[I've thought occasionally of Henry today, wondering who he is, what he does, what he thinks about. So, I have no idea where I'm going with this, but I'm becoming interested in who Henry is, letting him develop. Read Part One from yesterday, and continue here.]
As he walked through the angle-high grass, Henry remembered Josie, Josie Griffin, the little blond-haired girl with the eyes that flashed and the downright foul mouth, that teaser Josie-miss-big-mouth Griffin. He could hear her now -- "Hennnri, you retard, you nut-case, you weirdo, don't you come near me, Henry, go on back home Henry -- yabbering and yabbering, just being a regular pest. But that was a long time ago, Henry thought, and Josie grew up and moved away, and when she came home on that rare occasion, driving her shiny convertible, she wouldn't even return Henry's waves or smiles. Oh, the heck with Josie Griffin. And yet, Henry stopped for a minute, the wind catching the seat on Grif's rusted old swing-set, and he remembered Josie laughing there, just a little thing, as he pushed her higher and higher into he sky. Henry shook his head at that. "I'm getting old Bozo, just goin' on like that, remembering things. I'm going home."
As he turned the corner of Grif's house and made for the street, following the cracked front sidewalk of the house, Henry looked down the street to where it dead-ended. "Bozo, go on home, boy! You can't be coming with me now." A dejected Bozo started to slink away. "Aw, alright, one more sip." Henry sat down this time, sticking the bottle right in Bozo's mouth, him lapping up the drink. Then Henry took the bottle and poured it over Bozo's head. "I hereby baptize you Bozo Griffin, in the name of L.D. Peeler, Salisbury, and Carolina Beverage." The cherry liquid ran down Bozo's ears and into his face. His tongue lashed out, trying to catch every drop of it. "There, now it's official. You and me -- we're brothers now. Once a week, we'll break bread together, just like in church, you and me having bread and wine, Cheerwine. Now, go on home."
Henry thought to himself that that Mr. L.D. Peeler must have been a genius. He read that Mr. L.D. Peeler invented Cheerwine right there in the basement of his grocery store. A man with a dream, that Mr. L.D. Peeler. One night at home, Henry pulled out the 1999 Rand McNalley Road Atlas and found Salisbury, North Carolina. It took him awhile. He remembered looking at the small dot on the map for a long, long time, with all the squiggly red, blue, and black lines going through and around it. It was beautiful, and confusing too. He imagined Mr. L.D. Peeler's house. Must be a big one, Henry thought, with a Cheerwine drink machine in every room, little ladies in gray outfits with aprons on bringing a bottle of Cheerwine out whenever you wanted it, whenever you called. Yes, Mr. Henry, they'd say, if he visited. Two drinks Mr. Henry? Yes, certainly Mr. Henry, as many as you want Mr. Henry. Henry imagined Mr. L.D. Peele, still working away in the basement, perfecting the already perfect formula for Cheerwine. Come on in Henry. Can you hold that Henry? Glad you could come, Henry, really glad you. . .
"You plannin' on moving in?"
"Huh -- oh, hello Grif. Just messing with Bozo. He's a good dog."
"Ain't worth a lick, Henry. And stop giving him that Cheerwine. Bad for his teeth."
"Nah, it ain't bad for his teeth, Grif. Good for fleas, too."
"You're crazy, Henry. You go on home. I got things to do and I gotta give this dog a bath. He's got something sticky all over him."
"Yeah, OK Grif. Be seeing you."
Henry stood up and walked on down the steps, whistling to himself, something sprightly and hopeful, with just a touch of melancholy, mumbling under his breath. "Crazy? I'd rather be crazy than a slob." It was rhythmic, the song, his arm swinging the now-empty Cheerwine bottle back and forth in time, back and forth, his feet slapping pavement now, as he headed for home.