Love served unsolicited.
It was a hot September day in Texas. The kind of hot an A/C can never seem to keep up with despite how much electricity you pump into it. Harriet sweat as she sat in her beat-up old La-Z-Boy watching The Wheel of Fortune. It was the 3:30 slot of her daily television line up. Dusk to dawn she had one television show after another to keep her company. She was the God of her imaginary world-changing channels to peer in on the lives of the characters and hosts.
As she watched Harriet munched on the apple the Meals on Wheels people had put in her lunch from yesterday. It was one of those super shiny red ones that doesn’t taste like much of anything. It wasn’t quite ripe enough to be sweet, but it was cool from the refrigerator and that was something. Besides, she sure wasn’t heading out to the store to buy apples anytime soon, so this would have to do. She chewed and called out letters and puzzle answers to the television with her mouth full of apple spewing a few meals bits here and there.
Just as the first commercial began to run she heard her screen door rattle on its hinges as someone knocked. None of her home health providers were due today and she knew it wasn’t her good for nothing son coming over for a visit. Hell was not frozen over as far as she could tell. Harriet peered around the back of her rust-colored recliner and saw the boy from next door standing behind the screen.
“Hey,” the boy said with a little wave of his hand from waist high. He stood there with his messy brown hair blowing in the hot breeze wearing an old t-shirt a few sizes too small and blue jeans torn up at both knees.
Harriet stared, the boy couldn’t have been more than ten. He was sweaty and red-cheeked, probably from the walk home from school. She’d never spoken to him before. He and his mom had moved in next door a month or so ago. Harriet had watched that day from her window as they unloaded boxes from their station wagon into the house.
The boy stood there shifting his weight from foot to foot and wiping the sweat at his brow. After an uncomfortable silence the boy spoke up again, “Mom says you don’t get company.”
Harriet drew her eyebrows together and her head back in disgust at this intrusion. “So,” she said.
“So I figured I could be company for you,” said the boy shrugging his shoulders gazing at his toes with a little grin on his face that looked just like the face her son made at that age when he wanted to get his way.
Harriet turned back to the television for a second as one commercial ended switched over to a new one about grease-fighting dish soap. She peered back at the door and muttered, “Want to watch some Wheel?”
The boy nodded and pushed through the screen door. He walked over to the droopy sofa, crawled up and settled in on the seat closest to Harriet’s chair.
She wondered if her whole afternoon was about to be ruined by his chatter. But, the boy sat watching silently as Harriet continued chomping on the apple and talking back to Pat Sajak.
The boy really didn’t say much of anything, which Harriet liked. He just sat there curled up looking as relaxed as a tabby cat sunbathing and watched Vanna flip the letters.
During the next commercial break, Harriet managed to ask, “So what’s your name?”
The boy turned away from the television to look at her and answered, “Drew.”
“Huh, Drew. That’s a good name,” said Harriet as Pat and Vanna returned to the screen for the final puzzle. When the prizes had been awarded and the contestant had celebrated with a ruckus of cheers and hugs the boy peeled himself from the couch. “Well, bye,” he said as he passed in front of Harriet and headed back out the screen door into the heat.
“Bye,” Harriet answered a little too late as she watched his hand pull the door closed.
The screen door banged shut just as the familiar theme song of Jeopardy began to play. Jeopardy was always next in her daily line up. Turning back to her little electronic world she readjusted herself into the folds of her recliner.
Tomorrow she’d save the apple from Meals on Wheels and cut it in half.