“Henry, what’s the matter, boy?” George Lee asked his son. “You’ve got that stress face your mother and I worry about.”
Henry quickly scrambled to cover the red and white clipped paper on his desk. When he looked up and met his father’s gaze, he found a measure of comfort in his concern. “Teacher gave us an awful assignment, and I don’t wanna do it.”
George chuckled, “I’ve never seen you shy away from anything too hard. What is it? Math? History? I can help you with those. If it’s writing your mother or Dorothy would be a better help.”
“It isn’t any of those.”
“Well, what is it then, son?”
Henry looked around to see if either of his sisters or mother were within earshot. He wasn’t sure he wanted to tell his father what he had to do, but knew the man was going to pull it out of him somehow. Reluctantly, he answered, “I gotta make a card for someone. A Valentine’s Day card. And it’s awful.”
George Lee started to laugh, but noting the angst in his boy’s eyes, he caught himself and took a seat beside his boy. “Here now,” he said. “That doesn’t sound so bad. You used to love to make pictures and such.”
“It ain’t the making that’s so bad,” Henry lamented. “It’s the giving.”
“Well, what’s Virgil going to do?” George asked before pondering the question. He typically wouldn’t use Virgil Creech for any sort of standard of behavior.
“Aww, he’s sweet on that old Esther Haywood. So he’s got all kinda big plans about making something for her,” Henry explained. “Said he might even put a quarter in his card so she can take him to a picture show.”
Again, George stifled a smile. His boy was on the cusp of the wonderfully tragic discovery of girls, but obviously not there yet. “Didn’t he get in trouble for putting a cockroach in her hair last week?” he asked. “God help the poor girl Virgil sets his sights on.”
Henry laughed and the tension in his face eased somewhat.
“Isn’t there any girl you think is just okay?” George asked.
Henry thought for a moment. “There’s Abigail Jacobs. She’s not too bad.”
“There!” proclaimed George. “Make it for her.”
“She’ll slug me if I make it for her,” Henry said. “She already warned us if she got anything from us boys, something bad was gonna happen.”
“Well son, I’m out of ideas,” George said as he rose to go. “Surely you can come up with someone.”
“Dad, what did you get for Mother?” Henry asked, only to watch his father turned as white as the paper on the desk.
“I completely forgot,” George said vacantly. “And the stores are closed now… Oh, tomorrow’s not going to be pretty.”
George left his son alone and spent the duration of the evening plotting his own plan to stay out of trouble, while Henry finally finished his work.
In the morning, George came into the kitchen to see his wife cleaning up after the children’s breakfast. Instead of the reception he dreaded, he found himself met with a very loving embrace.
“George Lee,” Harriet gushed. “Of all the sweetest, most wonderful husbands, I do believe you are the best.”
As she squeezed the shocked man once more, he noticed over her shoulder a colorful card made of the very paper he had seen on his son’s desk. He couldn’t make out the words but he knew that Henry had not only found someone to make a card for, but saved his father’s hide in the process.
Happy Valentine’s Day from Portsong!