Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A Brief Visit with the Weird Old Lady on the Porch

Oh, hello, dear! What brings you here? My mail got mixed up with yours? How sweet of you to bring it over. You’re new to the neighborhood, aren’t you? Why don’t you sit a moment, will you? Right here on the chair next to me. I’ve got some cookies baking. They’ll be ready soon and maybe I can tempt you with a morsel.

Oh, dear, cookies and mail reminds me of a time, — my! it must have been thirty or thirty-five years ago. A sweet young fellow, no older than twelve, came up to my porch one day with my mail much like you just have. And wouldn’t you know it? I had cookies baking then, too! Well, this little fellow — his name was Walter — he gave me my mail and I said to him, “Walter, come inside and have some cookies. They’re just baked and you can have a nice, tall, cold glass of milk with them.” Well, Walter wasn’t sure if he wanted to come inside, but I insisted because I was sure he would love my cookies. So he came in and I made him a plate of cookies and gave him a glass of milk, and my heavens! if he didn’t eat up every last little crumb!

“Mrs. Sykes!” he said. “These are the best cookies I ever ate! May I have some more?”

“Why certainly, dear. Have as many as you wish,” I replied, feeling very flattered. And wouldn’t you know it? He ate every last cookie I baked!

After that, Walter became a daily visitor. I always had a large batch of cookies ready for him. I have to mention that I was already an old woman by that time and Mr. Sykes (God bless his soul) had passed away some years before, so I was fairly lonely. And people always seemed a bit put off by me because I have only one eye and, well, this withered hand of mine is no conversation starter either. That and my cackling laugh. Oh, and having only three teeth. Mustn’t forget that. Not a pretty smile. Yes, Walter was a blessing to be sure.

One day, Walter’s mother came to my door. “Mrs. Sykes,” she said, “you’ve go to stop feeding Walter those cookies. His waist has grown seven sizes! We can’t keep him in clothes and, what’s more, this is very unhealthy for him.”

“My dear, you must take that up with your son.” I replied. “What I make in my own kitchen is my affair.”

Then she said several others things to me and left. Dear me, there was an unhappy woman! Never a kind word to be sure.

Walter kept coming by and I kept baking cookies. What a joy it was to see that boy eat! He’d have another cookie in his mouth before the first was swallowed. When I asked him if he wanted more, he could only nod ‘yes’ because his mouth was constantly full. I must tell you that it is a great compliment to a cook to see a person eat so.

Well, Walter did become very fat. In time he grew so fat he had problems getting in through the door (we were using the back door by this time, because his mother forbade him from coming to my house). Often I needed to pull him by the arms, but with both of us working at it, he always managed to get through. And how his eyes shone when he saw the wonderful mound of cookies sending off their delicious aroma from the kitchen table! And what an appetite! How that boy loved my cookies!

One day it happened that we managed to get him in the house, but after he ate the cookies he couldn’t get out. We tried the back door and the front, but Walter just couldn’t squeeze through. We thought about the windows, but could tell right off those wouldn’t work. “Dear, dear, Walter! It looks like you’ll have to stay with me for a while,” I told him.

The next day, Walter’s mother came by looking very distraught. Her eyes were red and swollen from lack of sleep and crying. Walter hadn’t come home and she wondered if I knew where he was. Why, he’s with me, I told her. What? she said. And then I explained what had happened.

Well, as I stand here, let me tell you, never has anyone ever hurled such abuse at me! The language she used! The insults! But I’ve always made it a point to keep my composure, and I swore I wouldn’t let her make me lose my temper.

“Where is he?” she demanded at last.

“I’m afraid he’s gotten stuck in the upstairs guest bedroom,” I told her. And then, without waiting for a proper invitation, she ran straight up my stairs. How she screamed when she saw Walter on the floor surrounded by all my freshly baked cookies! “Walter, come home!” she ordered, and then she got him to his feet and she pushed and she pulled, and she pulled and pushed, but it was of no use: Walter could not squeeze through the door to his room.

“You see?” I said. “Walter can’t come out. He’s stuck in there.”

“You’ve put him under a spell, you old witch. I know you have. You’ve schemed this all along! I want my son back, you hag! You hear me?” she wailed. My, my, she really said that to me, and a good deal more besides.

Well, there was no moving Walter of course. And the cookies kept coming. Lord, how he loved those cookies! I couldn’t make them fast enough! His mother brought the police, but what could they do? Walter wasn’t being held at my house against his will. His parents threatened legal action against me, but they couldn’t find a single charge that stuck. My lawyer, Mr. Slique, saw to that. They wanted a carpenter to widen the doorway, but it was my house! They couldn’t do anything like that without my permission! And then one evening his parents sent a rabbi, a priest and a minister to come talk to me. It was the same as always: everyone who came to speak to me would start off so politely and then the ugliness came out after a while.

Then one night, Walter’s mother stopped by. She seemed very tired and very sad. I had never seen her so down in the dumps. All the fight was out of her. “Mrs. Sykes,” she pleaded. “As a woman, can’t you sympathize with me? He is my son. Stop feeding him the cookies. Let him come home.”

“Poor dear,” I said. “It must be hard, but of course I can only guess at how you feel — I’ve never had a child.” And then she slumped down and wept right there on the floor.

My, my, that was so long ago. How odd I should think of it now.

Hm? Walter? What happened to him? Why, he’s still upstairs in his room. That’s why I’m baking the cookies. But surely he’ll let you have some. No? Some tea then? All right, if you must go, then you should go. But come again, dear. You know where I am.


Blogger trinamick said...

Nothing like the sweet story of an overweight, sedentary child the size of Kentucky to put a smile on one's face. Now I'm hungry for cookies.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

I'm hungry for cookies too! that sorta creeped me out--In a good way...

1:55 PM  
Blogger John said...

Yeah, one-eyed, gummy-mouthed old women with whithered stumps for hands always make me think, "mmm...I go for some cookies!"

6:42 AM  

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