I said I’d tell you about the house down the road. The one that’s boarded up. My friend Lois used to live there. Lois Taylor and her daughter Marybeth.
For years it was just the two of them in that house. Gradually, Marybeth became my daughter, too, because she used to pop in and visit often. I really looked forward to those visits. Here I was alone with time on my hands—just like today. That much hasn’t changed, has it? ha ha. Anyway, I’d show her how to make all sorts of goodies like brownies and apple fritters. We had some fun. I’d tell her she had two moms and had better mind both! I’ll never forget those freckles and that red hair. Then she went off to college.
Lois and I were different. She didn’t like to be alone a day even. After Marybeth left, she began spending more time in town. She asked Sheriff Connors if he could recommend somebody to share her house. He did. He recommended Ricky Felts. Ricky was from a nearby community and had been in prison a few years for robbery. The sheriff told Lois that. He also told her that while Ricky wasn’t technically retarded, everybody knew he wasn’t the brightest young man about town. She thought it over a few days then decided to give Ricky a chance. He could live with her and do yard work and other needy chores. Earn his keep.
All went fine until Marybeth’s graduation four years later. Then Lois mentioned Ricky’s behavior for the first time. That it was strange or that he’d changed, but she didn’t quite know how. We both decided to be watchful about it, but not really alarmed. After all, if Ricky didn’t like something, he always had the option of leaving.
No one knew how long Marybeth would be home after graduation, so the plan was for Ricky to move out into the barn. Marybeth would return to her old bedroom, the one Ricky had been sleeping in for four years. Lois had spent money having a nice bedroom and bath made in a corner of the barn. When I saw it, I was surprised. It was nicer than I’d expected.
Unfortunately, Ricky didn’t agree. It was apparent that he wasn’t interested in the slightest change.
“Well, that’s too bad,” Lois had said. “He’ll just have to get used to it.”
The day Marybeth moved home about fifteen of us friends and relatives were there to celebrate. We had lunch ready, cakes, pies, wine, gifts and so on. Ricky wasn’t helping. He stayed put in his new room in the barn. Lois figured he was sulking. She’d let him sulk then. Plus, as he loved to eat, she hadn’t any doubt he’d quietly join everyone at lunchtime.
When Marybeth got out of her car and the shots rang out, I was dumbstruck. I knew nothing about Ricky’s IQ but his aim was tops. Marybeth died instantly. Later I realized Lois also died that day. Oh sure, she continued to shop, clean house, cook, scrub and do all the other chores, but I wouldn’t have called her “living”. Not for a minute.
(Note: Believe it or not, this story is based on a real incident. Sometimes my stories come from news articles. If I personally knew the real “Lois”, I would be incapable of writing this story. RB)