Chapter 21 1961 - Isaac

It had been six months since Juliette had moved out, and there was still no progress on convincing her to come home. Rather than try to truly change, Henry ended up spending even more time at the Stomping Grounds. When Buddy was off the road, Annette sometimes encouraged him to spend some time with his friends, so Buddy joined Henry.

“I don’t know what to do, Buddy. I’m at the end of my rope.”

“Annette spoke to Juliette this morning. She seemed happy, and that can’t be good for you,” Buddy revealed.

“I miss her, and I’m lost.” Henry took another drink from his beer bottle.

While he steeped in his current loneliness, he thought of how much he missed Juliette. He could see no way for reconciliation, no way to undo the wrongs she had caused him. Maybe it was time he tried to move on. He thought about meeting another woman, sharing an illicit affair, and regaining his stripped manhood.

As if by magic, fate chose to clear the air in the smoky bar and he could see clearly to the other side. Across the bar, a crowd seemed to be gathering. Henry spotted a familiar face within it. He knew in a flash that it was Sandy Thompson, his first great love.

His heart began to race and he began to wonder. Is this possible? Is this a sign? The once woman of my dreams is right here in this very bar at this very moment. He pushed aside his chair, and as if attracted by a magnet, began to approach her. On closer inspection, the facts gave way to the realization that this woman had seen better times, and now was not one of them. She was thin as a rail, barely skin and bones. Her blond hair, once so beautifully fashionable, was stringy and greasy. Even her once smooth complexion showed signs of scarring. Acne? Disease? He wasn’t sure.

As she sat there with a lit cigarette between her fingers, and a glass of whiskey at the bar, Henry was surprised that she still seemed to attract a fair amount of attention from some of the guys. Henry’s brief affair of the heart was abruptly halted. Still, he felt compelled to at least greet her.

“And then that lousy rat of a husband up and left me with two kids,” he overheard her saying as he approached the bar. “I decided to come back here to try to start a new life.”

She looked as Henry joined the crowd of men around her, with a slight glimmer of recognition. “I know you!”

Henry was a bit taken aback, as he reintroduced himself, “Henry,” he simply said.

“Yeah, that’s right, the chicken guy,” she laughed. Henry hadn’t been “the chicken guy” for nearly seven years, and some of the newer guys didn’t understand the reference.

“Yeah,” she continued. “You really used to stink of that chicken shit.”

As the other guys began to laugh, Henry tried to take it in stride. “That was a long time ago,” he explained. Henry was wondering if it had been a good idea to make the effort to reacquaint him with her unique “charms.”

“Ah, I’m just kidding. You were a cool guy,” she recalled, taking another gulp from her glass.

“So what brings Sandy Thompson back to our neck of the woods?” Henry inquired.

“I was jush,” she slurred her words a bit before trying to recover, “just tellin’ the guys here about how my old man left me. Oh, and it’s Sandy Daly, now. Though I don’t know if I want to keep that name anymore.” She took another gulp and a drag on her cigarette. The hanging ash fell to the floor.

“He was a bum anyway. Better off without him. When he knocked me up with my son Isaac, I at least thought he would be a better man than my oldest’s father. He married me, but I couldn’t have been more wrong about him.” The guys at the bar lapsed into an uncomfortable silence.

“Ah, what the hell! Drink up everyone!” She raised her glass and drained it. “Barkeep! Another!”

Henry excused himself and went back to sit down with Buddy. “The woman is a mess. I can’t imagine what she must have been through to bring her to such a low.”

Buddy agreed, “I’d hate to meet the guy who could put up with that for a few days, much less a few years.” He chuckled, somewhat in embarrassment, at her misfortune. “Better him than us!” and raised his own bottle of beer.

Henry looked away, not wanting to further kick the woman when she was down, when he saw Sandy get up and move towards his table.

“Hey, Henry” she sloshed. “They tell me you got a kid the same age as mine. He don’ know anybody ‘round here. Maybe they c’n be frennsssh.” Her speech was even sloppier than at the bar.

“Uh, yeah, sure Sandy. They probably go to the same school.”

“OK, good,” as she stumbled back to the bar.

Henry spoke in a low tone to Buddy, “Let’s make a quick exit before she thinks about coming back.”

“I’m with ya, man,” Buddy agreed.

Outside the bar, Henry confided in Buddy. “I once thought the world of that woman. When I first saw her tonight, I thought maybe she had been sent to me to help with my loneliness. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I miss Juliette.” Henry was a wreck himself.

“Maybe she was sent,” suggested Buddy. “But not for the reason you think. What you’re seeing there could be you if you continue on this path of self-destruction. Sleep on it, and go see Juliette tomorrow. If you really want it, you can get her back.”


The next day at school, the teacher introduced the new student to his classmates. “This is Isaac Daly, he’s coming here from Boise, Idaho.” The teacher pulled out a map of the U.S.A. and showed the third graders where Boise was. Any opportunity for a teaching moment, she thought.

At recess, Isaac saw two boys from his class throwing a ball. “I’m Isaac,” he introduced himself.

“Here, catch,” as Spike threw the ball to him. “I’m Spike. This here’s I.”

“Spike?” Isaac questioned, “I thought I heard the teacher call you Adrian.”

“Well, yeah, that’s my name, but I like Spike better. Adrian’s a sissy name.”

Turning to the other boy, he said, “Did he say your name is Eye?” he pointed to his own eye and laughed.

“It’s ‘I’. Just one letter,” I said defensively.

“That’s a stupid name,” Isaac continued. I started to react, but Spike held him back.

Isaac pulled out a handkerchief and blew his nose. “Hey, man, just kidding. I just never heard of anyone named I before.” He sniffed again.

He looked as another kid hovered nearby. “Who’s that?”

“Oh, that’s my cousin, Osgood,” Spike explained. “He likes to hang out with us sometimes. He’s OK. A little girly, maybe.” He called to Osgood, “Hey, Ozzie, cm’here!”

Osgood shyly moved forward, and Isaac reached out his hand. As Osgood went to meet it, Isaac quickly pulled it back, making Osgood the fool. “Gotcha!”

The soon to be friends were off to a shaky start.


Buddy’s advice to Henry was wise, and Henry stopped to see Juliette the following day. Juliette had been crying.

“Are you all right, dear?” Henry asked with concern.

“Juliette wiped at a tear. “No, not really. I’m lonely. I try to make others think that everything’s all right, but privately I am always sad.”

“I’ve been thinking about the things you said when this all blew up. I have been selfish with my time, and have squandered a life from you. It’s taken me this long to realize it. Can you come home? I promise things will be different.”

“I will come home,” she said. “But if things haven’t changed, I will make this permanent.”

Henry privately vowed that things would be different.