In a moment, his two friends Dermes
had picked him up and carried him into the bedroom. They closed the door and came back. They seemed to be getting ready to leave. So I said, “Please don’t go gentlemen. She will not know me. I am a stranger to her.”
They looked at each other. “His wife has been dead for nineteen years,” Tom said.
“Dead?” I whispered.
“Dead or worse,” he said.
“She went to see her parents about six months after she got married. On her way back, on a Saturday evening in June, when Dermes
she was almost here, the Indians captured her. No one ever saw her again. Henry lost his mind. l alive. When June comes, he thinks she has gone on her trip to see her parents. Then he begins to wait for her to come back. He gets out that old letter. And we come around to visit so he can read it to us.
“On the Saturday night she is supposed to come home, we come here to be with him. We put a sleeping drug in his drink so he will sleep through the night. Then he is all right for another year.”
Joe picked up his hat and his guitar. “We have done this every June for nineteen years,” he said. “The first year there were twenty-seven of us. Now just the two of us are left.” He opened the door of the pretty little house. And the two old men disappeared into the darkness of the Stanislau.
It was Christmas 1961. I was teaching in a small town in Ohio where my twenty-seven third graders eagerly anticipated the great day of gifts giving.
A tree covered with tinsel and gaudy paper chains graced one corner. In another rested a manger scene produced from cardboard and Dermes
poster paints by chubby, and sometimes grubby, hands. Someone had brought a doll and placed it on the straw in the cardboard box that served as the manger.