Little Offerings

All of us have read or heard a limerick at one point or another. Some are funny, others with slightly adult based content, but all relay some kind of message or have a story to tell. One that my aunty told me had some seriously strange and dark content. She and her friends used to regale it in the fifties… it went something like this:

“There was an old man called Isaac,
Who was known as a terrible miser,
So we all made him pay,
He was split several ways,
Right up from his toes to incisors.”

Pretty grim, hey?

I asked her if the limerick was made up or was about actual events, to which she told me her grandmother told her the rhyme and yes, it was based upon a real man although it was partially inaccurate

“What my grandmother told me gives me shivers whenever it comes into my mind, even to this day,” she said with a shudder.

“Do you know what happened to create such a dark limerick?” I asked inquisitively. The tale that followed will stick with me for life, just as though I was actually there…

My grandmother was from a small town in Lithuania, I forget the name now. As a young teenager, she was just the same as you and I were when we were kids. Down the road from her lived a man called Isaac Gorvach, and he lived with his wife and son Josef who was about the same age as grandma. Isaac stood about six feet tall, with short mousey brown hair. Underneath bushy eyebrows of the same colour, there nestled a pair of bright blue eyes that always seemed to sparkle and smile. He had a bulbous nose and a five o’clock shadow that seemed to eternally remain on his face, as if rebelliously denying the man a clean-shaven face. Despite his tall figure, he was quite a slight fellow and looked as though the merest of breezes would pick him up and carry him away.

He seemed like a perfectly nice guy, until the fateful day when his wife was killed by wild animals whilst out walking in the forest on the outskirts of our little town. So torn up and destroyed about this horrific event he was, that he blamed himself and shut himself away from everyone. He simply became a recluse, hiding from society and even shutting his son out too. Society noticed this and soon Josef was taken to stay with his relatives in a neighbouring town in hopes that soon Isaac would snap out of the funk he was in. But alas, the longer he hibernated in solitude from life outside, the more bitter and hermit like he became. A few years went by and Isaac, other than showing his face to buy groceries, would shut himself away for weeks on end. Where he was once fun-loving, charitable and sociable with townsfolk and heir children alike, he chased away any people that ventured to the front door of his decaying and over vegetated homestead. This meant whenever Halloween and Christmas came along, children were often sent crying from his door.

“Begone with you little brats!! Always looking to get something for nothing!!” He’d yell, waving his tightly clenched fist after them. Now this went on for years, and it began to take it’s toll on the once cheerful gentleman.

The man used to carry himself proudly, standing tall and walking with pride and mirth. This changed and as years went by, his stature began to stoop over and he started to walk bow-legged whilst clutching an old walking stick that looked as though it was fashioned from a gnarled old tree branch. The smiling sparkly eyes had changed too, and the went from being bright blue, to a dull grey that made him look all the more unwilling to live. The five o clock shadow grew into a short scruffy beard, and looked as unkempt as his matted grey hair which appeared as though someone glued a greasy straw like wig on his wizened old head.

He refused to change and nothing would or could convince him to do so either. This proceeded to continue, until people decided to leave him alone for good. Time went by, and Isaac gotten worse and even more twisted inside… Then came the day that a family moved in a few doors down the street from him and they were completely oblivious to who he was and what he was like. They were soon made aware of the bitter old man’s existence. Their young son had joined the cubs and as part of a badge assignment, he was going around the house to see if he could do odd jobs for people, when he saw Isaac’s overgrown garden and thought this would be another badge on his uniform. He pottered up the broken garden path cheerily and knocked as loudly on the door as his little fists would allow.

“Hello?? Who’s there??” called the grumpy fellow from behind his peeling, mouldy door.

“Hello there sir, I’m Gerard and I am on a badge task from the cubs… may I talk to you?” asked the young boy timidly.

“Go away!! Leave me be!!” retorted the miserable bloke.

“But sir, I only intend to help you with a few jobs here and there and then I will be on my way. Please open the door so I may talk with you.” The miser opened the door, walking cane clutched by one bony hand. He leaned on the door frame and towered over the golden-haired youth. He looked at the young boy in the eye, and started speaking in a calm voice “Young man, may I suggest that you leave my property this instant? Because if you don’t, I’ll tan your behind with this cane!! NOW LEAVE AND DON’T RETUR…” his rant was swiftly interrupted as he accidentally over swung his walking stick and struck the bewildered and defenceless child square on the forehead, knocking him to the ground in a seemingly lifeless heap.

