Henry and Me, (On Time )
Somehow I could never "fix zat" lawn mower. But never the less, the "grass" would always get cut by using one of the neighbors' lawn mowers. It sure was nice to be in a place where everybody knew one another. Like when you were little. All the kids knew all the other kids around for quite some ways and it wouldn't take long to round everybody up neither.
Except "Phillips," he was always the "last one" to be, or do, or show up at anything at all. Phillips didn't care either way about what we thought about him and his slowness, lateness; the teacher said tardy. We used to use that one all the time. Tardy "Phillips" has the hiccups, spits his ice cream "too." He's always late to every thing goes on around here. "Always."
The "only time" (not many people know on account of Phillips is real peculiar about his feelings and stuff like that makes his "nose" kind'a curl "in the front" in the middle right past that little hook at the end) that he was on time was "a' de station," (whereas if he were ever caught sweety'n up to a lady he would sure curl right up inside hisself). It took "everything" there was just to hold back laughin' when Phillips shoelace tripped him "up the stairs" and nearly tore the skirt off of this pretty lady that Phillips was on time, for the first time in his life, to meet. "Tore skirt."
Henry watched events like these drift by, unseeming and unstoppable, filled with things that are reflected on with knowledge of what was, and what was funny, and what it was that made it funny in the first place. He would say "ironic, isn't it?" Never saying what was ironic just that whatever it was he was trying to remember, or did remember, was ironic. Henry wandered in and out of this bewilderment, this flood of memory that encompassed him for hours on end. Occasionally, he blurted bits and pieces of his shattered, scattered past. Regardless of the time of day or night, Henry blurted his scattered, shattered past.
"Phillips" always drifted in and out like the ring of an alarm clock that doesn't wake you and "dudn't let you sleep," hazily grazing the surface of what it was we did or had done. That's why he's "always late." But he wasn't late "a' de station." He met that "pretty lady" at the station and carried her bags for her and nearly "broke 'iz neck" and tore her dress off to boot. The only time he was ever "on time" for anything.
Well... yes, anything. He always said if he is ever on time or gets something the first time around then you'd know for sure that it was something important. Well... yes, important. It is important to know something for the first time around and to be on time. It was always said that promptness was a good thing, but I never could get that "lawn-mower" fixed. But "Phillips" could. But he was never on time you'd have to wait for weeks to get him to do it. One might wonder what he's up to not a care about the time in the world. I "never could" fix that lawn-mower.
It was like the two were in a constant struggle over anything that they could think of from baseball to who was at breakfast, and when and where had they set and who next to. Anything they argued about was incomplete because neither of them remembered the whole story about anything they talked about. They would meet and argue about everything they could think of and it was an awful lot that they argued about. But only bits and pieces because neither of them could remember all the things that had happened at each event. They would ramble endlessly of misgivings, forgivings, Thanksgivings gone by; who had the sweetest corn bread; the biggest turkey, stuffed the best, but they always knew that Henry couldn't fix it and Phillips was always late, except once.
He was fixin' "his hair" that day. All fresh smellin' and rosy. Hard to believe it was even him for a minute. We got their early, at "Phillips'" house, as usual. He used to kid us cuz' we was "never on time." Nah, we was always "early." But this time he was early, I mean ready, and we left tres vite to the meetin' place. That's all we knew then is that it was a "meetin' place." It didn't take no time before we was there, Phillips kept moving us along.
I know now that it was "important" but then I didn't know nothin' except that Phillips was on time for once and it never struck us then that it might be important. I had given up on the lawn-mower again. So I figured I'd go. Once there we headed up the platform and to the "little benches" that the railroad people put up for people to sit down - they're "real small" I always thought. We sat down and not one of us were still because we knew Phillips was on time and that we was waiting. His nose was `a curlin' fierce with waiting and besides, he don't like it when too many people know. Seems every time you're on time you end up "waiting." Well... yea, always "waiting."
