by Ron Downing
The Life of Henry Porter
Wadding up the bag in one hand Henry got up from the table. On his way to the trash can he noticed the empty cat bowl. After Henry had thrown the trash away he picked up the cat bowl and filled it. Gibbs was at his feet, trying desperately to reach his food when Henry set it on the floor Gibbs was on it ready to devour its contents.
Henry left the old tom cat to his dinner while he returned to the living room to set up his new computer. Henry realized that he did not have a suitable place to put it. While Henry stood there pondering over a place for his new computer, he heard a car pull up in the driveway. As he walked over to the door he could see Sarah through the window beside the door. It suddenly dawned on him that he was supposed to go see a movie with the family. Now that he had his computer he didn't really want to go to see a movie. He knew that if he told Sarah, that he wasn't going, Becky would come to the door and see his new computer. And that was a discussion he really didn't want to have with her.
As he opened the door he lets her know that he would be out in just couple minutes. Sarah returned to the car where her and her parents patiently waited on Henry who had run back to the kitchen to fill Mr. Gibbs water bowl. On his way out the door he grabbed his Derby hat, he noticed that he left a few lights on; he was in a hurry so he left them on. He quickly walked to the car, and got in. He knew why Becky had moved to the back seat, merely out of respect for her father. But Henry would have been just as happy in the backseat with his granddaughter. As David backed out of the driveway he turned the radio down.
"Dad what would you like to see at the movie theatre?"
"I don't rightly know, I don't really keep up with what's on at the movie theaters now."
"How about a comedy movie?"
"Well I suppose the good laugh would be a good thing at this time. But it's really whatever you guys want to see."
Becky turned and looked at her father," you know dad you are not helping. David ask you because, we already had this debate on the way over."
"Sorry about that dear, I guess we could just wait and see what is playing when we get there then make a decision."
The remainder of the ride to the movie theater was a rather quiet one. Henry noticed the time on the – clock read 6:35 PM when they pulled in the parking lot it was full. Not wanting to make his father-in-law walk real far David pulled up the curb and let everyone out, while he went and found a parking spot. There were nine movies showing that night, only four of them could be considered as possibilities. Simply because the other five movies were rated R and Sarah wasn't ready for that yet. Becky finally found a movie she wanted to see, David arrived just as she was getting ready to buy the tickets, when she pointed out the movie that she'd chosen he looked at her and smiled.
"Honey, you did good, that is the one I would've picked."
Henry has his credit card out and was trying hard to get in front of David. However being younger and taller has its advantages and the young lady took David's credit card as he ordered the tickets.
"You did it to me again, I wanted to take care of this."
"I know you did dad, but you don't need to do that. And no, you aren't going to pay for the refreshments either. I've got it, it is our treat. "
Henry took a deep sigh and put the credit card back in his billfold, he had another idea how he was going to take care of his son-in-law and daughter. He knew where they liked to eat, so he decided the next time he was in town, he would pick up a gift card for them. His son-in-law has always been kind of stubborn in that way and Henry always felt blessed to have him as part of the family. Henry and Sarah sat down as they waited on Becky and David to get the refreshments.
"So grandpa, did you ever get your computer today?"
"Yes as a matter fact I did, I was in the process putting it all together when you showed up tonight. To be honest, I had forgotten all about the movie."
Sarah giggled a girlish laugh, "well I am certainly glad that you decided to come anyway."
"Thank you sweetie, I always enjoy being around you and your mom and dad."
Sarah gave her grandfather a hug, she had ask him what kind of computer he had bought. Henry was just about to tell her when he heard his daughter walking up behind them. He whispered to her that he would tell her later.
Everyone had a great time at the movie. As if they had not already had enough to eat at the theatre David decided to stop at the local A&W drive in for some root-beer floats Becky declined complaining that she could not eat another bite this close to bed time. Sarah, Henry and David all ordered larges. Sarah had hers drank before they ever made it back to Henry's. When they pulled up in front of the house Henry leaned over and whispered for Sarah to call him when she got home.
Once Henry got back inside and got settled in he looked over the situation concerning his computer. He quickly concluded that there just wasn't any place else to put it for now.
Out of frustration he set everything up in the kitchen on the table. Two hours later the old man had everything up and running. Henry took a break and started to grab the next to last beer from refrigerator. When he realized that he had not put the beer or the Pepsi that he had purchased earlier in to chill. Henry put the drinks away then grabbed the cold can of beer; popped the top and poured some for Mister Gibbs. He noticed the time on the kitchen clock it was time to turn on the TV for the late nightly news. The old man had just gotten comfortable in his recliner with his beer in the right hand and the remote in the left, when the phone rang. By the time he had gotten situated the phone was on its fourth ring.