“Oh s**t!! What’ll I do?” He said to himself in a blind panic. In an act borne from sheer fear, he dragged the boy inside, where he proceeded to try and stop the blood from seeping from the gash in the boy’s forehead… Amidst the commotion, he had forgotten to close the door to his dilapidated old home. So he ran back to the front door, where he closed the door quickly. He continued the task of cleaning the result of his brutal handiwork on the boy’s face and tried to revive him. Again and again Isaac tried to get the boy to breathe, but to no avail. He was at a complete loss of what to do next. He was fearfully contemplating what to do next, when a knock came on his old wooden front door. “Mr Gorvach, please open the door, as we need to speak with you.” came a frantic voice from behind the rotting wood panel. This sent Isaac into a flustered mess, and in a moment of total insanity he grabbed the unconscious boy and pushed his body through a door, downstairs into his gloomy dank cellar. The frightened man then quickly closed the door and opened the front door, casting his prior bitterness to one side momentarily to deal with the visitors.

“Mr Gorvach, I am Harriet Leibenic and this is Randalf Leibenic. We have moved in a few doors down from you and we are worried as our son has gone missing. He was doing rounds in this street for cubs and no one knows where he has gone. Have you seen him at all?”, inquired Mrs Leibenic in a worried state. Isaac could’ve told her what happened but for fear of what the consequences would be, he denied knowledge of their child’s whereabouts.

“I am sorry to hear that. I saw him earlier, but told him I didn’t need help. I might have scared him off, for which I apologise. If I see him again, I will send him to you instantly,” announced the old guy with false sincerity. The couple thanked him and wandered away heartbroken. Isaac closed the door and flopped against it, spine first. He went down into the cellar, lighting a candle to illuminate the way ahead of him. There, at the foot of the stairs, lay the crumpled pile that was the little boy. He picked him up and looked at him. The child looked dead for definite and the man was becoming rapidly more scared with every passing moment.

“Maybe he will come around if I leave him alone for a while,” Isaac said to himself. With that, he trundled up the stairs again. The day dragged by for Isaac rendering him void of appetite and relaxation respectively. The night-time was no different, and he tossed and turned sleeplessly. When he finally drifted off, the sun appeared only a moment later, pushing its bright rays through a crack between his drapes.

“Jesus!! Got to check on the boy!!” he exclaimed in a sleepy panic, and it was this realisation that snapped him from drowsiness to full alertness. He ran downstairs to inspect the condition of the child he abandoned overnight. He lit a candle, and crept gingerly down the steps towards the cellar…

As he started down the steps, he all of a sudden got that sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong. He couldn’t put his finger on it, and didn’t want to ponder any longer than was necessary. Dismissing his dread, he ventured deeper into the bowels of his house. As soon as he reached the foot of the stairwell, he saw the child. He heard the child breathing and he too breathed a sigh of utter relief.

But relief was to be very short-lived as on closer inspection, the child was not as well as expected… The little boy was sat hunched in an almost foetal position, head in hands and breathing in raspy, wheezing gasps. His hair was dirty with the combination of dried blood and the filth from the cellar floor. The frightened man trembled before the tiny harrowing figure, knowing for certain that the boy’s parents wouldn’t appreciate him returning their son in the appalling state he appeared to be in.

“A-are you ok-k?” stammered the petrified Isaac.

“W-want h-h-help… want my motherrr”, rasped the child.

“W-want mummy n-nowww…” wailed the infant hoarsely.

“Let m-me look at y-you boy” said the man, plucking up the faintest particle of courage to approach the kid before him. The boy raised his head, removing his tiny arms and hands away from his little face…

The vision that greeted Isaac was one that filled him with complete fear. The child’s face was pale, almost corpse like in appearance and his eyes seemed to have retreated into a makeshift recess created by the darkened bags surrounding them. The cut that he caused the day before had crusted over, but was weeping a yellow, viscous liquid that he couldn’t identify. Isaac’s heart came close to standing still in mid beat. Streaks of dried blood had trailed either side of the boy’s tiny nose, making it seem like he had a bullet or stab wound on his forehead.

How could one night alone have altered the child’s appearance so much? He was freaked out and completely baffled by this anomaly of a situation. Isaac had little time to contemplate this as the boy slowly and rigidly began to stand up. Isaac went to step back, but caught his own foot on the uneven floor and staggered backwards then fell on his a*s. |He quickly scrambled to his feet as the boy reached his fully upright position.

“I WANT MY MUMMY!!” screeched the youth.

“Your mummy will come tomorrow, young man. I must clean you up first. Then we can have food… would you like that?” stammered the old man.

“Uh huh” sobbed the child. Isaac instructed the boy to stay put while he went upstairs for a basin of warm water to clean the child. Moments after reaching the safe haven of the main house, a thought struck him. A devious thought indeed.

“What if I feed the boy and put one of my barbiturates ground into his food? I won’t have to bring him upstairs just yet and give him time to heal… besides I sure don’t want to gaze on that ghastly pale face of the brat!”

