Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ax Man

©Linda Goodman 10/28/2017

This is a true story. Names have been changed to protect privacy.

This photo of my parents was taken in 1972

             I first became aware of Malvie in 1974, when I was on a visit to the little cottage that my parents had moved into after the apartment project they had been living in had been condemned.  Malvie’s husband, his left side weak from a recent stroke, was trapped between his car and the car door. Malvie was repeatedly opening the car door and slamming him against the car with it.
            His cries of pain did not deter Malvie one bit. She kept on slamming that door with a vengeance. “What an awful woman!” I said to myself.
            During our visit, my parents told me about their neighbor Malvie. She seemed to hate everyone. She was especially nasty to my parents, who had the misfortune to live in the cottage directly across from hers. When they opened their front door to pick up the paper each morning, they would see Malvie’s frowning face staring at them through the window in her front door, just six feet away, as though they were infringing upon her territory.
            Whenever one of my siblings or I would visit Mama and Daddy, Malvie would take my parents to task. The rental office did not allow the cars of non-residents to park beside the cottages, she insisted.  My parents, however, did not have a car. My siblings and I, Mama explained, were merely parked in my parents’ usually vacant space. Malvie complained to the rental office, but they took my parents’ side. That just made Malvie madder. She cussed my mother out on a regular basis, never giving a clue as to why Mama was being singled out for such fierce invective.  
            Daddy, of course, looked out for Mama. He told Malvie that he prided himself on being a gentleman, but he would not stand for his sweet wife being continually insulted. At that, Malvie picked up a big gob of mud (it had rained the night before) and threw it smack into the middle of his face. He took his handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the mud away. He shook his head at Malvie as though she were a young, bad-mannered, mean child. Then he took Mama by the arm and escorted her into the cottage. My parents did not spend much time outside after that. I am sure that made Malvie happy.
            Things changed on the evening of October 31, 1975. Daddy had just come in from the front porch after giving out all of the Halloween candy that he had bought. He loved seeing the smiles on young faces when they were given their Halloween treats. “Too bad that Malvie had to spoil those young‘uns fun,” he growled. “She screamed and yelled like a banshee every time somebody knocked on her door. A good many of those children left crying, she scared them so bad.”
            “I heard her out there,” Mama confided. “I woulda called the police if we had a phone.”
            A few minutes later, my brother-in-law Donald, came by to borrow some of my daddy’s tools. As Daddy was getting up from his chair to go to the tool shed, a blood curdling scream came from the cottage across the way, Malvie’s cottage.
            “What in tarnation is that woman screaming at now?” Daddy asked.
            “Don’t pay attention to her,” Mama advised. “She is just having another one of her fits.”
            Just then the blood curdling scream came again. “He’s gonna kill me!” Malvie screamed.
            Without hesitation, Daddy and Donald swiftly ran out the door and shot across the way to Malvie’s. There she lay, curled into a ball on her cottage floor, pinned down by a man who was wielding an ax over his head. The man was swinging hard, but was too drunk to actually strike his target.
            Daddy and Donald got the man off of her and pinned him down, though he tried very hard to get away. He was crying like an outraged baby. Malvie got up from the floor and ran to call the police, who came and took the man away. Malvie went with them to give a statement.
            Donald was livid. “She didn’t even say thank you,” he fumed.
            “I didn’t ask her to,” Daddy replied.
            The next morning when Daddy went out to get his paper, he found a plate of hot cinnamon buns waiting for him. The buns were accompanied by a note from Malvie. “I would not have been alive to bake these buns if not for you and that young man. I promise I will be good to you and your family from now on. I will cherish our new found friendship.”
            Two weeks later, Daddy and Donald went to court to testify against the would-be ax murderer. The whole story came out during the trial: mistaking her house for his friend’s place, the drunken man had knocked on Malvie’s door. Malvie repeatedly insisted that his friend was not there. When the man wouldn’t accept that answer, Malvie had forcibly pushed him off her porch. She had gone back inside thinking that was that, when the man came crashing through her front door and grabbed the ax that was hanging on her front wall. He had knocked her to the floor and was ready to give her a whack, when Daddy and Donald arrived.
            The man was found guilty, but walked away free and clear because the judge believed that he was too drunk to actually know what he was doing.
            Daddy decided to stay for the next case, which involved a bad check that had been written by a young woman who had no money in the bank. She was found guilty and sentenced to six months in jail.
            Afterwards, one of the court newspaper reporters asked Daddy for his thoughts. “I believe that if I ever decide to commit a crime, I will get drunk and kill somebody before I will write a bad check,” Daddy stated.
            Malvie was true to her word. She treated my parents like gold after that. She was always baking them sweet treats, but when she found out that Mama was diabetic, she started cooking healthy treats for her. “I could not bear to lose such a dear woman,” Malvie said.
            Years later, in 1987, Malvie comforted Mama as Daddy lay dying from bone cancer. A year after that, Malvie shed tears when her husband accepted a new job that took them to another state. After that, since Mama still had no phone, they could communicate with each other through letters only. They wrote back and forth until my mother’s death in 1989.  After the funeral, Malvie gave me a lovely pot of yellow tulips, Mama’s favorite flower. I have not seen or heard from Malvie since.

            I never did learn Malvie’s back story. She would not talk about her life prior to living in her cottage. Many who knew her speculated that she was possessed by a demon. That does not matter now. In the end, the angels won her over to their side.


  1. Quite a tale, by a master storyteller. I will be thinking of this lady for a long time, wondering about her life story.


    1. Thanks, Susannah. That is quite a compliment coming from you, a master of maaster storytellers.
      I wonder about Malvie quite a bit myself. I became quite fond of her. She gave me a lot of support when I was divorcing my first husband. Such kindness.

  2. Nice that Malvie's backstory is still being wondered about from a storyteller's knowledge of the true self of Malvie's; uncontentment changed only by kindness. Wonderful share

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Leisa. Thanks for reading.

  3. Enjoyed the reality. Simple yet complex story. :-)

    1. Thanks, Linda. When my daddy told about pulling the ax man off of Malvie, it made my skin crawl.