The Mystery Unfolds.
Jeffrey sighed as he steered the lawn mower carefully into a shed at the back of Mrs Jones home. She was a hard taskmaster and supervised every moment of his afterschool time on lawns and gardens. He hated this job, but no one else in the street had been prepared to give him a job after school each afternoon. Some of the boys had either a newspaper run or weekly job weeding gardens around the suburbs. They were rich kids and didn’t need the money but thought it was a cool thing to do to have a job at their age. Most school kids got pocket money from their parents and didn’t think working was cool at all though they were envious of the kids on the newspaper run as that was considered super cool. Their skill in tossing papers onto a porch from the front gate of each house while racing on their bikes was legendary.
Jeffrey’s Dad had died in the war and his Mother struggled to support them both. He was aware of grandparents but didn’t understand why they were not part of his life. Mom had casually pointed to a mansion they passed on a bus trip downtown and matter of fact reported his Dad’s parents lived there. No other explanation was given, and Jeffrey sensed he should not ask. No mention was made of grandparents on his Mother’s side of the family. He determined someday to solve that mystery.
His Father’s name was Jeffrey too. A large picture of his father graced the hallway. Father was dressed in military uniform with the insignia of sergeant displayed proudly. Jeffrey would often stand in the hallway studying that picture. What had his father been like, would he have found time to play with him after school? Rich kid’s parents didn’t spend much time with them as they were either working or off to the club leaving hired help to care for them. Perhaps his father would be like that too? Mom had to work hard washing and cleaning for some of those families so in the eyes of those rich kids he was just the cleaner’s kid.
Hanging up in Mom’s room was a picture of his parents. They looked young and happy. Mom had told him they’d met at a town dance where servicemen frequently met when on leave. Mom had been working in a local bank having been transferred to the city from a little country town where she’d been brought up. She didn’t like to talk about her childhood years. Jeffrey had discovered an album hidden away in the attic with the picture of a family. There were two adults and four children, one of those children looked like his Mom. There were animals in the background. He’d carried the album downstairs and shown it to his Mother pointing at the picture. To his surprise, Mom had burst into tears. Jeffrey felt terrible. There was something about that album which upset his Mom and he determined never to show it to her again. His unspoken question was not to be answered for some time.
Jeffrey presented to the front porch where Mrs Jones sat surveying the road. She fumbled in her apron and produced his wages for the day. Jeffrey mentally counted notes as she extracted them from her apron. She gave the faintest hint of a smile as she held out her hand for Jeffrey to take his wages. He mumbled thanks and turned toward the gate.
“Tomorrow I want you to help me move some furniture in the house. No garden work tomorrow!”
Jeffrey turned in surprise. The inside of the house was strictly off limits and very few people were permitted entry. Mrs Jones was suspicious of everyone. He’d run errands to the shop for her many times but was always met at the door where she took the items inside herself. Now he was to be invited into the inner sanctum. He nodded his head and moved quickly to the gate. There were chores to be completed at home and homework to do after other duties were complete.
He looked forward to spending time with Mom after that was all done. Exhausted as she’d be after a hard day at work she’d give him complete attention until it was time for bed. Mother and son were bonded by a strong cord of love.
Next day Jeffrey placed his school bag on the front porch of Mrs Jones home and pressed the door chime button. A musical sound came from the back of the house. Mrs Jones shuffled to the front and opened the door. She held it half open as she inspected the front road and yard, then when satisfied there was no one else but Jeffrey she nodded impatiently for him to enter. Jeffrey entered uncertainly and took in surroundings. Furnishings were old but kept neat and tidy, he took it all in as he followed down the corridor glancing into each room as they passed to the back of the house.
They entered a room at the back. Unlike the rest of the house this one had fallen into disrepair. Dust and cobwebs covered furnishings and bed. Photos of old motorbikes and cars adorned walls. On a bedside table was a photo of a young man in military uniform. Sports trophies were crowded together on a set of drawers of 1940’s vintage. Old magazines and books stood neatly in built in bookcase, but time had made some of the paper brittle with age.
Mrs Jones pointed to the door of a built-in clothes closet and Jeffrey hastened to open it. The smell of age hit him as he opened the door. There was an assortment of men’s clothing connected by spider webs. He turned to Mrs Jones with an inquiring look.
Her face had softened as she looked around the room. Tears formed in her aged eyes. She handed Jeffrey a collection of large garbage bags.
“Empty this room of everything you can except trophies. I’ll keep them a little longer. Here’s some large garbage bags. Drag them out when full and leave them on the front lawn. I’ve arranged for someone to come and take it all to the trash tip.
It took several hours, and this made him late home. He promised to return and clean the room next day. On the way-out Mrs Jones handed him double wages for his effort and as an after-thought went into her bedroom and handed him a photo.
“Your Mom may want to keep this, but if not bring it back tomorrow and put it with the bags of trash in the front yard.”
“That’s my Mom!” Jeffrey involuntarily shouted as he stared at the photo in surprise.
To be continued.
© Copyright 2020 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved
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