Hovis Washam is a man, but not just any man. Hovis is an old man and has been around for as long as anyone can remember, yet no one can remember just how long he’s been around. He’s the kind of man anyone would think of as a hermit—a bent white-haired figure with a sparse, stiff beard, leaning on a cane, who lives way up where no one else even knows exists. On the outside, Hovis may just fit that hermit’s description. He does have white hair. It’s sparse on his head and stiff. His sparse beard, although mostly white still has some strands of brown—the only tell-tale sign of who the old man might have been like in his youth before Age descended upon him.
Hovis also has a bent figure—a bend at the shoulders that makes his right elbow stick out a slight bit, and he leans on a curving cane decorated by the delicate carvings that only men with the experience of aging can so neatly make. All these things you would see if you passed Hovis on the street on any old day, and you would just dismiss him from your mind as an old man who lives somewhere on his own and has nothing to do with you.
However, had you ever stopped to watch Hovis, watch the way he walks—with a slight jump-step and a careful, steady but light step of one foot in front of the other. If you watched the way Hovis’ slightly clouded eyes never seem to dart all around or jump about, yet see every little thing that goes on, watched the wrinkled, faded and age beaten face as he walked along, as he crossed the street, as he thought his thoughts. If you watched all these things and if you really wanted to see into the shell of a man, you might just be able to see that this little unassuming man has a huge story.
If you look into Hovis’ face and stare at his eyes, they flicker just a bit. And in that second of a flicker, you can almost see those wrinkles fall away, the clouds on his eyes disappear, the fuzzy, tiny bit of stiff white hair on his balding head flow back in time to the shock of curly black it used to be. You can almost see the sucked in, wrinkled mouth regain its fullness while its pale line of lips strengthen in color to a rosy pink of youth. If you succeed in this, you will see that this old hermit of a man was once a blithe, gallant young man. Even though you just saw this flashing transformation for just a second, when the old Hovis returns, that rapid alteration will stay with you forever. Now you know that not all that is seen from the outside is a mirror of what is inside. In fact, the exact opposite is so often the case.
Now suppose after you saw this change in the old man that you previously thought as a nobody, you thought that there must be even more secrets behind the aged face. This thought stayed with you until you yearned to know more. You go and see the old man to satisfy your curiosity.
As you reach Hovis’ house, you are seized with a sudden doubt. Could that transformation have been just your imagination? But as you think back to the event that changed your perception of the old man, you realize with a new fullness that it was indeed a reality.
At your tentative knock, the old man slowly rises out of his chair and stands a while to clear his head before he proceeds to the door to allow his visitor to enter. He cannot remember the last time someone had knocked at his door, but with all the other things he has been forgetting lately he doesn’t trust himself to remember anything like this. He fumbles with the rusty door latch on his oaken door and opens the door to see the face of a youth. For a moment Hovis stands motionless except for the slight swaying motion that can be expected from old people. As he looked into the young face of the teen, he was plunged into reminiscent memories of when he himself had been that young. As he did, he relished in the fact that his elderly brain had at least allowed him this slight moment of near fun. Almost painfully the old man wrenched himself from his beloved memories to attend to his guest.