Back in the sixties, Rothia Fleming operated the only taxi service in Randolph, and her well-known rooming house at One School Street sheltered many a weary soul. In 1969, the Jackson family acquired the old house, built as a rectory in the heart of downtown. The location—and the connection to Rothia—made for some interesting encounters. Cynthia Jackson remembers one of them here. Cynthia, who has been with the Hale Street Gang from the beginning, is a writer of many moods—you never know from one week to the next whether she is going to move you to tears or laughter. Jack's portrait captures her mischievous side; this excerpt hints at her affinity for the absurd.
It was a Saturday morning in April 1970, and we had been living in Randolph for almost a year. Johnny had gone downstairs to the kitchen, Mindy was still sleeping, and Chris, contrary to his usual Saturday morning habit of sleeping late, was still out, having gotten up at 6 a.m. to learn his buddy’s newspaper route so he could fill in for him at some point. I was in the upstairs bedroom getting dressed when I heard the front door slam—Chris getting back, I thought. Then he proceeded to thump up the front stairs loudly enough to awaken the dead. Mindful of the still sleeping Mindy, I grabbed a robe and whipped out of our bedroom door, shushing as I went. Whoa! What to my wondering eyes should appear but a ragged old man with a wooden peg leg, bent nearly double as he struggled up the steep stairs toward me. At each step, he first stomped up with his good foot, then, grasping the peg leg behind the knee, swung it clear of the edge of the step and dropped it down with a jarring thump.
After a moment spent trying to recover my ability to speak, I told the raggedy man who I was and asked him what he wanted. He stopped his laborious climb and, looking up to see the source of this unknown voice, fixed me with a rheumy glare.