But no one bothered to explain further to us ‘kids’ what kind of monster or what this ‘monster’ really looked like. They just gave the impression that the monster looked like Old Man Red.
However, I did remember that a neighbor visited with my parents once. He was telling us in hushed whispers, that one dark night he saw Old Man Red digging a deep hole in the forest behind his, Mister Red’s, house. He was putting a big and long wrapped bundle into the hole before submerging it with dirt.
The neighbor theorized (or most probably spreading unfounded rumor, now that I have thought about it) that it was the body of Red’s victim, someone who probably displeased him in something or other.
Why he didn’t inform the police of his suspicions, I had no idea.
Also, it never occurred to any of us listeners to ask the neighbor what he is doing behind Old Man Red’s house at that time of the night, or why it sounded as if he spent his time spying on and stalking Old Man Red.
I suppose the only suspect worth being suspicious of was Old Man Red, simply for being who he was.
That was probably one of the beginnings of whispers of ‘monster’ which soon started to spread like wildfire.
People generally were not nice or wise when they latched on to some juicy gossips.
Why are adults so unkind when they gossip? Why do adults gossip, even? For that matter, why would anyone?
And so it was that to us children, imaginative beings such as we were, ‘monster’ was a frightening, fierce, growling, tall, thin, scraggly, straw-hat wearing creature which lurked around in dark forests and in dark houses waiting to grab at and eat misbehaving children.
For many years, I had these fear of Old Man Red.
Seeing adults giving him a wide berth whenever he made his rare outings in public certainly did not help to lessen this irrational fear I had.
And it wasn’t just me; all the children I knew then were frightened of the old man.
But then, something happened which shook the very foundation of my wary, fearful outlook on this presumably reluctant ‘figure of darkness’.
I would not be melodramatic about recounting the event, but it was life-changing for me, at least in how I then started to perceive Old Man Red.