There once was a miserly man who desired to be a decent person but he never quite reached that level, for it was outside of his grasp to his shame, and shame he did not recognize before it was too late.
Edgar awoke one morning to a dreary day outside his narrow and unadorned window; the day full of rain and thunder; he was lonely at the age of sixty-three and he sought to change his ways, but, change them how, he didn’t know. He only knew that he must, for he was a sad and miserly creature. He had no friends and no one to talk to, and it was his own behavior that brought him to these unfortunate circumstances. Deserved; perhaps, but none-the-less unfortunate for him. He roused himself off the bed and went about his usual routine in getting ready for the day, but being so dreary, he wasn’t looking forward to it, though carry on he must, so he did. Today, he was determined to make a change in his life for the better. He would change the way people thought of him if he had to stand in the storm all day.
After his grooming, he left the dingy, worn bed sheets rumpled, most of them flowing as lava on the floor, but he didn’t care, because he is that kind of man and he had no one to impress. Leaving the tiny sparse bedroom, which held a single unshielded lantern and one small dresser, he made his way to breakfast; one that he would have to prepare for himself, as he had no woman to tend his needs, which he realized was his own fault. No woman would have him. His reputation far-reached the townswomen and far-off villages for miles around as word traveled from one place to the next of his manner, or his lack of manner, and the women knew, he was more trouble than he was worth.
After he finished his breakfast, he went for a walk through his village of Osprey, so named because of the Sea Eagles that dwelt there along the banks of the flowing river, and he was determined to make a change for himself. He perched a ratty hat upon his head to shield himself from the rain and off he went for a trek.
Smiling came hard to Edgar, though he did make an attempt at it, but it came off looking unnatural and forced and it scared the women he graced with it, they, moving far aside to allow him passage without having to engage him. He engaged them anyway, feeling awkward.
“Good morning, m’lady. Tis a miserable morn to be sure,” he would say to those bustling about and scurrying in and out of the quaint shoppes lining the street, but the reply was silence; looks of disdain written upon their faces as they hurried inside.
They were repulsed at the sight of him with his one rotted tooth sticking out from between his thick and livery lips. He worked hard all his life at not taking care of himself and it showed. His long smattering of greasy hair, needing a snip, tied back with a dirty kerchief underneath the hat, his face full of pocked holes and nose dirt always on display so that one was forced to look away. He made many attempts at speaking kindly to those he passed this day, wanting desperately for someone to acknowledge him, be it woman or man, just to have someone to while away some time, but no one wanted to engage, wondering what evilness he was up to now. For as it’s been said, he was a miserly creature, known for his evil ways and taking a whore to his bed for company since no woman of decency would tarry with him.
While he trod along the muddy streets, he thought back to the reasons he was so unwelcome by his townspeople and recalled with sadness of a time long past. He wasn’t always miserly; there was a time long ago when he appeared to be a happy man, young, virile, and very successful at his money changing business for he owned the bank, made so with old family money. He had a wife in those days, young Elizabeth, who was pretty and gentle. They seemed to be happy, and they were well received by their neighbors. Word spread quickly that the seemingly happy couple were expecting their first child and everyone came around to wish congratulations upon them, though all were unaware of the transgressions that took place behind their closed door. For you see, young Elizabeth at a tender age of fourteen, had been forced into marriage to Edgar who was the age of twenty-two, and unlovely to look at even then, and bought for a tidy sum that he offered up quickly to secure his future with an heir, though none of the townspeople were aware.
In public, they were the perfect couple with everything going for them. Dressed in their finery, they held hands and cooed to each other, walking about the streets smiling and greeting everyone they came across as friends. But behind their secured door and in the darkness of their abode, ugliness took place that some would call madness if they would have been privy of the goings-on. For Edgar had a much unrestrained temper, and it was that temper, and that alone that brought him to the sad state he finds himself in today. Though, back then, he did make attempts at controlling himself, but some part of him was already vile just as his father was, and it was a part of him he couldn’t ignore or deny.
