The sins of Richard Ellwell were dark and mysterious.

My mother made it clear early on that there was something “not right” about him.

A certain murkiness settled over him like a lingering cloud until the very name Richard Ellwell held in it a range of darkness from simply black to very, very black.

It was not necessary to know what evil was in his heart to assume he was sinister. My mother never spoke his name without disdain, so the mark was firmly on him. My aunt, who taught third grade forever, and was an authority on bad children, would nod knowingly when my mother told a Richard Ellwell story. That’s all it took.

I did what both children and adults seem to do so often, I simply accepted his fate for him and I never thought of him as anything but bad.

There is a faded photograph I have from the mid 1950s that shows me (at 5?) tied fast to a swing set, the rope coiled tightly around me, in a most convincing fashion. And who should be standing over me in that picture but Richard Ellwell. This may be the only recorded evidence of the existence of Richard Ellwell in that time and space.

Upon seeing that black and white photo nothing further is needed to convince even the most trusting soul that Spencer Tracy in “Boy’s Town” was dead wrong….there is such a thing as a bad boy.

All of this is now dimly lit in my mind, however, which allows for the long rich twisted shadows to emerge and with them the gray vagueness which is so necessary for the construction of dreams.

Yet in the midst of this ambiguity my memory seizes on the central act that sealed Richard Ellwell’s fate and fall from grace.

Richard Ellwell walked into our house uninvited and opened the refrigerator door.

I think I can actually see this activity in my mind’s eye. See it as it occurred in real time.

This may just be a mirage, however, created by my mother’s words, as she told this story over and over and over again. This had a hypnotic effect on me and as with many memories it might be composed of nothing more than her words and smoke.

I believe my mother memorized the story as one would memorize the words on a stone tablet:

Richard Ellwell walked into our house uninvited and opened the refrigerator door.

On the day this happened SOMETHING awful did occur….my mother grabbed Richard Ellwell and let him know in no uncertain terms that no child in Texas in the mid 1950’s would even dare to think of doing what he had done.

I remember being shocked into silence by the sheer vehemence of my mother on this issue.

It was as if her life’s destiny was fulfilled in the moment that she seized Richard Ellwell and she would be damned to hell if the entire world didn’t know that it had happened.

How Richard Ellwell exited our house I’m not certain, but it seems as if that was the last time he ever set foot on our property.

Unfortunately there is more to the story.

Almost immediately upon witnessing these acts and noticing that my mother was extremely angry I began constructing the belief that Richard Ellwell did indeed walk into our house uninvited and he did of his own volition open our refrigerator door.

Yet this version in all probability is not the truth.

Deep in my consciousness is the belief and/or knowledge that I in fact invited Richard into our house and may well have said “help yourself ” or even opened the refrigerator door for him before disappearing into another room.

I say this because belief and knowledge are welded together in such a way that I see no possibility of knowing for certain anymore what is true ….at least while I continue to exist on this earth.

However I fully expect that, on my deathbed, as my life flashes before my eyes, I will at last know the truth of the matter.

And if, as I suspect, I am guilty of this misdeed and through cowardice and fear kept it concealed from not only my mother but also from myself, I intend to ask Richard Ellwell, my mother, and God himself for forgiveness.

Richard Ellwell lived 3 houses down from us on the north side of the hill

Richard Ellwell lived in a pseudo modern, multi leveled house made of the white limestone that was used to construct many of the houses in Ridglea Hills.

This house too has become a twisted visage in my mind, probably because it bares the name Ellwell.

I have visited the house many times in my dreams, yet I doubt that I was actually in it more than four or five times.

Soon after the refrigerator incident, Richard Ellwell and all the Ellwells moved away (no doubt because of the guilt and shame).

But I must have been in the house at some point in those early years as it is quite vivid in my imagination.

Many of my dreams are of houses and places. In fact I would say that almost all my dreams in one way or another involve the interior or exterior of a building.

And perhaps because that house always remained the Ellwell house in my mind it has always been dark and mysterious. Even though for most of my life other unknown tenants inhabited it.

Mystery too is a building block of dreams.

The limestone exterior of that house never in all those years picked up the goodness and valor that is inherent in white.

Built on the steepest part of the steepest side of the hill its exterior was covered with steps and landings, and I seem to remember on several Halloweens after the Ellwells moved away, trudging up and down those steps in search of candy.

Since as far as I know no other baby boomer child inhabited that house, it soon became just a part of the landscape.

It became just a house on the left as I careened down the steepest side of the hill trying desperately to stop whatever vehicle I was on or in before reaching the forlorn stop sign and entering the deadly cross street.

In case you think I am exaggerating about this let me just say that years later at the bottom of another hill only a few streets over, three of my classmates did die as the Corvette they occupied careened out of control.

I was there soon after, seeing all that I could see, but was not able to get that close as a crowd had already gathered and fire trucks, ambulances, and police were everywhere.

But that too has faded to gray and those classmates are simply photographs now to most of us. They have been frozen in time.

Like the Richard Ellwell house, all things, even death, eventually became the domain of dreams.