We’ve all had one of those friendships that could go either way – either you prop them up or they pull you down. As a youngster, I would have called the situation, “a hard problem.”
With that in mind, I’d like to introduce a protagonist if ever there was one – Henry Lee. Born into a fine Portsong family, Henry is a wonderful boy who finds himself in the unenviable position of being the one and only friend Virgil Creech can claim. Let’s listen as Henry talks about his dilemma:
Have you ever noticed the skin on a man’s hand when he’s really old? You know, the kind that looks like cracked leather from a saddle that’s been left out in the rain. I’m not scared of much, but hands like make my skin crawl! It’s like they’re dead and reaching out at you from the grave. Last Sunday, Reverend Crane came to the kids’ class and read us a verse that said, “Be not deceived: Bad company corrupts good character.” He kept talking and waving those big old, ugly hands. While I was watching them fly around, I noticed his bony fingers and kept wondering if they were wiry enough to pick a lock. People say he doesn’t eat anything no more ‘cause he’s at least a hundred years old. Anyway, I’m pretty sure he was trying to get my attention on account of he knows I’m friends with Virgil Creech.
I don’t think Virgil is bad company, I really don’t. There’s something about him I really like. He’s all Creech – in fact, he’s the youngest of the boys. Poor kid has eight older brothers and I’ve heard folks around town call them things like hooligans and ruffians. Virgil gets beat up by his brothers a lot and I don’t think they have much money. His pants almost always have holes somewhere and his shirts have torn pockets and missing buttons. In a way, I feel sorry for him…but not for long. You can’t feel sorry for Virgil. He won’t let you. Right when you creep to the edge of feeling bad for him, he’ll give you a nudge off the ledge and laugh at you while you fall.
When that boy gets an idea in his head, he sticks to it and won’t let anything get in his way. He’s as stubborn as any mule I’ve ever seen. Colonel Birdwhistle once asked me, “How will a Creech stop being a Creech unless someone shows him?” It made me think he might need me to show him how to be a better friend – kinda like pulling a mule to show it the way.
I don’t know, I’m only a kid. When bad things go on around me, I’ve got a father who gives good advice. I’m not sure Virgil has that and I’m guessing you wouldn’t want him to follow whatever advice his brothers give!
So this is my trouble with friends. I’m not sure how long I can hang in there with Virgil – it’s hard sometimes. Real Hard! But I think for now, it’s worth it.
You can read about Henry’s further struggles with Virgil and friendship in the book, Virgil Creech Takes at Swipe at Redemption.