Today in Portsong, we are mourning the passing of Charles Mabry. Actually, to be completely honest, mourning is a slight exaggeration. It’s more like we’re observing the fact that he died. That might sound a tad awful, but most folks around here would use the same adjective to describe Charles… if you removed the tad.
He lived and died by himself in a lonely, run-down house at the end of Three Pond Road. He had no known kin to miss him. In fact, no one might have found out about his death had a group of boys not been sneaking onto his land to enjoy a little fishing. Noticing an unusually strong smell coming from Charles’ outhouse, the boys dared one another to investigate. One of the lads finally accepted the challenge only to open the door and find the man having expelled his last – literally.
There is no sign of foul play.
Charles died just as he had lived – angry. Evidently he was stuck in the seated position for several days and had scrawled a long list of grievances and complaints on the interior walls of the outhouse (chief among them was boys sneaking across his property.) He also detailed all of the people who had offended him in life – which turned out to be a fairly accurate roster of the entire town. We plan on using it for next year’s census since Milbert Taylor’s goat ate our official roll. Charles even took issue with the sweetest soul in town, old Ms. Floy, who has played the piano at church for sixty years. It seems she wore a hat once in the autumn of 1884 that he swears she stole off his mother’s head. The man might have been bitter, but he sure had a fine memory.
At some point he realized he was never getting up and no one was coming to his aid. He lamented the fact that his legs gave out and stuck him there on the privy, he wished he had spent the extra thirty-seven cents for a more comfortable seat, and he bemoaned the fact that his property would pass into the hands of strangers. Funny, even in this final writing he was blind as to what left him on that perch alone. According to his testament, all of his problems were someone else’s doing and his misfortunes were either dumb luck or intricate plots against him. Poor Charles never lifted a finger to make himself or someone else happy.
He will be buried on Friday in the church graveyard. Old Reverend Crane won’t miss an opportunity to preach, even for a lonely, old sinner like Charles Mabry. The church will be largely empty although some curiosity-seekers will wander by and might stay for the final resting as long as the Reverend keeps it under an hour. Despite his accusations, sweet Ms. Floy will play him into eternity, possibly wearing the very hat that caused him discontent.
What caused Charles Mabry to be such a grumpy old soul? Was he born puckered up or did something chafe him along the way? Did he ever make a baby laugh or send a love note to a sweetheart? We may never know the answer. His life is a lesson to the rest of us: Make someone happy, just one someone happy and you will be happy too.
(If I were musically inclined, I’d put a tune to that.)
-November 18th, 1924