The Last Time I Saw Raymond

I was out taking a drive back in the woods. When I came to the crossroads and the dirt road to town, I could see Raymond’s trademark bicycle propped against his porch. This was always a signal that he was available for a visit if the passerby was inclined to sit and chat about the state of the world or local gossip. Only one thing made me hesitate: hygiene. Raymond was not the cleanest of human beings and aside from the constant line of grime around his neck the smell of his kitchen sink could stop a wild bull from charging. Curiosity got the better of me, as well as some childhood nostalgia about this crazy old man in his eighties, so I parked my car on his patch of grass, being careful not to crush his “dandylyin flowers.” Raymond shouted to me from inside the dusky kitchen to “Come on in” and when I stepped across the threshold, a body moved like a streak of lightening behind the chair where Raymond was perched. He followed my gaze and said “Oh, don’t pay any attention to her, she’s foolish and just stayin’ with me, she’s my housekeeper.” I looked around at the dog shit on the floor, assorted bottles, cans, styrofoam containers, chipped mugs, empty pickle jars and rotting food in various stages of decomposition and wondered just what exactly ‘house keeping was’ because as far as I could tell, this wasn’t it.

He offered me a chair and when I sat down, I felt something scurry up my leg and back down again. I shuddered and he laughed with his empty mouth, devoid of any teeth, since he had them removed back in the fifties because he didn’t want them to rot and choke him in his sleep. “It ain’t nothin’, just a centeepeed, won’t hurt ya.” I stood up and shook myself clear of whatever the hell it was and sat back down, just in time for Raymond to offer me a cup of tea from a pickle jar he used as a mug. I declined as politely as possible, but he didn’t really notice my queasy expression because he was too involved in the laborious task of licking his metal pie/dinner plate clean. As I watched, fascinated by the horror of it all, I tried with a great deal of difficulty to determine what precisely he’d been consuming, and if it would kill a weaker life form were they to swallow it. Finally, I could stand it no longer and I asked what he’d had for dinner. “Well, I bin down to the high school and ya know, them kids throw out some right good food, and as I’m savin’ for a new bike, I bin rescuing some of them lunches and savin’ them for my supper. I got more it you want some, it’s one of them leftover Donairs.” Naturally, my response was “gee, that’s nice of you to offer Raymond, but I’ve just eaten and I’m full up.” To which he replied, good thing then, cause I was hopin’ to have it for breakfast.”

Our conversation went on like this for about an hour, with little tid bits about his daily wood cutting activities thrown in for good measure. Finally, he started to gossip, which is why most people came to see him anyway, me included. I learned all about who was cheating on their spouse and their taxes, who was on welfare, growing pot on the back forty and to sum it all up, who was going to burn in the heat of hell fire for being an unrepentant sinner. He rounded off our evening visit with a lovely rendition of Rock of Ages and when he held a note, his eyes jiggle in their sockets as if the notes were shaking them loose. By the time he’d finished, I was more than ready to go, most especially because his ‘housekeeper’ came out from the other room like a mouse on roller skates announcing her angry departure because it was clear to her that he and I were having an affair! I made haste while the light faded and bid them both farewell, completely ignoring her insane insinuation. Just as I put my keys in the ignition, Mrs. Housekeeper asked me for a ride into town and on the way, she regaled me with stories from her life as a housekeeper and just as I guessed, it had absolutely nothing to do with cleaning.

I never saw Raymond again, but I do have a photo someone took of me with him, picking blueberries when I was three. Sometimes, when I see an empty pickle jar, I think of him and wish for one last visit in his little shack at the crossroads.

Mark wrote something wonderful on his blog that inspired me to write this. Thank you Mark!

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Author: valo

I am a poet, writer and activist with a special interest in human rights for children and women as well as the elimination of poverty worldwide. If you read this today, feed someone locally for me will you? Drop off a non perishable food item at the food bank nearest you and consider yourself hugged. Thank you!

8 thoughts on “The Last Time I Saw Raymond”

  1. I paused my TV so I could focus on reading this with no background noise cause it was so fascinating. I think I’d be too scared to do what you did but when I was a kid I was fascinated by the old guy next door who had an airstream trailer and once brought a live bat out of it to show us. What I still want to know is where he was keeping the bat!!

    1. Okay Jessie, there is something spiritual going on with you and those bats! I was grown when I went to see Raymond and he was old then. He was a harmless old coot and he was a friend of my grandfather, but the interior of that man’s house required a LOT of dirt denial to enter. I took a photo of him that day and I’ll post it this weekend if I can dig it up. Thank you for liking this enough to want to focus without noise, that is an amazing compliment to me! Now, about those bats, seriously look into the attributes of bats and you many discover that your subconscious is trying to tell you something about yourself. πŸ™‚

  2. I would have been out of there when the thing crawled up my leg. Great story/recollection Val. The ‘housekeepeer’ certainly adds another dimension to your story. I have a blacksheep brother who is a bit of a Raymond (minus the mess) and he had to have all his teeth pulled out, so has no teeth – he got falsies but stomped on them in a fit of rage (because they were uncomfortable) and broke them all.

    1. I nearly left at that point Gabrielle, but watching Raymond was nearly a hypnotic experience, he was so peculiar and of course the writer in me had to stay. Your brother sounds like one of my relatives! Okay Two of my relatives lol Maybe I will write about them one day too. Thank you for reading about Raymond and appreciating his quaint quirkiness. πŸ™‚

  3. Thank you.

    Someone has to go and visit the Raymonds of the world.

    Housekeeper! oh man that is cracking me up.

    I love this story, he left you a great gift – his memory.
    Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Absolutely Mark, someone does have to visit them. Oh yeah, the ‘housekeeper’ was quite an old gal with a story all her own! He did indeed leave a gift and thank you for enjoying meeting him. πŸ™‚

  4. How interesting… this is just plain good old short story/flash fiction writing, Val. It leaves me wondering, especially after reading Mark’s poem.

    1. Thank you Tel, Raymond was nothing if not storytelling material! Marks poem immediately brought Raymond to mind, particularly the Moe character. In life, we meet so many people who not only have a story to tell, but ARE a story to tell. πŸ™‚

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