Hello Henry

Featured 50 Fiction: Hello Henry
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Hello Henry, is that you? Sorry, the sign-up sheet said you were six and you don't quite look... well, it's just those teeth. No, no, no, not a problem at all--of course we can get started. Got your racquet?

Yes, Henry, your mother did tell me you were junior champion of Astoria Green and that you made the finals of the city championships next month. We're honored you've come all the way to our little club here in Santa Lucia. Probably not as nice as what you're used to, yes, yes, I know, the bathroom is a little run down. What's that? Why yes, the neighborhood is deserted at night, not nearly as busy as that big old apple of yours.

Well, thanks for finding us, and that's great you're so accomplished at such a young age. We're honored to have you.

Okay, I'm going toss you some balls. Let's see what you can do. I'm sure you know all about backspin, so go on and start by putting a little spin on it.

All right, don't worry, Henry, that was a bad miss, happens to all of us. Here's another.

No worries, you're probably you're just tired, here we go again--

Hey! Henry! No need to hit your sister with the racquet. It wasn't her fault. Come on now, eye on the ball, feet shoulder width apart.

Henry, I need you to swing up, Henry, up. We want the ball over the net, not under. Here, let me see your grip, yes, that's it, open the fingers wide. Oh no, Henry, we don't want the grip so tight that your fingers are completely white.

Well, I don't care what they say in New York, this is Florida and we do not play with white knuckles.

What? Did I upset you, Henry? My God, you look like a little dog when you pull your lips back like that.

Henry! Henry! Calm down. What's that? Yes, I am a bit of an old man, but I was semi-pro for many years and I can still teach. What? Of course I can't run as fast as a six-year old. Well, yes, I'm sure you would beat me in a race but that doesn't mean I can't teach you a thing or two.

Okay, let's take it from the top. Why don't you play the net? Here in Florida that's how we start our beginners, at the net, not the baseline, to make things easier. Yes, yes, I know you're a junior champion, but I have to be honest with you Henry, I'm not seeing that here.

Henry! Is that how you behave with grown-ups in New York? That's certainly NOT how we do it in Santa Lucia. Put that finger away. Henry, you are NOT setting a good example for your sister. Hey, ouch! Okay, that was good Henry, yes, you finally got one over the net, but next time try not to aim it right at me.

What's that? Yes, that is wild plumbago you're looking at. For a city boy, you certainly know your plants. And yes, I do believe small rodents live underneath it. Are you scared of rodents? What? No, of course I've never eaten one. I may be old but I'm not a monster. What's that? You like monsters? I'm sure you do, don't all six-year old boys? What? Vampires are your favorite? Oh, look at that, you've certainly made your sister laugh now.

Oh, hello Mrs. Hansen, nice to see you, I wasn't expecting you back yet. Yes, Henry is doing fine. He is a very talented player indeed.

I'm sorry, could you repeat that? You have errands for another two hours and you want me to extend the lesson until eight? No, I'm afraid not, Mrs. Hansen, my granddaughter is coming to dinner.

Mrs. Hansen, please, that is a LOT of cash to be carrying around, please, put it away. No, I can't take direct payments. It would have to go directly to the club. Well, yes, I suppose I could take a little if you want to make it a tip...My God, Mrs. Hansen, that is an extremely generous tip, all right, well, I suppose I can make arrangements for my wife to pick up my granddaughter.

Okay, Henry, Mom's gone, how about we groove the swing? What? You don't use that expression in New York? Well, that's what we say here. No, I'm sorry, Henry, I don't care, we use it here, so be quiet and let me see you groove the swing. Swift and smooth, swift and smooth.

Hey, Henry, I do NOT want to have to put soap in your mouth. That is inappropriate language.

Hey, Henry! I told you. Do not hit your sister. Henry! Have you heard of anger management classes? Do you have those in New York City? Of all places, I would certainly think so.

What's that now? You want to work on returning serves? I don't think that's a good...no, no, Henry, please don't scream like that, and please, do NOT shout that I was touching your privates, you and I both know that is NOT true. Okay, okay, we will work on returning serves, but please, be quiet!

