Thursday, August 12, 2010
Hey Harry Part One
by: S. J. Huffman
Harry was a rather nondescript fellow, easily forgotten. Everyone thought so. He was a portly and tall man, with slumped shoulders and bad posture. His immeadiate look was one people couldn't pinpoint. At the tavern people would talk about what was wrong with him after he left. He's depressed somebody would say, it's just loneliness. Another one would clamor that it was simpleness, he is just dumb, he just doesn't have enough pistons firing in the ol noggin. Sometimes a hard man with eyes like daggers would look up from his dirty glass and curse him for being a coward. The general consensus was that he was just crazy, with a childhood like his it can't be helped, poor broken bastard. He most likely would have had a much better life if he would've been born in in 19th century bohemian France , but we don't choose when our where we are born...or the the cards we are dealt. Harry was dealt spades...and had been folding most of his life.
He was a solemn boy from a very early age. His parents didn't pay much attention to his radical shift in attitude. Occasionally, there would be a passing moment or two when his father was reading his newspaper and smoking his cherry pipe he would abruptly stop. Lowering the paper slowly down on to his lap and think that there was something seriously wrong with his boy. The giggly curious kid had radically shifted to a serious withdrawn, solemn child. Who was quick to apologize and and help out with whatever that was needed. Father would just joggle his head abruptly, shaking the gnawing feelings away, to return to the life of humdrum that he was accustomed to, thanking god inwardly that he at least wasn't like the neighbor boy Justin.
Father rarely noticed harry at all if truth be told. Most of the time the skinny lad was so quiet and unobtrusive you barely knew he was there. But there were times when he would catch him doing the oddest things. He remembered a time one lazy summer evening. The kind he had as a child, where his father would sit on the porch drinking lemonade, with his mother knitting in a rocking chair. The old house sturdy yet smooth with years of living and the elements steady invasion. Everyone belonged there, everything was in its place and right with the world. Every imperfection whether it be a rounded stone on the old brick sidewalk, or the deep knots of wood spiraling along the columns belonged. He could tell the world was alive on those days, it was all one entity. Like a mosaic that you could only appreciate in brief magical moments, when you felt the living world all around you. Father remembered those fleeting times, but it seemed like Harry was living it each day. But instead of laughing and exhilarating at being alive, Harry seemed like he was looking at a the frightening power of the world growing dark and wretched before the storm. Harry's eyes were deep black pools, almost hollow in his face. Like a soldier who had seen the most terrifying things a man should never see, and was just trying to come to grips with it.
The sun was setting on the first day that his eyes opened to the changes he had always ignored about his son. The changes he knew deep down in his bones, the changes that made him fear and wake shivering in the night. The air seemed to hang around holding everything still. One of those days were the world had become a painting, and every person and every detail a stroke of an artist with the hand of god. He stood up stretching, having the whim to find his son. He wanted to give him a glass jar, so he could catch lightning bugs in the growing dusk. Harry was nowhere to be found. The basketball court was empty, and he could see no one through the open blinds of the guest house. But Father's mind was clear. On days like this he didn't want to slip into the drudgery...didn't need to. His mind was focused, and he knew what was important, and what wasn't. He wanted to spend time with his son. It was overpowering, his body lead him without conscious thought. Lost in the canvas of life on a magical day.
His mind clear without the weight moved fast to wear his son would be. The place where harry spent most of his time. Often accompanied by animals, where he would sit and talk to them for hours. He tried telling him once that animals couldn't understand what you were saying. That they were simple creatures, who only understood tone of voice. That he should try talking to people more, and children his own age. They had things to say back. Harry looked at him knowingly with his black eyes and said, "There are some animals you can't talk to". It was unnerving, and he couldn't admit why. He felt uncomfortable like he always did when trying to raise his subtlety willfull son. He was infuriating at times. Never shouting or arguing, always listening to what you had to say, and yet he seemed to never change his mind. Then it seemed like he never saw that harry again.
His quiet child. So solemn. He wondered what happened to the child that used to run to see him when he came home from work. On bad days he would sit in his chair, and harry would come running up brushing his shoulders off and patting his chest with his tiny hands. He used to say with an exulting voice of triumph, "Your slugs are off daddy!". He couldn't help but smile. Harry always was very sensitive to peoples moods. Always making them laugh and smile. Telling them they had to help him get the creatures he imagined swarming around them to go away. Catherine would play along laughing, shoooing away the fictious beasts playfully. All smiles and radiant she would proudly tell him. "We did it!" Father withdrew savagely from his nastalgia. He did not trust those memories. He tried not to even think about them. Down that path layed snares and traps of the mind. Men where not created to think abstractly without dangerous consequences. Time was an enemy that chafed your memory into a lie you believe if you dwell on it too often.
It was far better to avoid a battle with time you cannot win. It was an ally with the mysteries of the world you can never know and chase aimlessly until your life is forfeit. He was a dreamer like Harry once. Lost so much in imagination that all he wanted to do was dream whether he was sleeping or not. His patriarch took the time to snap him out of it, showing him the futility and dangers of dreaming. Had him talk to the beatniks at the local coffee shop and pointed out how threadbare their clothing was, and how most of them were homeless and lost in thought and intoxication. He taught him how a man must partition his mind, and only allow himself these idle thoughts after a days work is done, and only then to be imbibed as a luxury, like a cup of fine bourbon trickling down your throat. What does pursuing these idle philosophies indulge? Nothing but dissatisfaction. Your life will become one that inches along slowly painfully aware of every tick and tock, until you are catapolted violently into the distance where you find you hair has become gray, and the face in the mirror is one of a stranger. Harry seemed to be inevitably rushing towards the coffee house beatnik, and he would be damned if his son inherited such a fate. He was his son, and it was his duty to train the untrainable. His duty as a father to help him avoid a life of self destruction, and his love inevitable.
He made his way to the tree. Harry couldn't be seen, but father knew that he was behind its massive trunk, sitting on the top of the hill, with his back against the mammoth vastness. He was oftentimes sitting up there, gazing into that valley. It was a peaceful place, nestled in by forest on three sides, with a soft shallow brook quietly lapping at the smooth stones on its banks. The home father had created was beautiful. He had started with a house a little better then a shack, and through tenacity and strength had built a slice of paradise. He had a good family and life, and he knew his son Harry had everything needed to be saved.
What happened next is something that would stay in the minds of father and son alike for the rest of their lives. It was a pivotal moment of change, and nothing would ever be the same between them. It is funny how people's perceptions create or alter their reality. What two people see when staring at something, are often at odds with each other. It is why human beings wage war, or commit murder, or vent on blogs. We see what we fear to. We see what we want to. We see whatever is easist for our minds to form. Father saw Harry cradling a dead cat in his arms. Harry saw a misplaced disapproval and worry forming in his father's eyes. A chain of reaction forms because there are certain ingredients and forces working at the right place and right time. The pain of Harry losing his best friend made him react in a way that was only human. Father's fear of what Harry was made him react in a way...that was only human.
There wasn't any tears on Harry's face. He used to cry unabashed when grief was called for. At his grandparents funerals, when he was scared after a bad dream, when his parents were fighting. Something had changed in harry, so that he never cried anymore. His eyes showed pain, but only ever so slightly. Two black pools, in a pale caved in face, in which the emotions potrayed would go from pain to anger, and then animosity as his father approached that fateful day.