It was the day that everyone packed a little lunch and the bus would arrive at always the same time to pick them up. The morning sun freckled off the little scarves of the women and the mens' hats stretched robes of shadows down along the frail, worn bodies. Henry was there too, on time and waiting. It had been a long time since he couldn't fix the lawn-mower. But as soon as the bus arrived there was no time lost in the boarding. All had their brown sacks in hand, some fancy needlepoint, some carrying for two. Except Henry.
They left down the busy street that darkly rushed by Henry's portal. The neon signs flashed in the early morning light. "Bologna $.99/lb. Salami $2.99/lb." "Now Showing" glimmered in the hazy yellow that soaked the road ahead and the sky into endlessness. The last signs from stores drifted slowly by as they wound down and up through little rises and rolls in the hazy yellow that tied the two horizons with an artist's brush staining gently, subtly the yellows over the deep blues and grays.
Right "near here" is where there was that time just like "a de station." Except this time weren't no reason not for anybody else to be there because there wasn't nothin' to hide at all. Even "Phillips'" nose wasn't curled at the sides. It really weren't no reason that like that time before at the station he had his nose curled up like some kind'a hog. Weren't "nothin'" nobody, well... those nobodies that were somebody enough to be there "inna first place," could have done to fix it. I tried but he just curled his nose and fumbled alot. Darn near broke his neck and tore that "pretty girl" from Thailand's dress clean off her. But he never fumbled much after that day but seems we never saw 'm after that much - except he was always late and I could never get that lawn-mower fixed. "Couldn't fix it." He "fixed it" once for me and I was on time for his last affair. Kind of like at the station, but different in a way because it was the second time that "Phillips" was on time.
The bus rolled up the last of the little hills and ran even down the road for some time. Henry watched out the window, he knew they were going on time and that he didn't pack his lunch in a brown bag was ok. The others knew it was ok also. You could see in the way they rolled along with the hills that they knew it was OK that Henry didn't pack his lunch in a needlepoint bag. Side to side, they listlessly turned the bends with their bodies, swaying unthoughtfully of the road or the sky, or the hazy yellow that tied the two together. Henry watched though, he knew. Phillips was only on time twice. They followed the straight road as if there was no other road, no other path, only this one, with no other place to go. Henry gazed as if in his dreams of memories that come while he's awake. The bus rolled past the other place where Phillips was on time. It seemed to slow down for Henry. The sharp focus through the hazy yellow that tied the two together cleared straight through to the white blurs and tall gray blurs that dotted the gently sloping lands of the cemetery.
Phillips fixed my lawn-mower but I could never fix it at all. He was on time again for the second time in his life. He wanted to be on time for this one too because it was almost just like at the station where he was on time the first time, except this time I helped him. "I fixed it." I could tell right away there was no need for arguin' cuz' it's what Phillips wanted. He missed his pretty little wife near two years and it was time for him to go to the station and meet her.
He was never on time except for twice - both of 'em kind `a the same but different cuz' one was first and th'other was last. I "gave up on 'nat" lawn-mower after awhile, now "Phillips" can't fix it. I'd let Phillips know it'd break a week or two `fore it happens and then he'd be close to bein' on time. I helped him be on time for the last one. I hope he isn't curlin' his nose. Maybe I'll help him with the lawn-mower next time?
Henry's stare returned from the window and looked up the aisle to the front of the bus. He saw all the others looking to the front of the bus. No one looked out the side. He turned and looked at the cemetery one more time and at the hazy yellow that clouded his eyes and his brain until he couldn't distinguish between the white blurs and the tall, gray blurs in the cemetery lawn. Henry's eyes yellowed Phillips' white blur in with all the others. He turned his head forward again and looked one more time up the aisle that ended with an endless road before him to the only place there was. He, as in his usual blurting self; uncontrolled, ranting voice; seldom coherent;, who knew it was OK, along with the others, that he didn't pack his lunch today, said,
I'm gonna help "Phillips" with that lawn mower, I'm on time, Phillips. I'm on time. "I ain't waitin'," I ain't waitin' no more.