I haven’t talked about this in over a year. Strange things happen to me on the road all the time, but this was actually bizarre and frightening.
I rarely deliver cars up to North Dakota, but I had one I was supposed to take to a small community just north of Fargo. My research had showed me it was going to be a real challenge to get out of there once the car was delivered. A lot of buses just to get to the next big city. My boss Riff had made it very clear to me that there was a package I was supposed to pick up from Mr. Gilford, the man who’d be getting a new company car. Riff said to get the package and send it to his office via Priority Mail.
The delivery time was arranged, and as I was driving north I kept on thinking of the movie FARGO. I know it was only a movie, but I kept on wondering if there might be any oddball characters that would cross my path there. Of course, odd people come my way nearly every single day. Bill’s people.
I arrived at the Gilford home at 10 in the morning, as instructed. It was a ramshackle house, all the way at the end of a deserted road. No other houses were anywhere near it. Mr. Gilford opened the door quickly after I knocked. “Bill Thomas?” he asked.
“Yes sir,” I said cheerfully.
“Get in here, quick, quick.” I stepped inside and he closed the door behind me very fast. “Sorry to rush you, but I need to keep that door closed. You never know who may be trying to slip inside. You know how it is, right?”
“Come on in the den, I was just watching the Vikings game. You like the Vikings?”
“They’re OK, but I’m a southern boy, so—“
“I won’t hold that against you.” We stepped into the den, and he had a large console TV from the 70's, the kind in a big cabinet. There was an old VCR on top of the TV. “This is one of my favorite games, from back in ’99. I save all of them on the VHS tape, don’t you know.”
“Really?” I found this interesting, because most of America uses either DVR or TiVo now. I remember when I used to record all my favorite shows on VCR, back in the 90’s.
Mr. Gilford seemed jumpy. “I have some paperwork to get for you. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll go find that package. Enjoy the game, the Vikings just might make a believer out of you.”
I sat on the torn up couch and began looking at the game. After a couple of minutes, the game was interrupted. Clearly, someone had used the tape and recorded over it. I couldn’t tell what I was watching at first. Then I could see it was an elderly woman moving along slowly on her walker. Shockingly, someone jumped in front of her wearing a gorilla mask. The old woman screamed. The guy wearing the mask yanked it off his head and screamed “Why don’t you just die, Aunt Ethel?”
The old woman was clearly shaken up badly. “Why? Why? Why Toby? Why do you treat me this way?”
“Because I hate you, Aunt Ethel! Because I want you gone!” Toby rushed to the camera and screamed into it. Then the scene switched to another location at another time. It appeared to be in the garage. Aunt Ethel was moving very cautiously on her walker.
“Hello?” she called out. “Is somebody there? Hello?” Suddenly, darts were being thrown at her, and she looked at the camera and exclaimed. “Why? Why, Toby? Please stop throwing thoe darts at me. Someone could get hurt.”
Toby’s voice could be heard off camera shouting, “I sure do hope so. That's the plan.”
Aunt Ethel began to speed up on the walker, and was going as fast as she could. “Toby, you’re making me go too fast, and this old walker of mine won’t take it.” She screamed as the walker collapsed into pieces and she fell to the ground. Toby stepped in front of the camera and grinned, holding out his hand full of bolts and screws. In the background, Aunt Ethel’s voice could be heard pleading. “Why? Why? Why must it be this way, Toby?”
Once again, the scene changed, and the camera was filming in the room where I was sitting. In the den. The camera point of view walked around the room and finally rested on the closet door. A hand reached out and opened the door, and poor Aunt Ethel was scrunched up on the floor whimpering. “Toby, please help me.”
Toby’s voice could be heard from behind the camera. “Why should I want to help you, you sick old witch?”
“Why, Toby, why? Why do you treat me this way?”
“You should have died a long time ago. Your very existence makes me crazy. Tell anyone about this and I will kill you.”
“I’m sorry, Toby. I love you!”
“Oh, shut up,” he yelled, and his hand came into view and stuffed a rag in her mouth. Toby closed the closet door and then turned the camera onto himself. “I am the man, I reign supreme. I will live forever, no more Aunt Ethel.” Then he let out an evil laugh. And then the tape went back to the football game. The Vikings were winning.
I stared at the closet door. I was transfixed by it. I got up and slowly walked over to the closet, afraid of what I might find. But I had to open it. I threw open the door, and found it full of junk. No Aunt Ethel.
“What are you doing?” It was Mr. Gilford, and I nearly jumped through the ceiling from the surprise.
“I was just… sorry, I mean, I was only… I didn’t…”
“Never mind,” he said. “I got your package here.” As he handed it to me, I noticed a picture of Toby among other family pictures on a shelf near the TV. There was also a picture of Aunt Ethel. Mr. Gilford picked up the picture of Toby.
“That guy looks sort of familiar to me.”
“Really?” he said sadly. “That was my nephew Toby. Tragic story, really.”
“My mother was living here with me. And Toby came to stay for a while. He adored my Mom, thought she hung the moon. Loved that woman so much.” He began to tear up, clearly choked up. “This was just over a year ago. Anyhow, one day my mom, Ethel was her name, she just lost her mind. Somehow she got behind the wheel of my car, and she ran over poor Toby. Dragged his body all over the backyard. It was really horrible. I was able to keep her out of jail, but had to commit her to a Home. She had clearly become a danger to herself and to others.”
I handed Mr. Gilford a clipboard. “Just sign here, and the car is all yours.”
As he was signing, he said, “Now how are you getting out of here?”
“There’s a bus depot a few blocks away. I’ll be fine.”
“Listen, I’m sorry for sharing that personal stuff about my family. It breaks my heart that my Mom just went nuts like that. And for absolutely no good reason.”
I started out the door, then turned around. “How long since you’ve watched this game on tape, Mr. Gilford?”
“I don’t know, maybe a few years.”
“You just missed a really good play while you were out of the room, I suggest you rewind the tape.”
“Thanks Bill, I’ll do that.”
As I walked away, I hoped that he would watch and perhaps gain some insight. Meanwhile, thinking about it still gives me the chills.