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TITLE: The Friend
By dee smith

part of a series of short stories I am planning to publish. Please feel free to edit.
The Friend
Tom, Jim and Harry had been friends for as long as anyone could remember. They had all grown up in a small mid-western town in Illinois called Beardsville. It was so small they only had a one-room school house. Most of the people were small farmers. Their land had been in the family for generations.
Tom and Jim were practically raised together as they lived on adjacent farms. Harry was a first cousin to Jim. His dad ran the general store in town. The boys had spent most of their free time playing out back behind the store. They loved to build forts with the empty cardboard boxes. They had rabbits, so each day they would rummage through the garbage and pull out all the lettuce and carrots. This helped save money.
In the first grade, a new kid enrolled at school. His name was Hosea. No one knew much about him except his dad bought the old Jackson farm. He seemed friendly enough, but with all the farm work no one had had a chance to really get to know the family. Besides, they were outsiders and kept pretty much to themselves.
Each morning Hosea would stand by the school house door and hand out notes. He tried to speak to everyone. Most of the kids said hello, after all this was the polite thing to do and they didn’t want to see rude. They would take the notes Hosea handed them and stuff them in their pockets. This was Tom’s routine. Harry would ignore the notes and nod hello at Hosea. However, Jim would stop and exchange a few words. He liked the notes he got from Hosea as they were always encouraging. It was amazing how Hosea seemed to know exactly what he was going through at the moment.
Tom read his notes when he was having a bad day or on test days. He too liked the encouraging words. Harry never really bothered to read his notes. He didn’t dislike Hosea, he just didn’t like him.
Things continued this way until the boys got into high school. There was a grand opening of a new high school in the neighboring town. All the kids were excited. They would ride a bus to Bluffton and go to school. It was very exciting for a small town kid. Of course, Hosea met them at the bus door to hand out his notes and say hello. Hosea was willing to talk to anyone. He seemed pretty popular maybe that was because he never seemed to judge anyone. He just liked people. By now Jim had gotten used to stopping and talking with Hosea. This seemed to irritate Harry, but no one knew why. Harry would just yell “Come on Jim”. And Jim would come running down the isle of the bus to sit in the back with Harry and Tom.
Jim would take time between classes to look for Hosea and talked to him every chance he got. He really liked having Hosea as a friend. They talked about everything! He still considered Tom and Harry his best friends, but he would have liked to have included Hosea in the group.
Harry was a quarter back on the football team so they would talk about his last game and all the points he helped the team score. Tom was into basketball. He was rather tall and very good at making the long shots, so he was the captain of the team. Jim liked tennis. He did very well in competition and enjoyed the cheering from Harry, Tom and Hosea. They all attended each other’s games, which worked out well as everyone seemed to have a different season for their sport. All three were excellent athletes. Hosea never competed in any games. He seemed content to watch and cheer for the other boys.
After graduation Harry, Tom, Jim and Hosea all got accepted at the Chicago College. Tom, Harry and Jim were there on athletic scholarships. Hosea was the school mascot so he got to stay in the same dorm—the college wasn’t big enough to have fraternities. Hosea still got up early and greeted the boys as they left for practice or classes. Jim would always take extra time to speak with Hosea. These were special moments that only he and Hosea shared. Tom would talk with Hosea when he needed help or advice. Hosea was very bright. Harry would just nod his head as he walked out the door. He didn’t even bother to take the notes Hosea had written for him.
Soon college was over and the boys, now young men, left to seek their adventure in life. They continued to be close friends. Harry was the first to marry his college sweetheart. Her name was Anna and she really was a sweetheart. She had been a cheerleader, but she wasn’t stuck up like most of them. She really cared about people and tried to help. Soon after their marriage, they started a family. First was a son named Joshua, then Joseph. The boys took after their father—very rambunctious. They would run all over town shouting and laughing. Everyone liked them.
Tom was next to get married. He just adored his wife, Susan. Susan was a teacher in the local school. Her students loved her. After years of trying, Susan finally gave birth to a son named Caleb and two daughters Danielle (Danni for short) and Isabelle or Izzy. These children were beautiful and very well-behaved. They liked to play games outside like tag and dodge ball.
Jim finally got married in his late thirties. His wife Joan had died in childbirth. His son Billy had survived. Jim never really got over the loss of Joan. He and Billy shared this bond. Billy was rather small and shy.
Hosea was there for all the weddings, births and deaths. He knew the families very well. When invited, he would spend time with each of them. Jim had Hosea over the most. Hosea seemed to make the pain of the loss of Joan seem lighter. Billy really liked Hosea because Hosea wouldn’t tease him; he would just let Billy talk when he wanted. They could spend hours just sitting there not saying a word.
Tom had Hosea over for all the major holidays and quite frequently on Sunday afternoons after church. His family adored Hosea. Hosea always took time to treat each one of them as if they were the only person on earth.
Harry rarely had Hosea over. His family really liked Hosea and wanted to see more of him, but Harry was too busy with work and other activities to invite Hosea over for a visit.
Life continued as it does--there were ups and downs. Through it all, there was Hosea with his notes and encouraging words. No one except Jim seemed to think much about it. Hosea became a fixture in their lives. When they needed him he was always there. When they were too busy, he didn’t seem to mind. Jim however, thought it was rather rude of people to take advantage of Hosea and his generosity. Hosea said it didn’t matter how others treated him, he was just interested in Jim. So Jim dropped the subject.
A few years later Billy was killed in a car accident. Jim never recovered from this. He died shortly thereafter. Hosea was at the funeral. He had been with Jim when Billy’s body needed to be identified and with him in the hospital when he was dying. Hosea always seemed to be right there when he was needed. Tom and Harry and their family came to the funeral. Hosea gave a eulogy. Then they all walked out to the cemetery together. Harry didn’t say anything—or even acknowledge anyone. The pain was too great. Tom was sad, but took comfort in the words of Hosea.
Several years went by and nothing much changed. The children grew up and went off to start their own lives. Tom and Susan spent more time with Hosea. He really was a very unusual man. He was always around when he was needed, but never crowded you or made you feel like he was a stalker. He was just a very good friend.
Tom and Susan were on United’s flight 156 when it went down in the Pacific Ocean. They were planning a second honeymoon in Hawaii. No one survived the crash. Harry was distraught. Anna tried to console him, but he wouldn’t respond. Eventually she gave up and left him. Now Harry was very much alone. He drove off the children and had no friends. Hosea would try to stop by for a visit, but Harry wouldn’t open the door. Then Harry got cancer and had only a few months to live. Hosea would come by the hospital room to visit.

Every once in awhile, Harry would allow Hosea stop by his home for a short visit. Hosea would try to be encouraging, but Harry was too depressed to listen. One day Harry had had it. He invited Hosea in and then screamed “What do you want?”
Hosea softly replied, “the same thing I’ve always wanted – to be your friend”.
Harry said “It’s too late.”
“No it’s not. Why don’t you come home with me? I’d like to introduce you to my Father.”
Harry looked deep into Hosea’s eyes. He nodded his head yes. Hosea took Harry’s hand and they left for Hosea’s house to meet his father.

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