"Hello Henry Porter speaking it's your nickel so make it quick!"
"Hey Grandpa it's Sarah."
"I expected you to call me earlier than this.How are you doing sweetie?"
"I'm alright, what kind of computer did you get?
"I got a Hewlett Packard, The guy told me that it was the best one they had, for what I wanted to do with it." Henry picks up the beer from his lap and takes a drink.
"That is so cool Grandpa. Do you have it all hooked up?"
"Yes I sure do, it took me a while but I got it. I have to get a desk or something to set it on."
"So grandpa what is your Email address? I will send you an email."
"Oh I have not set that up yet, not really too sure how you do all that stuff. I could sure use some help if you know how."
"I do, can you pick me up about ten tomorrow morning?"
"Yeah ten is fine, see you then sweetie."
"Good night Grandpa!" Sarah hung up the phone before Henry could say another word.
He gently set the phone down and turned up the volume his the news had already started. The old man took the last sip of his beer he set the can on the wobbly old table next to the recliner. Mister Gibbs climbed up on to the arm of the recliner and softly yet ever so vigilantly stepped into Henrys lap and lay down.
"You are one brave cat, climbing up here" Looking down at Gibbs Henry grinned.
Gibbs looked at Henry as if he were smiling then laid his head back down in the old man's lap. "You know Gibbs I have never really hated you I just never have really been a cat person."
Henry gently stroked the old yellow cats back, as Mister Gibbs began to purr this went on until Gibbs fell asleep as the show ended Henry picked the old yellow cat up and set him on the wooden floor. Another of his favorite shows was coming on after the commercial break so he made a mad dash however fast a seventy six year old man can move. toward the restroom. On his way back to the living room Henry went through the kitchen and grabbed the last cold beer.
Just as Henry was about to sit down he heard that annoying phone ring. O-crap who the hell can that be this late in the evening, I’m not going to answer it he thought. On the sixth ring Henry picked up the phone.
“Hello the Porter residence.”
“Yes sir may I please speak Agnes Porter?”
This is weird should I tell him she died or play him and see what he is up to.
“Well at the moment she is out of the house.”
“Do you have an idea when she might be home?”
“It, could be a while she is visiting her sister and mother.”
“Oh, I see well could you give her a message for me.”
“I never did catch your name young man. Perhaps I can help you.”
“Yes sir my name Dwight.”
“Are you her husband?”
“Yes I have been for quite a while.”
“Great well then, I am with the Jefferson mint corporation. About three months ago Agnes ordered some special commemorative coins from us. We shipped them with an invoice and we have not received payment for them.”
“Really now, huh, Can you take another look and give me the actual date of that order and the amount?”
“Sure thing mister Porter, it will just take a minute.”
“Okay I’ll be here at seventy six years of age, I’m not going anywhere.”
While the young man looked for the information, he put Henry on hold with some music that sounded terrible like some kind of sci-fi stuff. He certainly thought about hanging up. He was too curious about this whole thing.
“Mister Porter, Agnes placed the order on May fifteenth and the total with shipping and handling was forty nine dollars and ninety five cents.”
“Really now, that was quite an accomplishment for her."
"Why is that Mister Porter?"
"Agnes died in February. So tell me, you little prick how many old people have you scammed tonight. Is this your idea of a joke or something?”
“No sir, not at all. You lied to me sir. "
"I did not, her sister passed away four years ago her mother passed away twelve years ago. I know where they are and Agnes went to see them. I also know that she will be there for quite some time."
"If you had told me this, when we began this call I would have just closed it as a bad account.”
“That’s a bunch of Bull Shit you moron. You thought that I would just hand out my credit card information over the phone and you would make another easy fifty dollars tonight, Go to hell and don't call back here again."
Henry slammed the phone down and looked across the room at Gibbs who was now slumbering on the orange couch. A tear streamed down his cheek as he thought about Agnes and the wonderful life that they had shared. His shadow had not graced the church in the last four months. A few of their friends from church had dropped by periodically after her death, those visits had ceased as well. He had become somewhat bitter about life over the last six months. No longer in the mood for television Henry turned it off and made his way to bed. As he got ready he noticed that it was almost midnight this was earlier than he had been getting to bed.
Hours later Henry lied there still awake sleep had never come the antiquated alarm clock read two-forty-seven AM. The old man climbed out of bed. In the medicine cabinet in the bathroom he found a bottle of sleep-aid. As he popped it in his mouth he cupped his old weather worn hands to catch water from the faucet swiftly taking a drink as he threw his head back. Henry returned to bed within a half hour he was off to dreamland.
