Henry’s Hope

Where does true friendship begin? Where does it end?

The door opened.

I looked up. It was Henry. My husband, Carl, must have let him in. I’d have to speak to him about that.

“What can I do for you, Henry?” I asked.

He walked over and laid a sheaf of papers on my desk that looked like they had been read over a hundred times.

I knew Henry from church. He had a wife and three kids and had lost his job a few months ago.

His eyes were hungry. No, not that kind of hunger. Hungry with hope.

“I’d like you to read this and tell me what you think,” he said.

“Sit down. So what’s this about?” I asked.

He sat.

“Some material I wrote and sent around to some shows but they wouldn’t even look at it. I though you could read it. Tell me what you think.”

I looked over at my work, then at Henry. I pushed away my keyboard and reached over and picked up the pages.

The first page was good. I kept reading. A half hour went by before I finally looked up at Henry. He could tell by watching my reactions what I thought.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said.

Henry’s eyes had something more than hunger in them this time. A quiet relief.

When he’d left I went over to the club.

Susan was sitting at her usual spot at the bar talking to Joe, another producer on her show.

“Cass! Grab a stool!” she said. I’d known her for years since the first time I’d gone on her morning radio show to do an interview.

“Let’s grab a table,” I said. “Drinks on me.”

“What’s up?” she asked, after we’d settled down and ordered.

She looked at the short stack of pages on the table in front of me.

“I want you to glance over this. Tell me what you think.”

“What is it? Material for the show?”

I nodded. “I liked it. It’s good. Really good. A guy named Henry wrote it.”

She spent a few minutes looking through it before laying it aside. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.

“Well?” I asked, sipping on my wine.

She finished her martini.

“It’s amateurish. I can give him two hundred for it,” she said.

I looked down at my glass. “It’s pretty good material for just that. Best you can do?”

She spread her hands. “All I got,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.

I knew Henry could get a much better deal.  Five thousand at least. A fresh new start at a career. Much more than that. Renewed hope.

“I’ll try another show then,” I said, getting up.

“Wait a minute. Okay. I’ll raise it.”

So that it was it. Just business. But bargaining on friendship is trickier.

“I’ll try someone else.”

“Why?” she cried in astonishment.

“Susan, you treated me like a stranger, not a friend,” I said.

I turned to leave.

So was friendship this cheap then? I turned back.

She was still sitting there, watching me.

“Tennis Saturday?” I asked.

She looked down at the olive in her glass. Stabbed it with a toothpick and swallowed it before answering.

“Yeah. See you then.”

I left the club.

Hope spreads a million ways. For friendship. For dreams.

 

copyright 2017 Rena Arun

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