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Old Abel Barra, boogeyman on the hill. Best behave or mother will send you up to Ishmael House to be eaten by the grey man with the cane. Careful now or the ghoul on the hilltop will feed you to his tree. The town started to grumble, for without the long drive south the grocery would be all but as barren as the fields. Where would the wonderful produce come from that The Wellspring relied upon for their delicately prepared foods?

The community knew that we would have to pull together with strenuous effort to get our idyllic little town through. In the history of the town we had never heard or seen such trouble. Old Abel Barra, who tended to a dying tree in the dead of dark. A villain never seen in sunlight. What if he had thrown his hands up and cursed the town? Summoned a storm that lasted weeks, as if to cripple us. He must have known that it would paralyse our contented lives?

Slowly and slowly, insights born of ill tempered and inebriated speculations began to make sense, before the fire and the oak and the pendant lights and the leather.

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He was biding his time. Waiting for Abaddon to send him the right woman or child to pass by Ishmael House alone at night. He had cast some spell so that nothing grew, or conspired with his visitor to salt the fields, that mad old drunk in that strange old house with its dying old tree. He looks down on this town in the passing light, or the dead of night. Of course, in the morning, these murmurs passed away with the lingering headaches, and we as a community struggled through.

Driving up that gravel road, over that hill and to the town down south, past the tree and the fence and that old grey house. That mad old drunk in that strange old house with its dying old tree. Old Abel Barra, an odd one indeed. The next day, there he was, as soon as the sun began to set. Old Abel Barra up on his ladder, cloth and bucket of soap in hand, cleaning up the mess. Each time it happened we waited for him to visit upon the village and demand some respect.

Wait and wait we did. Not a trail on the road, not a stain, not a sound. The town bristled still. Why had he not come down? Flung eggs and arcs of paper, some oddities and crucifixes heaped into his yard. Again, we waited for his descent to rage against the village. How dare we vandalise his property?

Can we not control our children? Our mutterings began to include the idea that no man could be so patient. No man could be so silent. No mere man could abide such frequent inconvenience. So it became that when a child fell ill it was on the wings of some demon that he had sent, his pleasure being our discomfort, our confusion his revenge. When Ellie Reeds Percheron fell to equine dysautonomia it was at the behest of the archon who lived in that house. When the school caught fire and all those children had to be rushed to the playground or be razed asunder, our eyes fell again to the top of that hill and we began to ponder.

Leave him to his drinks and his madness and his devil worship and his tree. So we did. We warned the children to stop bothering him, to leave his house alone. No more eggs, no more paper, no more chicken bones. So there was peace for a time. It became that the maladies that plagued our town subtly quieted. Conversation began.

Old Abel Barra is nowhere to be seen. No flickering lights, no lights at all, no one tending to the tree. So we came to agree. On a Tuesday evening, as I nursed my drink, I heard a tiny storm of whispers and murmurs behind me. There was a woman standing outside of Ishmael House. A stunning blonde creature, you just have to see her.

I, being married, stayed in my seat. We stepped outside, curiously, and watched him run up the hill like a dog in heat. We watched their silhouettes as he introduced himself to the young woman, all hands and smiling gestures, then stillness and nodding, then sullenly looking down at his feet. Quiet words were spoken, often glancing at a corner and an empty seat.

There was no more rumour…. Little Sal looked downtrodden, hands in his pockets as he slowly mumbled something to Cooms, passing by as he watched the base of the gravel road. I raised my shoulders and hands, unsure what he could mean. Young Maya Barra descended the gravel road. Her blonde hair shone amber, haloed by the sunset and she with her glacial almond eyes looked over all who gathered of our little community.

No wild stories. No fingers to point so much as cradle glasses or steeple or kneading at temples. There was no more rumour, no more anger, no more grinding of teeth. Perhaps he was a man who moved town, all those years ago, out of grief. Who could not stand to stay where he had lived within all those memories. Whose wife of thirty five years passed away and, overwhelmed by grief, a grief that he could not abide nor believe, he simply decided to leave.

The man that became prone to depression, who had never wanted to be a burden, to his daughter or the community or to Cooms and I. In fact, perhaps he had been a man who talked for a month about Cooms and I buying him a drink. A sensitive man to whom a glance or a word could mean the world or undo everything. Perhaps he was the kind who needed to keep himself busy, be that making a watch for some money, a fine watch that could take him a month, or a very fine watch that may take him three.

Even in the rain. A man who walked south so he could look at the spring by the grove, or walk to a town twenty miles further so he could see his grandkids, an old man who had never asked for a lift. Nor was offered one.


A man who was the subject of a lie told by Laura Jayne St. A man who had no idea Mr. A man who never took another, because he never got over the death of Mrs. Sandie Barra, all those years ago. Old Abel Barra, who died profoundly alone, and went unnoticed for a week because not a soul came to call on him at his home. Image credit: Geoffrey Teece. That was not a solitary oddity by any means. Whoever would walk by or walk home would return with yet another odd story: new wild rumours. The town was a well of murmurs and rumours that were not soon to pass away.

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All a seed needs is time, and our seed had plenty. It was a tumultuous storm: rain and rain and rain again all through autumn. Soon after came the rains, and the difficult year. All but for one, who had yet to even pay a visit.

The imaginations of children have always been remarkable things. And that was the beginning of how it began. Old Abel Barra became the malady of the town. Though no word ever came.

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No such anger ever came. When the school caught fire, our eyes fell again to the top of that hill and we began to ponder. Until one day there was nothing. And another. So passed the week. There was no more rumour… Little Sal looked downtrodden, hands in his pockets as he slowly mumbled something to Cooms, passing by as he watched the base of the gravel road. Words rose of Old Abel Barra. A man who liked to watch old black and white movies where people dance and sing. Those are the stories we spoke of then. Those are the stories we speak of now. Those, and a story about how that house may not have been the thing that was his prison.

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