Grandpa's Harmonica

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Chapter 12

Mrs. Lily may not have been mad at Jamie, but his mom and grandma sure were.

His grandma marched him by the ear to the kitchen table where he had to tell them what happened over and over until they decided it was mostly Homer’s fault. Jamie didn’t think they were being fair, but he knew better than to defend Homer right then.

Miss Kuelmann had called all the parents and explained about the playground accident without blaming anyone. Mr. Meiers called Jamie that afternoon to tell him the doctor thought Homer would probably be back to normal after a few days in bed.

That night, Jamie was still awake when his grandpa came in and sat on the end of his bed. “You okay there, Jamie?”

“No. I feel terrible. We’ve played glass-bustin’ for years and nobody got hurt. I can’t figure out what happened this time.”

“Humph! You know what happened and why. C’mon, boy, be honest.”

Jamie sighed and put his hands behind his head. “Homer tried to get even with Sam and I didn’t stop him like you said I should.”

“That’s right. Your grandma and ma told me it’s mostly Homer’s fault. It ain’t, is it?”

“No sir. It’s as much mine as it is his because I didn’t do what I needed to do when it counted. But I didn’t know until it was too late.”

“I understand. It ain’t easy knowin’ what to do, ’cause it can happen so fast. When you got a friend like Homer, figuring out the right thing can be the hardest kind of work. You gotta learn from it so you’ll do better next time.”

“Next time?” Jamie’s voice cracked on the last word. “This might happen again?”

“Yep. And every time’s gonna be different. That’s why you gotta learn from each one as it happens.” He patted Jamie’s knee where it stuck up from beneath his quilt. “You’re doin’ fine, boy. Now don’t you worry about it and get some rest. Goodnight.”

Jamie didn’t think he was doing fine because he was still helping Homer with his secret boyfriend scheme. He had to talk to him about that, even if he had to play hooky tomorrow.

At breakfast, Jamie asked his mom if he could skip school to visit Sam and Homer. She said that was a good idea since he was partly responsible. Jamie’s dad called Mr. Meiers and found out he was going to town so he’d pick up Jamie at home and drop him off at Sam’s.

An hour later, Jamie stood on Mrs. Lily’s huge front porch and didn’t know what to do next. He’d never used someone’s front door before because when neighbors visited, they always went straight around back to the kitchen door. He was trying to decide what part of the door he should knock on when Mr. Jorgenson opened it.

“Come in, Jamie. Sam waits for you.”

He took Jamie’s jacket and led him into the house. Rolling back a set of double doors, he waved Jamie into a parlor that seemed to be as big as his whole house. Sam had a bandage on his head and was lying on a couch reading. Mrs. Lily sat at a desk near a huge fireplace writing with a gold fountain pen while electric lights with fancy, colored glass shades lit the room. On two walls, shelf after shelf of books climbed almost to the ceiling. Jamie stood staring at them in awe, amazed that one person could have so many.

Mrs. Lily looked up from her work. “Sam, Jamie is here to see you. I’ll get refreshments.” She got up and glided out of the room.

Jamie sat down on a large footstool near the couch. “Hi, Sam. I thought I should come over and tell you how sorry I am. How are you feeling?”

“I’m tired and I have a headache, but I’m better.” He smiled. “So we’re cousins now?”

“Er… well, not really, but that’s the only way the nurse would let me stay. I didn’t want to leave you alone until Mrs. Lily got there. I know I would’ve wanted someone with me.”

“I’m glad you stayed. Thank you.” He smiled again. “Does Homer always act like that?”

“Well, sometimes. But he never means to hurt anyone.” As soon as he said it, he wasn’t sure that was true. It seemed as if Homer really did want to hurt Sam this time and Jamie decided that he couldn’t be best friends with Homer any more if he was going to do that. “Grandpa says Homer has so much energy he could wear out an anvil with a rubber hammer.”

Sam grinned. “That’s funny. I never heard that one before.”

“Homer’s my best friend, but sometimes he gets carried away. When he thought he’d really hurt you, he acted funny. The doctor said he was in shock, whatever that means.”

“Is he going to be all right?”

“He’s supposed to spend a few days in bed, but I don’t know how his mom will keep him there. Maybe tie him down with some rope.”

Mrs. Lily carried in a tray with a plate of cookies and two glasses of milk. “Sam, you are to be resting. You may visit until you become tired and then Mr. Jorgenson will take Jamie home. I will check on you later.”

Jamie said, “Thank you, Mrs. Lily.”

Sam said, “Thanks, Aunt Lily.”

She left and Sam picked up a cookie and nibbled at it. “Have you talked to Homer since yesterday?”

“No, but I’m going over there next.”

“If I wrap up some cookies, will you take them to him so he’ll know I’m not mad?”

“Sure. Homer likes cookies.”

He smiled at Jamie. “I can wrap up some for you too.”

Jamie’s face flushed. “Does that mean you’re not mad at me either?”

“No and I’m glad you like cookies because Aunt Lily and I made too many and we have to get rid of some before they get stale.”

