|Misery taunts most cruelly those
Afflicted with the kindest souls.
In whom fondest memories bide
Depression rides the steepest slide.
And so the saga of Miss Henrietta
Miss Henrietta stood first in line
When Heaven next anointed a saint,
And every Sunday, with a smile,
Sat third row pew next to the aisle.
She filled her time with kindly deeds,
From baking for all church affairs
To honoring all of those who gave
By flowers on a soldier's grave.
"Miss Henrietta", the ladies said,
"Fifteen years are time enough
To be a widow and live alone
Without someone to call your own".
Loneliness comes at oddest times,
Especially when pairs abound
Secure in holding another's hand -
And she missed the touch of a man.
The traffic light by the interstate
Backed up cars in the exit lane,
The perfect spot for his cardboard sign -
Will work for food (didn't mention wine).
As he approached her idling car
Her heart went out in sympathy.
She wondered how this man might feel
To have again a home cooked meal.
Miss Henrietta gathered her nerve
And asked if he would like to come
With her home for supper that night.
He wanted money but considered his plight.
And cars behind began to honk,
That drew attention he didn't want.
Besides, the standing hurt his feet,
And so he slipped into the seat.
Miss Henrietta offered her hand
But he recoiled, avoiding touch
To hide a pathologic fear
He had of anyone too near.
They arrived at Miss Henrietta's house
Where rows of flowers tended with care
Waved and wafted the sweetest smell -
Where one with love of beauty would dwell.
Where had he smelled that smell before?
Ah, yes, the very foster home
That labeled him a horrid brat
For slitting the throat of a family cat.
The knife's cold metal in his pocket
Always made him feel secure.
Miss Henrietta from the door
Called out to say one minute more.
She set the table elegantly
And wore her finest cotton dress
Demurely open at the neck
Presenting bust with quiet respect.
Miss Henrietta dimmed the lights
to soften shadows cast by creases
Etched by time in both their faces -
His more so from loathsome places.
They sat across, one of the other,
Passing little conversation,
Though repeatedly she asked
Concerning matters of his past.
She at last, exasperated,
Rose and moved behind his chair
And sensed his muscles tighten like
A rattlesnake about to strike.
His fingers found the metal coolness
At the bottom of his pocket.
Switchblade knives had always been
His best, albeit only, friend.
What happened next we'll never know -
Except that every Sunday morn
Miss Henrietta, with a smile,
Sits third row pew next to the aisle,
While sitting at her dining table,
Staring with unseeing eyes,
A dry encrusted crimson band
Adorns his neck, there by her hand.