Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Our Mutual Friend (not about the book) (09/15/11)
TITLE: A Friend To Beyond The End
By Marlene Bonney
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Times were kinda rough in them days; for grown-ups, specially, and we had to make ourselves scarce plenty o’ times so parents could talk amongst themselves.
“But, Teddy, WHY? I don’t wanna go outside. Maisy’ll get dirty.”
“Ain’t no use complainin’, sis; when Pop says ‘Scram!’, we don't wanna stand around to see what happens next! Now, come on and leave your Maisy-doll behind if ya wants to.”
Pansy was still little and gettin’ her to change her mind about somethin’ was like trying to turn a sunfish into a bluegill.
“Teddy? Can we go pay Mr. Harley a visit?”
“’Course we can, baby. He likes us comin’ . . .”
“HARLEY’S: Greengrocer’s Freshest Fruits and Vegetables in Town,” boasted my hand-painted sign pasted in the produce window. It was a fine sign, I had to admit.
“Don’t touch nothing’ without permission, now, hear?” I commanded, as Pansy and me climbed up the steps into the mercantile.
“Well, now, if you two aren’t a sight for sore eyes!”
“I got a boo-boo,” Pansy announced abruptly, holding up a chubby little finger.
“Oh, baby, you sure enough does. You want I should kiss it?”
“No, thank you; but it might feel ALL better if I rubbed one o’ those cinnamon sticks on it.”
“Pansy, don’t you go beggin’ our friend for candy, you little magpie. “ ‘Scuse her, Mr. Harley, she ain’t got much manners yet.”
“Don’t fret, Ted,” he winked, “I imagine as I can spare TWO cinnamons for both of you.”
Pansy’s eyes opened real big, like my giant blue boulders I won off of Billy Doty last summer, when she saw the huge jar holding dozens of candy sticks. And with one look at those innocent baby-blues, Mr. Harley was a goner.
While they was still chattin’, I sauntered over to the jackknives display, breathing a sigh of relief to see my favorite. Red with silver trimmings, the multiple shiny blades opening up from its sides gleamed up at me. It sure was a beauty!
Meanwhile, Pansy took Maisy over to some little girls’ china tea sets, staring at them in wonder.
“Oh, when did you get the pretty dishes, Mr. Haley? They weren’t here last time,” and right then and there I knew what my sister would ask Santa to bring her for Christmas.
Two weeks later, poor Mr. Harley dropped dead from a heart attack. I tried to be brave at the funeral, when all I wanted to do was bawl like Pansy. I figured he knew how sad I was to lose him without all the fanfare. Pansy kept asking when Mr. Harley could come back for a visit.
“Ya just don’t come back from Heaven, baby. Ya stay there with Jesus because he makes everything happy there. Mr. Harley, he’s havin’ a gay ol’ time now and his rheumatism don’t bother him none, and he’s not alone anymore.”
“Teddy, do ya think he’s got lots of children around him, ‘cause if he doesn’t I bet he misses us a lot and he’s really not happy deep down inside . . . He’s still our friend, isn’t he? Can’t we go visit him there?”
“Not for a long time, baby,” I gulped.
Pa lost his job that Fall, and Ma had to take in laundry to keep us going. Christmas would just be a stocking for each of us this year, I overheard Ma tell the mayor’s wife when they met in town around Thanksgiving time. I ran off with the guys then, not wanting to hear more.
“Oh, dearie me, Charlotte! Come over to the store with me. It just plumb slipped out of my mind. There’s a package I found under the counter when I was closing up the mercantile that has your children’s names on it.”
“TO TED and PANSY, with love from Mr. Harley,” that package sat on our fireplace hearth for another month until Christmas morning. Inside was a red Swiss army jackknife for me, and a tiny china tea set for Pansy!
“Oh, Teddy, wasn’t he our bestest firend, ever?” as she treated Maisy to a cup of tea.
“Yes, siree, he sure is,” whispering a thank-you up Heaven’s Post Office.
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