Sam and Jamie talked about school until Sam Yawned and said, “I’m getting sleepy and I think I’d better take a nap.”

Jamie jumped to his feet. “I’m sorry, Sam. I didn’t mean to wear you out.” He stared at the books and said, “Uh… well… Maybe I could come and visit some time?”

“Sure. Any time you want. You can call Mr. Jorgenson by pulling that cloth rope hanging at the end of the sofa.”

Jamie pulled the cord, making a bell tinkle deep inside the house and after a brief wait, Mr. Jorgenson came into the room.

“Philip, Jamie is ready to go home. Could you please go by the kitchen and wrap up two packages of cookies for him to take along.”

He smiled and nodded. “I will get cookies. Take Jamie home.”

Jamie picked up his coat and followed Mr. Jorgenson to the sliding doors. Sam said, “By the way, Jamie, Philip really is a cousin.”

Mr. Jorgenson laughed as they walked down a long hallway into a huge kitchen where he wrapped up two packages of cookies. Then he led Jamie outside to his truck, still chuckling.

“Mr. Jorgenson, could you take me to Homer’s? I need to talk to him.”

He nodded. “I take Jamie anywhere. Not too far.”

“It’s only a mile down the road from my place. I can walk home from there.”

“You give directions. Talk slow and I understand.”

Mr. Jorgenson dropped Jamie off at Homer’s and he waved as Mr. Jorgenson drove away. Jamie went to the kitchen door and knocked.

Homer’s mom came to the door. “Hello, Jamie. Please come in. Your mother called and said you’d be coming by.” He followed her in and they sat down at the kitchen table. “I’m glad you’re here. Homer hasn’t been the same since yesterday and he won’t tell anyone what’s bothering him. Since you two are best friends, maybe you can find out what’s wrong.”

“I’ll try. I was worried about him yesterday.”

“We were too. He was acting strange when Aaron and your dad brought him home. By supper, he seemed better, but he doesn’t want to eat and stays in bed.”

Homer not eating and staying in bed? He really was sick. “I’ll talk to him, but I don’t know what I’ll say.”

“I understand and we’ll appreciate whatever you can do.”

She led him to Homer’s room where he was lying in bed and looked like he belonged there. Jamie hardly recognized him because his eyes were dull and his smile was missing.

Jamie shuffled in and stood beside the bed. “Hi, Homer. You all right? I just came from Sam’s and he’s okay.” Jamie opened the package of cookies. “He wanted me to give you some cookies so you’ll know he’s not mad. Chocolate chip.”

No matter how bad Homer felt, he couldn’t pretend he didn’t want chocolate chip cookies. “He ain’t mad at me?”

“It was an accident. His hat fell off when those little kids pushed by us.”

“No! That wasn’t no accident. Long as I can remember I liked playin’ jokes, but they all been in fun.” Jamie frowned, remembering some of Homer’s jokes that he didn’t think were fun. “And I never wanted to hurt no one. Even when I had playground fights, I just liked fussin’ around and no one got hurt. But when I hit Sam I…” He stopped and grabbed the bedspread in his fists.

Jamie sat down on the end of Homer’s bed and waited. Finally, Homer sighed and said, “Close the door, will ya?”

Jamie did and then sat on the edge of Homer’s bed again.

Homer talked to the ceiling so he wouldn’t have to look at Jamie. “When I hit Sam, I wanted to hurt ’im. Hurt ’im as bad as I could.” He stopped and ground his teeth. “And when he went down… I liked it.”

Homer yanked on the bedspread as if he were trying to tear it apart. “I ain’t never wanted to hurt no one before, not even someone I didn’t care for. It was like I was standin’ there watchin’ while somebody that looked just like me hit Sam and I couldn’t stop ’im from doin’ it.”

Homer shifted restlessly and whispered, “I’m scared there’s somethin’ wrong with me.”

“I don’t think so, but I wish Grandpa was here because he understands things like this better than me. Do you want to talk to him? I do all the time and I’m sure he’d talk to you too.”

“I don’t wanna talk to nobody about it.” He yanked on the bedspread again. “But I better because it’s eatin’ at me so much. Could you ask ’im for me?”

“Yeah. Soon as I get home.”

Jamie put the cookies on Homer’s dresser, said good-bye to his mom on his way out and hiked home across their fields. Jamie found his grandpa working in the barn and explained what Homer wanted.

“Humph! There’s somethin’ about that boy I like. Gimme a hand here.” They saddled an old mare and his grandpa climbed on and rode off.

Two hours later when he came back, Jamie ran out to meet him. They unsaddled the horse and while they cleaned and put the tack away, Jamie asked, “What did you and Homer talk about?”

He shook his head. “That’s ’tween me and Homer. If he wants to talk to you about it, he will. Or he won’t. I ain’t gonna.” He smiled and nodded. “Them cookies was mighty good. Homer thought so too.”

Jamie grinned. He didn’t need to talk to Homer.

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