Are You Haunted (part three)
You could feel safe in a place this size. You didn’t exhaust your possibilities too quickly. Everyone was charitable, “community-minded”—a phrase of the county agent who’d tipped Powell a fifty-cent piece after letting him out downtown. But even the charitable didn’t want the same face turning up over and over, just mooching. Letting the Baptists, the Methodists, the Unitarians, feed you, not letting them save you. They wanted to help a man onto his feet. He heard these words all the time. People tried to find work for Powell, who looked capable of working.
He had planned to make his proposition to Lloyd Guy. Now first he would have to talk to Tovey and Isobel.
Of course he had never known who the man at the opera was.
He had been fourteen years old; he would not have turned to look. They might believe him eavesdropping, suppose this boy to disapprove of their conversation…grow angry, make complaint. And who was Heinz to disapprove of others, or call attention to himself in any way? The opera had been his haven. He’d made himself small there in his seat, and hoped never to offend. The street car, coming home, had been lonely and crowded.
But the man had become his bête noire. He had raised so many questions, those Rohdl had asked himself a thousand times.
You have been taught how to behave. It is your wish to obey, to be thought good. You know what you have done is not right. You huddle in a house with no roof; and yet, when you fear your bizarre acts have been seen, you seek to disguise yourselves, to frighten away scrutiny by raising phantoms. If they could be content with mere social approval, these mystifications would not attract them. They would—why would they not, such powerful men?—supersede God, put themselves in his place, rather than fear He would find them out and condemn them.
They had buried their secrets at the mill, and Rohdl had been witness. Carted away in the aftermath were nearly all the proofs, and little might be rooted up today, but the house…he believed they still did things at the house. Mr. Guy had visited…Rohdl never knew what day it was…with his friend, who wore the suit, pale grey, hanging open, shirt buttons straining. And the hat. Was it possible, Rohdl had wondered, noticing these things that made the man disagreeable to him, to have a hat fit so badly? Had he stolen it? This friend of Mr. Guy’s had said, well within earshot, “But your pal over there used to be some kind of scientist. I mean, he’s smart. You have to stay on your toes, Guy. You get a smart loony, it could all be an act.”
And, as Rohdl had supposed, this ostentation had been in its own right an act. They could have said these same things in the car, but Rohdl would not have heard. Himself, he could not be bothered deceiving people. But how did he know whether the things he thought of, he did not sometimes speak aloud? Mr. Guy had brought another vagrant, before he had brought Powell Kenzie. That one had not wished to spend the night.
Are You Haunted
(2016, Stephanie Foster)