Old Man Johnston

by joetwo

When I was a boy we used to spend weeks at a time in summer at my grandparent’s farm. It was a small holding but a revelation to me and my brother in our sheltered city lives.

There was always plenty to do but when all else failed we could also go to visit the neighbouring farms, We were guaranteed a good welcome and occasionally some home-made cake or bread. The only place that we did not regularly visit was Old Man Johnston’s near the main-road.

Arthur Johnston had been living alone for years. His house was distinctive compared to the rest on account of how old it was. It still had the rusty corrugated iron roof that replaced thatching, stained whitewash, and the garden was all weeds. He used to live there with his mother but she had died and the place had gone to pot.

He wasn’t “social”. I only went in there once.

Mr Johnston needed regular visits from the neighbours. Granny sent me with a bowl of stew to hand to him. She told me not to bother talking  with him, Just in and out. I went on my way.

The place was in an even worse state inside than outside. There was a thick layer of grime on everything and a foul smell. I heard muttering from one of the other rooms.

I opened the door. In there; in front of a turf fire sat Mr Johnston. He spoke in hushed tones with an empty chair. I only heard one recognisable word above the mumbling “Mother”.

That was enough for me. I closed the doors as quickly as I could and ran back to Granny’s.

I didn’t see much of Mr Johnston after that; his health took another turn and he passed on not long after but I always remembered what I saw there. Mr Johnston, I realised, wasn’t some crank, well, not really, he was just in his own world.

So what if we couldn’t see it.

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Written for trifecta week eighty three.

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