The Tall Man With The Brown Fedora
The day began like any other day at my grandmother’s house. She had already prepared my grandfather’s lunch which sat on the kitchen table waiting for him as it was every morning for as long as I could remember. In front of her, bacon sizzled in the big cast-iron skillet filling every corner of the house with its mesmerizing aroma. Finally, my grandfather – a giant of a man standing at 6’6″ with snow-white hair – rounded the corner dressed in his fire captain’s uniform and hat, complete with black boots that were so shiny that I could see myself in them, stopped and swooping me up in his arms, gave me a huge kiss. Then, plopping me back down, he reminded me to be good, snatched up his lunch, kissed my grandmother on the cheek, and headed down the stairs and out the gate.
Soon after my grandmother and I finished our breakfast, I sat on the stairs and waited patiently for our morning visitor, who came by every morning at 10 am.
I glanced up at the old wind-up alarm clock that sat on a nearby table.
It was 9:55.
Two doors led into the house. One was the front door which hardly anyone used since we always locked it. However, everyone that came to visit regularly knew to follow the sidewalk around the house to the back gate, which led to the huge patio and garden area where we spent most of our time. So if someone were to come to the front door, no one would hear them knocking. During the day, my grandmother would be out there either on her rocking chair reading or working in the garden. As for me, well, if I weren’t helping her in the garden, I would be playing on my swing set, monkey bars, or with one of my many other toys and books.
My most favorite thing within the patio was my grandfather’s rocking chair. It was huge, made of dark, heavy wood, as strong as he was, and felt as if it would gobble me up every time I sat on it. I had so many wonderful adventures on that old rocking chair. At times it was my horse; other times, my pirate ship, and it even became a great bird that took me over the clouds to faraway magical lands, and when I got tired, it would be a bed to take a nap on.
But it had another purpose too…
The alarm clock bell sounded – it was 10 o’clock. My grandmother hurried out of the kitchen to the table and quickly pushed the tiny silver level on top of the clock forcing its silence. Then returned to the kitchen to busy herself with the homemade guava jam she was preparing as a birthday gift for a family member.
Immediately following her return to the kitchen, I heard the familiar creaking of the porch stairs as its old boards strained against the weight it was carrying, the front door opening and closing, followed by the heavy shuffling footsteps through the living room on its way to where we were. I stood from the stairs and faced the area where our visitor would soon be making his appearance. Just before turning the corner – the very same corner that my grandfather previously occupied – our guest stopped and, as he always would, called out, “Mirium, are you home?”
My grandmother, not even turning around, called out, “Yes, I’m here.” she paused, “How are you feeling today, hm?”
“Tired.” our guest complained in a voice sounding as deep and old as the sea. “You mind if I come inside and rest?” he asked.
“No, no, not at all.” my grandmother said, her right hand stirring the contents of the bubbling pot. “Come in and make yourself at home, okay?”
“Thank you,” he said, his voice almost cracking with emotion. “You are always so kind to me.”
And that’s when I would see him. Well, almost see him.
He was taller than my grandfather and wore an oversized brown fedora with an enormous brim. I could only make out his nose and mouth since the brim of his hat seemed to somehow cast a shadow over his eyes no matter which way he turned his head. He always wore the same blue plaid long-sleeved shirt and dark blue jeans. On his feet were a pair of old shoes that looked as if they had walked a thousand miles and covered with thick red dirt, which – oddly enough, never left any trace of it on the floors.
I would listen and watch the exchange between them daily and learned that it never varied over the years. Nothing was ever added nor taken away from their conversation – it really was always the same.
Then, he would slowly make his way past me, go down the stairs and head straight for my grandfather’s rocking chair, where he would sit down, bow his head, and fall quickly asleep.
Watching him, sleep became a game for me. As I sat back on the top stair, I would try to guess how many times he would fade in and out, meaning one moment he would be sitting there and the next he would slowly begin to disappear, then just as quickly reappear again. Sometimes it would be four or five; sometimes, it would be up to eight! And then there were times where he would remain blurry – as if he couldn’t make up his sleeping mind if he were going to stay where he was or leave. But eventually, he would fade and never return until the next morning.
This went on until my grandmother passed away, then I never saw him again.
To this day, I’ve never found out who he was or where he came from. I’m not sure if my grandfather ever saw him either. He was never spoken of or even referred to in any way, as far as I’m aware.
If you’re wondering why it never bothered me, well, there was so much more going on at my grandparent’s house that I not only became used to it, but I actually thought that my experiences were shared by other children as well. For me, these kinds of experiences were “normal” and just not worth pondering over because things were the way they were, and nothing else needed to be said about it.