winds blew through the leaves of the foliage and trees on both sides of the mansion on the hill. The sweet harmonies of the parakeets brought a tranquil spirit to the atmosphere and the house appeared dark and hunted. After all there had been a double murder… there once upon a time. Paul retreated inside and as he contemplated the story told by his grandmother and gazed at the relics of the old mansion. The mahogany staircase still wore it’s vanish luster and the Chrystal chandelier cast scillowetts of varied images across the crimson walls. There was Paul’s Grand Father Malcolm George Franklin. He was absolutely well clothed in the portrait on the wall. Clean shaven with a mustache and spectacles, with a white shirt and collar thrills. He looked like a high court judge. Next to his portrait was that of Grand Ma Stella. She was small and beautiful. She too wore glasses and her facial features were sharp. Her nose was long and straight and she had an immaculate smile. Her hair was dark and short and she wore it up to her shoulders.
At the top of the staircase that was draped with a red rug lined eight mahogany doors four on each side opposite to each other. These were doors to the bed rooms. Indeed, one of the rooms belonged to Paul. The door at the very top of the staircase led into the master bedroom which was in itself a display of class. There inside, was a double bed draped with tapestry and a gold embroidery bedspread. The floor was covered entirely with a fur imagery of a rug, blood red in colour.The faded sunlight beamed gently through the high windows which looked like glass doors hanging on the wall. Another of these doors led to a master bath room. A third lead to a library with book shelves from floor to ceiling and the fourth door gave entrance to a child nesuary. The three others were guest rooms. The kitchen was located opposite the living room at the ground level.
So there it was the young man thought the revelation of the true story. A family that once upon a time was doing well then a suddenly catastrophe struck. Lives were destroyed and everything changed. The remains, the ruins and the tattered pieces belonged now to Paul. To mend perhaps or reconstruct entirely. He gazed at the picture of his father on the wall. Young and yes indeed very handsome and he wished then that he knew his father. Paul wished that his father was here with him to love and guide him. To comfort and embrace him and to help him when he needed assistance.
Then, so it was that for the last six months someone had called the house every night at midnight to speak with Paul. The voice was always heavy, deep-set but gentle in tone. This voice spoke to Paul about his childhood and many things that mattered. Perhaps only someone close to Paul like a family member would know him so well. At the end of the conversation the voice always wished the young man well and promised to visit him some day… but not at the house.
The hours drifted slowly pass and Paul lying stretched on a small sofa in the living room fell asleep only to be awoken as anticipated by the ring of the telephone. He answered and it was that same peculiar voice… there again. This time the man spoke nervously and after a brief inquest in Paul’s activity for the day told him that his father “Strauss” was alive and he would be happy to meet Paul at the old town square at midnight the following day. The man’s instructions were very clear. Paul was to disclose of this dejarvouse to no one and should be accompanied by no one. The voice promised young Paul that he would meet with his father on that night. Paul promised he would be there.
At midnight Paul arrived at the old town square. At his location from a short distance amongst the trees in the dim light of the street lamp he gazed at the vacant and isolated bench. The square was totally deserted. The trees looked like giants towering as high as one hundred meters. Pine trees, Magnolias, African Orchids and Red Cedars. A misty and very cold night it was. As the winds whistled through the trees, occasionally disrupting the silence were the mournful barks and howling of wild dogs. For thirty minutes Paul waited in the shadow of the trees for what he considered his moment of truth.
Then, this shadow appeared from the dark distance. Tall and majestic, dressed in a trench coat and hat. At first impression Paul thought that it might be a worker from the mid-night shift heading home. But the individual was headed straight to his location which was not obscure. Almost as if he was compelled Paul started to move towards the towering figure. The strides of both parties became slower and more deliberate as they drew closer to each other. Then when they were both close to the cold and isolated bench they both suddenly stopped. He was the same face on that picture on the wall. Paul watched carefully because the lights were not bright enough to offer a distinct disclosure. This man wore glasses and a mustache. The lines on his face however were more distinct and appeared old and tired. Paul was absolutely amazed and the tears welded his eyes. After a brief moment staring into each other faces… the older man took courage and spoke first. The old called the young by name and disclosed he was his real father. After an embrace that seemed to have lasted forever they both sat on the bench. Spoke for almost one hour about everything. Then Paul stood up, said good-bye and walked away. With that strange feeling of melancholia his father stood up, wiped the tears from his eyes and walked away. Strauss disappeared into the night a happier man. But the isolated bench in the mist of the morning dew in the old town square was vacant again.
Written by Peter Fevrier