Rodman's House

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

An old man rables on about a house buit by Rodman.

Rodman’s House

 

An old man came to the funeral, but didn’t go into the chapel, instead he sat on a bench outside and scratched at the loose gravel that lay on the path while the service proceeded. He didn’t actually know the woman whose funeral it was, but he knew she had died because of a freak accident. Workmen were removing corrugated iron from a house roof, when a sheet of iron slipped and fell, its edge cut the carotid artery in her neck and she couldn’t be saved. When the funeral ceremony was over, the mourners followed the coffin to the waiting hearse. It was then the old man spoke quietly and gruffly to nobody in particular.

‘Rodman built th’ house on a sunny spot overlookin’ his farm. It was a desolate sort of farm, sufferin’ from th’ summer droughts that always followed warm Nor’westerly winds. Rodman was ambitious and expected that farming might make him rich. In th’ hope it might impress people, he built a large house using native timber from th’ nearby forest. He hand-dug a channel from th’ stream, which delivered water to th’ house, there wasn’t any electricity there at th’ turn of the century so he used candles until the house could be lit by th’ kerosene chandelier given to ’em as a weddin’ present.

‘It’s recorded that Rodman married Doris on November 1 1901, and he became th’ father of three dark-haired girls. Sweet wee things they were. It’s said th’ frustration of farmin’ got to him and he became increasingly morose, which ended up in violence at th’ local store. He’d ridden th’ eight miles there upon his horse, and when there wasn’t any tobacco, at least th’ kind to his likin’, he pushed th’ keeper and knocked over a table of new taters. Old Hank, politely enough, told Rodman to keep his hands to hisself, anyway, Rodman whipped out his skinnin’ knife and slashed Hank’s arm. It might’ve been worse had Hank not pulled away in time, but still, old Doc Stubbs put sixteen stitches in ’im.

‘Rodman must’ve had a ragin’ temper, ’cos he cut up his missus and their girls! Left ’em lyin’ on th’ sitting room floor he did! Nobody found ’em for weeks, and Rodman hisself had gone bush. They reckon it was him they found, well his bones anyway, two years later at th’ bottom of a waterfall. They reckon he fell over it. Anyway, nobody wanted to buy th’ farm after that and th’ house stood empty for years, growin’ steadily dingy, but still sound enough. Finally, nigh on fifty years later, th’ nearby forest company bought the farm and planted it out. Soon you had to peer through th’ blimmin’ trees to see th’ house,

‘The forest company started to use Rodman’s house to store equipment and as well th’ forest workers used to shelter in it when the weather was inclement. Six men were shelterin’ one day, four of ’em playing cards while th’ other two were readin’ dirty magazines. Th’ boss pulled up in his truck and they unloaded a new consignment of loppers, for pruning th’ trees y’know. Inspectin’ them and testin’ ’em out, th’ boss was making dummy snips towards the faces of some of th’ workmen. They ducked away, laughing, but not Stan… the loppers sniped th’ skin… y’know th’ bit that separates th’ nostrils. He didn’t blimmin’ move a muscle, but blood dripped… drip, drip… onto th’ floor… th’ same floor as had been plastered in blood all those years before… Stan cursed his boss, who gave him th’ day off, but they say th’ whole house… gave a sort of… shudder…

‘A short time after, th’ forest company built a new headquarters and began to move th’ stores out of Rodman’s house. Safety wasn’t high on anyone’s mind, so Len though nothin’ of loadin’ twenty four slashers in two loose armloads onto th’ truck… twelve weren’t too heavy at a time, and he carried th’ first load fairly easily in his cupped arms. His second load wasn’t balanced so well… he caught sight of a sharpened blade… it glistened in reflected sunlight… it slipped from the bundle… and fell with a clatter onto the floor… after unloading his armful, he returned to pick up the stray slasher. On his way back… there was a hellava crash… and a scream of pain! He found Bruce lyin’ on the floor… in a pool of blood… th’ blood filled the cracks between the floorboards… He’d been trying to move an old tractor wheel rim and it fell across his leg, cuttin’ the artery in his thigh and crushin’ the bone! He bled out in a tick! As Bruce was bein’ loaded into th’ hearse, Len guessed it was a sudden gust of wind… but he was sure he felt th’ house give a shudder.

