The Penny Farthing Father
When I was a girl, my parents moved into a small old farm house with four acres of overgrown land in Connecticut. It was built in 1857. The floorboards creaked. The doors didn’t lock. The bathroom was a 70s pink color, almost flesh. The basement smelled like must and firewood; the walls made of massive old stones placed together with wrinkled newspapers and the remnants of cement. Spiders trickled out from the walls carrying with them the dust of yesterday.
On our third night sleeping there, I snuck upstairs into the half-renovated room with walls covered in torn green and yellow-flowered wall paper that exposed wooden beams. This is the night I met my imaginary friend. He wore a silver monocle, a top hat like Abraham Lincoln, and a narrowly-tailored-Victorian-style suit to match. He rode a penny-farthing and held in one hand Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.
We didn’t do much together. He read atop his penny-farthing; I watched, waiting for him to acknowledge me. I was shy. Occasionally, he’d adjust his monocle when a cool draft wafted through the house and I thought he would say something to me. He never did.
“What are you reading?” I asked, on the third night I encountered him.
He replied with a head nod, and a soft grunt to clear his throat, but never spoke or looked me in the eye.
He visited me for about a year, appearing in the same outfit each night and sometimes smoking a hand-rolled cigarette while reading his dictionary. He always stayed for one hour each night and rode out through the unlockable door, his penny-farthing wheels squeaking as if they hadn’t been oiled for a century.
On the day before my sixth birthday he finally spoke; he read:
“Betwixt and Between—neither one or the other, but somewhere between the two. Thus, grey is neither white nor black, but betwixt and between the two.”
I never saw him after that. I forgot he existed until I was eight when we found a rusty penny-farthing in the bushels of our backyard, and a cracked monocle held in the spidery stone walls of the basement, along with a painted broken-mirror portrait of three children, a slim figured woman, and my imaginary friend.