Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Sheet

   The neighborhood boys had a variety of paper routes. One route, in particular, was never wanted. It went down by the river, it was said that hobos lived there, in the river flats. It also went by Green Lake, a ten acre pond of caustic soda (lime), a by-product of a small factory. But what clinched the case against this route was that it went by the "old folks home" - the haunt of the "Sheet". All of the morning carriers had seen it; a ghostly apparition that would slowly materialize out of the morning fog, making strange groaning or coarse guttural sounds. The old folks home had a history of its own: years ago, before this part of town was incorporated into the city, it was the home of the county workhouse - where miscreants did their thirty or sixty days, making bricks for the public works department. A few outbuildings still remained in the field behind it. Perhaps the "Sheet" was an inmate who hanged himself on his bed linen, and was doomed to spend eternity at the scene of his demise. The boys who saw him didn't stick around to ask questions.

   The years went by, the old home was torn down, a modern nursing home was built. I found myself back there many times, my mother lived there for nearly ten years with Parkinson's syndrome. If places can be haunted, that spot would have thousands of souls, trapped in crumbling bodies, with fading memories of their previous lives, of their families, of their own children who were paperboys and girls in this neighborhood. I had that route for a while, as did my youngest sister. The "Sheet" had probably been a resident of the old home, out for a stroll in his gown.

By Professor Batty



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