Barbiturates, for those who don’t know, were sleeping pills used in the early 1900’s. They were strong but had side effects that were still coming out of the woodwork at the time of their use. He went back downstairs into the murky depths of his house and told the boy he was going to have food with him down in the cellar while he dries off, then he would put him to bed in one of his spare rooms so he could rest and get better. The boy nodded, in higher spirits, but Isaac couldn’t fathom whether the infant was faking as he still was extremely pale. The man proceeded to clean the dirt and blood from the child’s face, hair and hands and then he looked again at the kid.

“I’m Isaac, what’s your name?” inquired the grumpy man.

“Gerard,” replied the boy quietly. “Well Gerard, I’m going to go and put our broth together and we can eat. I shall be a short while, so please wait here.” Isaac walked to the far wall of the dingy cellar and opened the wooden shutters so some light came in, then off he went to “sort” the food out… Filling two bowls with broth, he sought out his pills and ground one up with the back of a wooden spoon. Then he carefully swept the pill into the bowl from his worktop. Carefully, he mixed the concoction together until no powder was noticeable and walked into the cellar carrying the food. He handed the bowl of broth to the boy slowly, being careful not to spill a drop of the tainted meal. “Here you go, young man. Be careful as it is very hot,” warned the shrewd and calculating man. Isaac dug into his, with appetite strangely restored; whilst watching intently as the boy shovelled spoonfuls of poisoned broth into his eager mouth.

“Thish ish really nice, shir. Thank you for thish” slurred the unsuspecting youth. Moments later, Gerard flopped to his side in a seemingly lifeless heap. Isaac made sure the boy was still alive by listening for breathing, then wandered back upstairs to enjoy the rest of his day and figure what he would do next regarding the child and when he would return him to his grieving parents. Things seemed to be going okay for Isaac, or so he thought… He was sleeping in his bed that night, when a loud noise awoke him from his slumber.

“What’s going on?” he thought. He went downstairs to investigate the disturbance. All seemed fine on the ground floor of his home, which left one place.

“Oh jesus! The cellar, the boy!!” He exclaimed to himself. He opened the door, and lit a candle then walked quietly down the stone steps into the darkness of his basement. His candle dimly lit the ground before him when he reached the foot of the stairs and he saw something strange.

The little boy was awake, but hunched over facing the wall. Gerard looked like he was eating something, and the crunching sounds confirmed it. The old man approached the child and was filled with disgust and shock upon seeing what was being consumed by the little kid. Isaac tapped the boy on the shoulder and the boy turned around slowly, still chewing in the large black rat that was in his tiny hands. Fresh blood covered his mouth and chin and again he started to rise to his feet, dropping the half eaten rodent in the process.

Isaac wasn’t watching where he was stepping as he shuffled backwards and slipped upon something that looked like blood. He fell down, crashing to the floor with a bump. He wasn’t given chance to regain an upright position this time, as the boy unexpectedly lurched forward then launched himself upon the man laying prone and helpless on the ground. The child’s eyes narrowed in their already minuscule sockets as he started to claw his way up the frightened and bewildered man’s body. The little child’s fingers had curled over, resembling hideous claws. It seemed like they had frozen in that state – a side effect of the drug, maybe?

“Want more food… want meat… want it now…” said the child in a kind of trance. Gerard had now reached the man’s chest and sat upon it, drawing a small knife from his pocket that he had taken from the tool shelf. That was the noise that awoke Isaac from sleep. He was frozen to the spot with abject fear. Then the child grinned an evil, devilish grin and descended upon the helpless old man… The boy started to carve the petrified Isaac up into pieces, from his face all the way to his toes. The man screamed in pain for a short while, until shock took control of him and death claimed another victim for his list…

From what my Aunties Grandmother told her, Gerard escaped from the house, with his knife in his pocket and was never seen again. And what of Isaac? He was discovered by a nosey neighbour several days later, when she noticed Isaac’s door wide open. She and her husband looked inside and noticed bloody footprints leading to the cellar. They followed the trail and saw nothing but a pile of human bones and clothes on the floor in a huge pool of blood. Police were called to the house, along with the coroner. He soon announced that it was Isaac. The whole town soon heard the news, but not a tear was shed… no burial or cremation.

So what happened to the remains? As a momento of the day of his death, every inhabitant of the town got given a piece of bone on some black cord. Everyone wore them like some kind of morbid trophy… I glanced at a photo that my Aunt had clutched in her trembling hands. In the picture, she was stood with her Grandmother and a few of her Grandma’s friends.

Around their sagging wrinkly necks, a single black thread hung. Adorning this cord, there was a single white hard substance – the bone fragment of the deceased Isaac. I looked back at my Aunty. With a weak smile, she uttered just this:

“The moral of the story is: never be a miser – it will tear you apart…”