Give me one second to back up here, although I have to say, if you can't even get the ball over the net why you would want to return a serve, I have no idea, but, here we go, first one coming at you now, oh, oh, oh, Jesus H. Christ, fudge, fudge, fudge, no, no do NOT touch me, yes, I know it's bleeding, and no it's not broken. How do I know? I just do, yes, yes, I did see that, and yes, I see that you can hit. No, Henry, I can't hit to you for serve returns right now. You will have to wait while I wipe up this blood.

Hey! Henry! Stop that, stop serving at me, hey, that's my nose again. Henry, what kind of a sick kid are you? No, I do NOT want help cleaning up the blood. Henry! Henry! Get the towel out of your mouth, it's soaked in blood for Godsake. Henry!

Oh My God. Those teeth. Okay, Henry, I realize you are only six, wait, no, you're not are you? You are some freak trapped in a six-year-old body. Well, you don't want my blood, I have hepatitis and AIDS and TB and malaria. Okay, I don't have all of that but it is NOT good blood, it is an old man's blood. Okay, okay, I see that you do want it, but wouldn't it be better in small doses?

Henry! Henry! Ouch. That really is not necessary, I am bleeding as fast as I can, but for christsakes, how much blood does someone your size need? Okay, okay, I will keep bleeding if you promise not to bite me, no I'm sorry, I can't bleed any faster than this, here, suck on the towel, yes, I know you're hungry. That certainly explains why you're so cranky.

I have to say, Henry, this all strikes me all as a LOT of trouble. Why on earth didn't you just go to the blood bank--it's five blocks from here, and they're closed. What, it has to be fresh blood? Come on, Henry, this is NOT Manhattan. Surely you can make do with day old blood. They do keep it refrigerated.

What's that? My blood tastes like candy? Henry, Henry, back off, come on, back off, okay, wait, I know where I can get you plenty of fresh blood and no one will know the difference...what? Your sister has to come too? Okay, both of you, in the truck, right now before your mother kills me for driving off with both of you, well actually, that doesn't really matter now, does it? There we go, put your seat belts on, YES, I know YOU can't die, but if the police pull us over that's the end of the meal. No, it's not far, right around this corner. Follow me, yes, there is plenty for both of you, I promise. Here, come inside, look, all these people sitting in their beds, why look, here's Mr. Johnson, he's half asleep, go on, have a nibble, he'll never notice.

There, Henry, isn't that better? No need to have broken my nose. Yes, yes, it's all right, you can have seconds, but please wipe up the spill on the floor first. How about Mrs. Coleman? She's not even old, just a bit loopy, yes, that's her, go on, but please, share her with your sister now. No, I'm fine, thanks, I'll have dinner at home. Yes, these people are all very tired, that's why they're all sitting up in bed. They've been out working all day, cleaning gardens, running marathons, building buildings and so they come here to rest. That's why it's called a rest home. What, you're still hungry? Okay, both of you, clean off Mrs. Coleman's neck; over here, try Mr. Morris and Mrs Witt.

Full now? I bet you are. Both of you, back in the truck, seat belts on. What's that? No, I'm not driving any faster, I don't know why you'd be dizzy. Although I must say, Henry, you do look a little pale. Your stomach hurts? How much? All right, I'll pull over here, go on, make your mess outside the truck please. My God, that is quite a mess.

Well, Henry, I don't know what to tell you--those people looked so rested to me. Although, now that I think about it, perhaps they were on medication. I suppose when you feed like that it might have gone straight from their blood into yours. Silly old me. The thought never even crossed my mind. Live and learn, right Henry?

Oh look, there's your mother. Hi, Mrs. Hanson, yes, we're all done. We had a great time. I think Henry learned a lot, didn't you Henry? Why yes, he is a little flushed. Sorry about that Mrs Hansen, but you told me to work him and work him I did. He has a great future in front of him.

Thanks again, Mrs. Hansen. See you next time.

What's that Henry? You don't want to come back?

I'm so sorry to hear that, Henry. I really thought we had such a good lesson, all around.

From start to finish.

Diana Friedman is a writer living in Maryland. You can follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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