When Elizabeth was in her third trimester, she thought Edgar would soften to her and respect her as the mother of his child, but Edgar did not disappoint and he did not soften. Instead, as the anxiety over his becoming a soon-to-be father held terror for him, he lashed out at his expectant wife and his fists flew during an argument over the child’s name; for Elizabeth hoped for a she, and Edgar insisted it best be a he, too selfish and ignorant to understand that it was neither’s choice to make. To say he beat her would be an understatement, for he far more than beat her. By the time he was finished with her, punching and kicking her wherever a blow could be landed, her face looked like rotted fruit pulp, meaty and blackened, her eyes swollen shut, her lips so swollen and split that she could hardly open her mouth to scream, and worst of all, between her spread feet on the dirt floor, her unborn child lay, still connected to the umbilical cord.
When Elizabeth felt the baby rip from her insides, the fluids she held spilling out of her, she looked down to the floor when she heard a thud and screamed with heart-wrenching agony as she watched her baby gasp once and then no more. Her little boy-child was dead.
Her body slumped to the floor and she bled profusely after ejecting her son, wailing in heart-wrenching agony, pain sliced into her heart as she’d never felt before. Edgar realized with eye widening fear and guilt what he’d done, he killed his unborn child in his rage, and a boy child at that. One he desperately wanted, but fear of becoming a failure as a father, just as his own father was, chilled him to the bone and in his rage, he aborted the tiny thing. He buried his dead son near a tree in his yard, and carried his battered wife to their bed where she lay for little less than a week before her sorrow stole the last breath from her body.
Word spread quickly through his village and to the surrounding villages that he murdered his child and his wife, but being the wealthiest man, he’d gotten away with his crimes as he paid for his freedom, and he paid dearly. His bank lost their clientele and his fortunes dwindled quickly since no one would have ties to him and before the next month was over, Edgar found himself completely alone. A detestable creature he’d become; the townspeople scorned him, feared him, and ostracized him, and deservedly so.
As the years went by, he managed to live on his dwindling fortune but by this time, while he walked the streets looking for a friend, he was long since destitute and long since deplorable. No one would give him a kind word, or even take the time to look upon him, as memories of an awful nature do not leave the mind quickly. He felt the weight and sting of his shame, just as he did after he murdered his child and wife all those long years ago; the shame keeping his shoulders hunched and his head bowed under its oppression, and his smiles faded just as fast as he thought to have them. Defeated and abandoning his new desire to make a change since no one would tarry with him for company, he sought a different goal; to make as many people as miserable as he possibly could, and once more to his shame, in that, he was successful. He went out of his way to speak meanly to those he passed by, hurtling insults and curses with a hateful scowl plastered on his face, and those verbally assaulted quickly moved out of his way as he picked up his walking pace making his way back to his rundown cabin.
On his travels back home, an unkempt dog approached him hungry and looking for food. Edgar thought to kick the dog away but stayed his foot as the dog sidled against his leg, rubbing his muzzle across his shin, and Edgar softened to the mangy-looking creature and realized they had something in common, neither were wanted or tolerated. He bent and scooped the filthy mongrel into his arms and trod towards home, the dog lapping at his face and for the first time since he was in his twenties, Edgar laughed, feeling wanted and needed.
The dog went home with him, and after a good bath and some fresh water and food, the two began to bond. While he sat by the roaring fire to chase away the chill, the dog cradled in his lap, scratching him behind his ears and cooing to him, he realized that he finally found a true companion and one who had no memory of the awful person he was in his past, and still thought to be, and one that cared not for the horrible things he had done so long ago. He found what he sought after for so many years, a friend. Something needed him and wanted to be with him and he accepted the dogs’ friendship and unconditional love without hesitation.
While the months rolled away behind him, he and his dog, whom he named Jack, would take leisurely walks through the village. No longer did Edgar feel the need to try and change the opinions of those he passed by, for he was content with his new companion, and he began to see as time marched on, that the townspeople were speaking to him! Only civilities at first, which surprised Edgar, for he did not feel he’d changed in any way, and he made no further attempts to engage his peers, but the townspeople were reacting to him, acknowledging his new friend and Edgar found himself sincerely smiling and proud of his beloved Jack. He saw that Jack was the bridge that connected him to his village and its peoples once again, and he found a contentment beyond his understanding, one he never thought he’d find.
One day, when his dog was very old and wearing thin in his years, Edgar came to understand, he had a son after all and his name was Jack.