The next sound he heard was the phone. The alarm clock had gone off however it was the phone that jerked him from a deep and sound slumber. Henry jumped from bed and grabbed the phone.
“Hello Porter residence.”
“Hello mister Porter this is Bob with the March of Dimes, and we are trying to raise”
“Well Bob you need to keep on marching, Bye”
Henry slammed the phone down. Damned idiots, I hate Telemarketers. He noticed the time on the clock it was getting late and Sarah should be calling at anytime. Without a shave or a shower Henry made his way to the kitchen and poured himself a bowl of cereal. The old man opened the refrigerator and came to the realization that there was no milk, just a partial bottle of grape juice. Reluctantly he pulled it from refrigerator pouring it over the bowl of raisin-bran. Henry cautiously took a bite. Not bad he thought, no worse than cold pizza and beer for breakfast, which became a daily staple in his younger years.
He had just finished when he heard a knock on the door. Henry set the bowl on the table and began his walk to the door. Now what it’s to damned early for the Girl Scout cookies, kids aren’t back in school yet. The old man grabbed the door with expectancy of tearing some bodies head off and threw it open. Just as he had opened his mouth to speak he heard.
“Hello grandpa, sorry I didn’t call mom said she had errands to run in Corbit Cove so she would drop me off.” Henry could see Becky in the car so he waived at her to come in. Sarah walked in and shut the door behind her. Henry leisurely walked over and took a seat in the recliner. Becky walked in and removed her sunglasses.
“How are you doing, Dad? “
“I am OK; I just wanted to know if it would be alright for Sarah to spend the night tonight?”
“Well I have no problem with it but what does Sarah want? Do you still plan to attend church with us tomorrow Dad?”
Becky turned her gaze toward her father and Sarah for an answer.
“Well I have nothing with me to wear to church tomorrow.” Sarah replied
“I can bring something from your closet when we come over here to pick you up on our way to church.”
Henry had no desire to attend Church, not now, maybe not ever again. Bitter he was that the Lord would take Agnes away from him; He certainly wanted no part of the topic at hand. Henry excused himself from the conversation and made his way to the bathroom, where he took all the time he wanted, until he heard the front door open then close. When Henry came out of the bathroom he was stunned to see that Becky was still in the living room, he said nothing as he walked to the kitchen with Becky on his heels.
“You were avoiding me Dad”
“No, I wasn’t”
"It certainly felt that way. Do you plan to attend church with us tomorrow?"
Henry poured himself a tall glass of water while he leaned against the counter. "No, it's too early for me."
"Dad, that's what you said three months ago, besides I thought that we were going to visit mom's grave."
"Yep and I might just say it again in another three months."
With a look of frustration embossed upon her face. She stands in front of her father with hands on her hips. "You're still bitter aren't you?"
Henry looked at Becky, "Should I be?"
"You should go and see Doctor Jenkins."
"So, now you think I need to see a shrink?'
“Well at least think about it. It certainly can't hurt."
Honestly Becky I don't see how it would help"
"I need to run Dad.” Becky opens the front door and turns back toward the two of them. “Sarah dear do I need to pick you up or are you spending the night.”
“Yeah I guess I will stay the night!”
“Okay Love you see you tomorrow morning.”
Henry takes another long drink of water.
"Grandpa, it would mean a lot to me if you would go to church with us tomorrow."
Henry smiled at Sarah. "I'm sure you mean that in the sweetest way Sarah, I just can't do it right now."
"I just don't think that Grandma would want you to be this unhappy"
Henry could not find the words; he knew that his fourteen year old Granddaughter was right. She was wise beyond her years. Henry stood there as his mind drifted back to the day Agnes died. One of the last things she said to him was, Henry please be happy for me I will be with our Lord. No more pain, no more chemo, and no more cancer. For those things he was happy nevertheless he missed her dreadfully.
"Are you alright Grandpa?"
"Yes I most certainly am, I was just thinking about something that your grandmother told me before she died. But it's not important now furthermore it's kind of personal"
At that point Sarah knew not to ask any more questions, and that it was probably a good idea to change the subject.
"I'm kind of thirsty Grandpa."
"Well make yourself at home girl, there are some cans of Pepsi in the refrigerator, or water, or you could make a pitcher of lemonade."
Sarah thought for just a moment "Actually the Lemonade sounds like a good idea"
Sarah headed off to the kitchen and found the pitcher and filled it full of water, Henry handed her the Lemonade mix that he had. Sarah carefully measured it out and added it to the water. Henry added another scoop.
"I always add another scoop otherwise it taste like flavored water."
Sarah smiled as she stirred the lemonade until it was well mixed. She took a glass from the cupboard and filled it with ice and Lemonade.