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Gabe, the goatee man

Within our small village were several homes that were not in the best of shape. One was close to being declared uninhabitable. In it lived an old man, we called Gabe the goatee man because he wore a goatee like many of his goats.

The roof of his home was covered not with regular tile but it was a thatched roof coming down to the ground.

On both sides tiny windows were covered by grimy rags. Gabe hardly ever came outside, and his life was centered around his messy living room.

As children we would sometimes burst into that room without being invited. He never locked any of his doors, and when we ran inside, the old man would scream at us. We directly would run outside again and considered it quite a feat to get the man all upset.

It was strange inside the place, with its outdated pieces of furniture and old posters on the wall. Gabe would sit in an old wicker chair by the table with an assortment of goats and chickens around him.

One day, having run inside, I remained standing close to him and noticed some chickens on top of the table finishing the last of Gabe’s lunch. I decided to sit down on one of the nearby chairs and watch him. I soon noticed that the chickens had made some generous deposits on the cushion of the chair. When the old man was not watching me, I flipped the cushion over with the hope that the other side would still be clean. But no such luck. I found that there too the chickens had left their contributions.

I remained standing, and neither of us spoke a word. Below the table, Gabe had tossed some hay, and on each leg a goat had been tied, calmly eating from the hay. I also noticed that these animals, at regular intervals, did their business where they were standing. This did not seem to trouble Gabe, and by now, I was sure, he was used to the strong stench in his living quarters.

I soon left and walked home. Upon my arrival, my mother insisted that I immediately take a bath and get dressed in clean clothes. I personally did not understand why — it was not even Saturday night yet.

The old man lived like that for another number of years, but then some of the neighbors heard much noise for days coming from the animals in the home. Finally, one of the men next door could no longer stand the noise made by the goats. He went inside and found the old man sitting in his chair, no longer alive.

The animals had not been fed for a time and had started eating the window coverings. The police and a doctor were called, and shortly later an ambulance came and took the body away.

The home was taken down and the lot remained unoccupied for some time, until a vegetable seller built a wooden structure on the lot. He soon lost many of his former customers because they felt that the stench of the animals had penetrated the veggies. Then the wooden structure burned down, some saying it had been set by the owner to collect insurance on the place.

The rubble was cleared from the lot, and until this very day the former place of old Gabe remains vacant.

Tony Antonides lives in Central Point.

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