Chapter 19 1961 - Henry and Sam

While Kennedy only won by the narrowest of margins, Juliette was satisfied with the election’s outcome, and happy to see the young family in the White House. She was especially fascinated with the young Kennedy children. Juliette even would imagine her son I all grown up and married to Caroline. A foolish thought, she reconsidered, I think everyone has Camelot fever.

Henry was not so taken, and still felt that Nixon had been robbed. “That Jack Kennedy, he’s got connections,” he complained to Sam shortly after the inauguration. “I think there was a fix in.”

Sam wasn’t willing to speculate on a conspiracy, but said, “Don’t count out Dick Nixon. He’ll be back.”

Henry was temporarily mollified. “Maybe he should run for Governor.”

“Yeah, I’ll tell him that next time I see him,” joked Sam.

Henry laughed and said, “I guess getting all worked up is of no use. Hey, you know what, let me show you something I came up with.”

Henry had returned to tinkering in his workshop in his spare time. As they headed to the garage where Henry maintained his workshop, Henry noted I’s bicycle lying in the driveway. “That kid’s gonna lose that bike if he isn’t careful.”

Henry picked up the bike and tucked it away in his workshop. “Let’s see how long before he notices it’s gone. That should teach him a lesson.”

Henry returned to the workbench to show Sam what he’d been working on. “I’ve never given up on my dream of getting in the band again,” he explained.

Henry directed Sam’s gaze to the vise, where a tangle of wires, rods and hinges looked a bit like a mechanical hand. Sam commented his thought out loud.

“You’re exactly right,” Henry said proudly. “I’ve been trying to give myself artificial fingers.” He raised his right hand and wiggled his index finger. “I can finally get past this and back to playing guitar.”

Henry’s enthusiasm failed to completely convince Sam that the “invention” would be practical. “And just how is it supposed to work?”

Henry cranked the vise open and pulled out the hand. He laid it on the back of his own hand, slipped his thumb through a loop and tightened a small leather belt across his palm. When he moved his thumb the three mechanical fingers flexed toward his palm. He moved his thumb back and the fingers straightened out.

Sam raised his eyebrows, “That’s pretty neat, I guess. But is it useful?”

“You bet,” said Henry. “Watch!”

He laid his hand over a screwdriver and flexed his thumb. The fingers closed around the handle and he picked it up. Then he flexed his thumb back and the screwdriver fell to the floor. “Well, it’s gonna take some practice, but I think I’ve got something here!”

As Henry bent over to pick up the screwdriver a second time, I came into the workshop frantically, “Daddy I can’t find my bike!”

“Where did you last see it?” Henry didn’t let on that he’d hidden it and winked at Sam to keep quiet.

“I left it right outside, just for a minute!” he cried.

“There’s your mistake,” Henry replied. “It’s probably been stolen.”

I began to cry, “But it’s my bike! That’s not fair.”

“Life seldom is fair, son,” as Henry held up his maimed and partially mechanized hand.

I ran into the house and Henry turned to Sam, “I’ll give him a day or two to stew over it, then give it back. That should teach him a lesson.”

A few minutes, Juliette came into the workshop. “I is crying his eyes out. It’s something about his bike. What’s going on?”

“He left it in the driveway,” Henry explained. “I hid it away and told him it was stolen.”

“That’s a horrible punishment. You should take some advice from Elvis: ‘Don’t be cruel’,” she accused. She stormed out of the workshop and returned a few moments with I. He was wiping tears from his eyes.

Sam was embarrassed to witness the events unfolding before him, but saw no way out.

“Tell him, Henry! You’ve broken his heart.”

Henry went over to the closet where he’d hidden I’s bike. “Here it is,” he said cheerfully. “But you should be more careful.”

I rushed and grabbed the bike, giving his father a glare as he rode off. Juliette turned her back and stormed out as well.

Sam offered his opinion, “I think you’ve got some problems brewing.”

Henry stood in stunned silence, his mechanical fingers flexing as he tried to suppress his rising anger. “She coddles that kid a little too much. He’s gotta learn the hard realities that life can hand him, or he won’t be able to handle it when it all blows up on him.”

Sam excused himself from the uncomfortable situation. Henry, so full of energy because of the demonstration of his invention, now felt only a lump in his stomach. How can he teach a life’s lesson if Juliette was always playing the end around?