Little Henry Cobb was waiting for it. He was as sure of its coming as he was of the fact that Santa sent elves down the smaller chimneys at Christmas. Any minute now, Ms. Millwinkler, known to be the meanest lady in the retirement home where his grandmother resided, would shut the door. Henry would then hear a resounding click as she flipped the lock, forbidding entry to even the kindest of souls. He knew this because he had seen it happen before. Christmas carolers, the craft lady who delivered goodies, and even his own grandmother, who simply wanted to borrow an egg, had all been exposed to the finality of that click.
But Henry wasn't budging from the standoff today. Though his mother and grandmother had spoken quietly, he had still ascertained from the morning's conversation bits and pieces that made him sure that Ms. Millwinkler needed him. “No friends, not really even any acquaintances” and “not going to bother trying to reach out to that one” had reached his young ears, his impressionable mind, and his child's heart. Ms. Millwinkler without any friends? Oh, Henry knew how that felt. Why, just this past week, he had accidentally spilled his milk on Terry Coomer's shirt at lunch, and Terry had told everyone he was a clumsy geek. No one sat beside Henry at lunch for two days, even though he was extra careful with his milk.
Knowing how much Mrs. Millwinkler needed him, Henry replanted his feet, crossed his arms, and stared. What Henry stared at was an eyeball, and a slightly narrowed one at that. This eyeball was all that had appeared through a small crack after his persistent knock at the door. The owner of the eyeball, of course, was Ms. Millwinkler, and it was all she was determined to reveal to little Henry Cobb. There were only a couple of reasons people appeared at her door: to persuade her to buy something or to borrow something. Ms. Millwinkler had no patience for either of these situations.
And yet the standoff continued. While Henry was surprised that Ms. Millwinkler hadn't yet shut the door, Ms. Millwinkler herself was even more surprised. Henry, having sensed an advantage, spoke up:
“I came over to be friends,” he said loudly, attempting to crane his neck to get a better view. The eye widened, and then quickly narrowed again.
“I don't remember asking for any friends, especially not pesky little red headed runts who bother people when they are attempting to nap,” she replied sharply.
“I hate naps,” Henry retorted. “Naps are for babies.” He stared sullenly at the eye.
“Naps, young man,” came the reply, “provide restoration for the body and soul.”
Henry thought for a moment, and then undaunted, asked, “Well, since you're up, do you wanna be friends and maybe then you can go to the store for your soul later?”
From behind the door came a sound that could have been interpreted as a chuckle. Henry had given Ms. Millwinkler something to think about: To invite someone in, not shut them out. To not hear only deafening silence following the click of the lock or be mocked by the muted laughter of those passing by in the hallway as they shared a joke or a story. But then, this was only one small boy. What good could he really do? Her curiosity won out, and Ms. Millwinkler stepped back to open the door.
When Henry returned to his grandmother's later that afternoon, his mother assumed he had been down in the lobby surveying the fish tank or talking the lady at the small shop downstairs into giving him free samples of his favorite treats. When Henry informed her he had been discussing the pros and cons of taking afternoon naps, and that his partner in conversation was Ms. Millwinkler, his grandmother spent the next several minutes fetching water from the sink in order to help his mother recover from her coughing fit. Her bite of pie had apparently gone down the wrong way.
Down the hall, Ms. Millwinkler, convinced that she had promoted the many benefits of naps, ambled over to her bed to take one. Her body, a bit sore from the laughter that had issued forth on that afternoon, sank down easily. Before she drifted off, she whispered words that had long been absent from her lips, “Thank you, Lord.” The words emanated from a soul that had already been restored.
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