‘Hunters were allowed into th’ forest on a permit basis and ’cos of th’ popularity of th’ area, permits were hard to come by. One Friday evenin’, Joe phoned Doug ’cos there was heavy snow forecast and he wondered if they should venture out. Doug was a cocky bugger and said  he’d looked at th’ weather map and th’ isobars were wide over th’ forest area, so it should be safe enough… but weather can be unpredictable. It was… and they lost their bearings in th’ blizzard conditions. Good fortune landed them on the steps of th’ Rodman’s house… Doug tried th’ door… there was no reason to lock it, so it opened willingly. Soon they had kindled a fire and sat back in its warmth to wait out th’ storm. Joe was carryin’ an old .22 pump action, ’cos he was only interested in shootin’ varmits. Doug hadn’t seen a rife like it before, so asked if he could have a closer look at it. Joe was proud of it ’cos it’d been his grandfather’s… He worked the pump action, emptyin’ th’ tube magazine and put th’ bullets in his pocket. He handed th’ rifle to Doug who held it to his shoulder and took aim at somethin’ imaginary. He asked Joe what th’ trigger pressure was like, and Joe told him to try it, addin’ that th’ tube magazine was empty. Doug worked the pump action…, and because his fingers were fat… the rifle fired without him aimin’ it! A blimmin’ round had been stuck in the tube as can happen… th’ bullet missed Joe by a whisker… of all places… it hit th’ brass hinge on, th’ open hallway door… th’ twang of the ricochet resounded… and Joe slumped… he had blood seepin’ from his temple… it oozed between th’ floorboards. Aghast, Doug stood up but landed back on his backside… was tit just a gust of wind that shook the house?

‘Forest walks became th’ new fitness craze, so came four year old Mary, walking and sometimes bein’ carried by her parents, arrivin’ at th’ old driveway leadin’ into Rodman’s house.. Everyone was thirsty, so they walked up th’ driveway to where there were some rocks to sit on. They gulped down some water, and mood took hold of Mary’s young parents… they began to kiss. Meanwhile… Mary stumbled along th’ drive… and saw th’ house… curiously she waddled up to th’ door… and gave it th’ slightest of touches… it slowly opened… Mary walked inside… looking’ left and right… Meanwhile th’ natural world continued as it always has… a kereru, th’ largest of th’ world’s pigeon species saw danger… a flacon was swooping from high up above… th’ chase was on… instinct told th’ kereru that it couldn’t outrun the falcon… it weaved through th’ trees… tryin’ to make it difficult for th’ falcon to follow at top speed… th’ kereru saw a patch of light… an escape perhaps! It was th’ sittin’ room window of Rodman’s house… th’ kereru crashed through… shards of glass flew at th’ little girl standin’ in th’ middle of th’ room… her mother snatched her out of the way… a split second before th’ shards hit her! Th’ kereru was dead on th’ floor, with a broken neck… and not a drop of blood to show.

‘After that, th’ forest company demolished Rodman’s house, but some of th’ roofin’ iron was salvageable and th’ native timber was more’n valuable, so it was all salvaged and sold off. Most of it was Rimu framin’ timber, and th’ floors were made of Matai, a beautiful timber which shines ’cos of its natural oils. There was also some Kauri panellin’, th’ sort of timber boat builders liked. I hear they got a good price for it all too!’ The old man took a long, deep breath and pointed to the casket with his stick. ‘That there casket’s made from th’ Matai timber that was in th’ floor in Rodman’s house! Beautiful, isn’t it? Feel how smooth it is.’ He said quietly. Keeping his stick steady, levelled at the casket, he called a little louder. ‘Rest in peace, Mary darlin!’


Submitted: November 30, 2020

© Copyright 2021 moa rider. All rights reserved.

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hullabaloo22

Very well-written, Moa.

Mon, November 30th, 2020 7:19pm

Author
Reply

Thank you Mama Hullabaloo. I appreciate your comment. Usianguke

Mon, November 30th, 2020 12:04pm

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