Henry

“I’ve noticed more similarities between young people and pets since I turned 35,” he said.

“What?” I shook my head. I was trying to read messages on my phone.

“The eyes. The mouth. The way the bottom lip seems to always hang lazy. A lack of real expression. The way they hold their arms. It’s even more obvious when you watch them sleep.”

“Uhuh.”

I heard his chair creak. His coffee cup hit the table with a light clink.

“Do you always drink coffee with the spoon in the mug?” I asked.

He laughed. “It’s better than putting it on your table, isn’t it?”

My daughter walked behind me and to the sink. I could see his eyes track her across the room. “Good morning, Cherrie,” he said.

I could hear her stop and sense her looking at him for the first time. “Morning,” she said. I watched her walk past me to the cupboard with glasses and bowls. Breakfast or a drink? She took a glass.

“Do you remember me?” He leaned back in the chair and faced her fully. I said nothing but lit a cigarette.

“Of course,” she said a little too snidely.

“Don’t you have a hug for your uncle Henry?” he asked, his voice sinking a bit deeper. He winked at me. Before she had a chance to get too uncomfortable, “I’m just kidding, haha!”

She drank the last of the milk from her glass, and turned to walk out of the room, “Ha ha.” She waved over her shoulder.

Henry slouched in his chair and looked at me again, “She’s turning into quite a piece of work, huh?”

“Oh, she’s ok. She’s just, you know.”

“Hmmm.” He drank the last of his coffee, head askance to avoid the spoon.

The night before, the door opened without warning to let him in. “I’m sorry,” he’d said. He hugged me and I felt my heart resurface from the dullness it had submerged into for just a second. “It’s ok,” I said. We said nothing more about it.

“I got hired as a painter, believe it or not.”

“House painter?”

“No no. I am a detail artist. I paint in the details.”

“Oh.”

“Look at my hands.” His hands were covered in light smears of different coloured ink.

“Beautiful. Want to do my nails later?”

In the afternoon, he got back in his Jeep and drove away. He gave me a small envelope. “Here,” he said, “Open it later.” He kissed my cheek.

I didn’t watch him drive away.

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4 thoughts on “Henry

  1. It would be really great if it was more culturally acceptable to physically touch in all relationships but it’s not so probably at the point in the story when he asks for the hug he is being a creep. The tittering laughter “ha ha” is present because that creepiness is implied and present, the laughter might be meant to diffuse the situation but also reveals that the characters know that the scene has been a bit creepy. Henry makes a poor followup move when he says “She’s turning into quite a piece of work”, as if what just happened is about the girl being a something when really it was about him being creepy.

    • Most younger children will freely hug their relatives.Perhaps Cherrie was that way, also, and Henry is just playing on the fact that she definitely will not do it, now. He’s judging her based on her appearance and how she acts, but he’s not judging her incorrectly. The “turning into quite a piece of work” phrase is more just one of those mostly vacuous and vague utterances people make in such situations when they don’t have anything better to say. He could’ve just as easily said, “Wow, she got so big.”

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