Homer showed up at the back door again on Saturday. I swung the door wide and let him in. I know it’s safe because he and his wife never go out and I’m the original hermit, so there is little chance that we’ve had contact with the virus. He sat at the kitchen table. “I’m bored,” he said, and put his elbows on the table, his chin in his hands, his visage quite grim.
“Bored?” I commented. “You, bored? You’re my go to person for crazy stuff to do. Why do you think I am surrounded with all these half finished projects? It’s because I listened to you and your ding dong ideas.” I scanned the kitchen with its half finished paneling, trim work in the works, pile of old to-do lists in disarray on the table and the sweepings of all my harvesting just pushed in under the table. It didn’t look messy. It was country rustic: stems and brown leaves on the old wooden floor. “What about your garden?”
“Well, I do that, but more often it’s raining and I’m stuck in the house,” he said.
“Read a book,” I suggested.
“Read ‘em all,” he said, his elbows slipping sideways as his head sunk a little lower towards the table.
“Go to the library,” I said. “They’re open now. You’ve got to follow some rules, though, be kind to your neighbor.” I winked. Homer and I both believed in that good old golden rule.
“Don’t want to,” he replied. “Don’t like that mask you gave me.”
“Okay, I get it, you just want to complain, and your wife kicked you out. I can just see her at the kitchen door with her hands on her hips and that glare in her eyes when she gets tired of all your darned complainin’. So you thought you could just march over here and drag me down with you. Well, I won’t be party to it.”
I grabbed the broom from where it was leaning, waiting in long anticipation for me to sweep up all the debris under the table, and strummed it like a guitar and broke into original song. I don’t remember all the words, but it was pretty funny and Homer actually smiled. He just needed a little encouragement. I went to the refrigerator and pulled out a big bowl of green beans and clunked them loudly in front of him. “Snap and string these suckers.”
Homer dutifully started snapping off the stems of the beans and pulling the strings. “Why are we doing this? I’m sick of beans,” he said. His hands had kicked in but his heart wasn’t in it yet.
“They’re for the widow Betty up on the Knobs. You know she’s got the arthritis in her fingers and she is so appreciative when I bring her stuff from my garden. Just get busy, and stop thinkin’ of yourself.”
Homer finished the beans and pushed the bowl towards me and dutifully swept the strings and pieces off the table and shoved them under it with his foot. “Now what?” he said, sounding a little more enthusiastic.
“Well, the neighbors haven’t been very close these last few months,” I said, “but they are all still there. I just know you can think of some things to brighten their day. So put that big heart of yours to work and just get busy!”
– Larry Berger, Hashtag Lewisburg City Paper #125. August 2020. Find this column and more of Grandpa Larry’s writings at sinksgrovepress.wordpress.com
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