Horatio Benice

January 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try to post something new at least once a week for the first couple of months of 2011 (doing the whole year seemed like a little much).  The problem is that lately it’s been hard knowing what to write.  My default subject seems to be more abstract concepts or church-wide questions.

To be honest I get tired of those topics, and I’m sure you do, too.

So I thought this week I’d start a story.  I might still be able to say what’s in me in a more creative way, and it just might help me link my thoughts together from week to week.

So think of this as chapter 1 in “The Life and Times of Horatio Benice”.

The Life and Times of Horatio Benice

Horatio Allen Benice was a very old man when he finally died.  His back was bent at the top, like one of those bendy-straws with the adjustable mouthpiece.  He shuffled his feet when he walked and he carried a cane with a heavy brass handle.  That cane was such a part of him that they put it in the casket at the funeral (which was the most well-attended funeral in recent memory).

The people of Wellman, Iowa loved Horatio and treated him like royalty even though he died a very poor man.  He had done much for the community, so the community loved him back.  Little did they know the secret he carried upon those hunched shoulders, the secret that would carry him to his grave.

He lived in a big, weathered old house with blue clapboard siding.  There were 5 bedrooms upstairs alone, not to mention the nooks and crannies for hide and seek and the full, finished attic.  He bought it early in his marriage, back when his hopes for a large family were young like Spring.  But spring has a way of passing to Summer, Summer to Fall and how hard his Winter came.

The people of Wellman called it the Benice house, and knew it to be a place of warmth and safety when the old man lived there.  He was a baker by trade, and ran his bakery from a garage beside the house.

He was generous with his day-olds, passing them out to the kids after school (the bus stopped just up the street in that neighborhood).  He and Margaret were never able to have their own children, so after she died unexpectedly in their tenth year of marriage, he adopted the neighborhood.  Parents knew their kids were safe if they were playing at the Benice house with Horatio and their friends.

So he opened his yard and his home to the neighborhood children, an act of kindness that served him well in his twilight years.  By the end of his days he used just one small bedroom in that big old house.  He abandoned the upstairs, he abandoned his bakery, and he abandoned his yard.

Now if you have ever been a little boy, or if you’ve ever known any little boys, then you can imagine the temptation that such a situation presents.

However, Horatio’s kindness did not go unrewarded.  The same kids who ate his bread and played on his swing (now older and filled with good memories) protected and maintained his property when he lost the ability to do so.

Rather than taking spray paint and rocks to the Benice house, Brian McDinn mowed his grass and clipped his bushes.  Jamie Towertall delivered meals and did some cleaning.  Megan Howers walked through weekly to make (or hire out) small repairs to keep the Benice house in good order and free of rats.

This, then, is a story about that beloved house.  Once filled with kindness, generosity, and patient love, how it came to be the most feared, sinister, and hated pit of darkness that the children of Wellman have ever avoided.

Tune in next week if you want to find out what happens!

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