First one boot dropped, then the other. A slow even exhalation of air slipped through rounded lips; followed by a sigh of satisfaction as he pulled at his socks. Cool air, hot feet. He bent over his rather large belly and started to massage his feet. He was thus arrayed when I entered the room. The worn out boots adorned with damp blue socks. I contemplated at what point the ratio of holes to fabric would change my understanding of when a sock passed into no-sock. While I pondered this, I noticed a faint cheesy odor slowly filling the room.
“I hope you don’t mind me making myself comfortable,” he luxuriated over the last word and added, “My feet needed a little air.”
This was my introduction to “Henk’”, a friend, a very dear friend of my father. I had been expecting him. Pop called, saying that Henk needed a stopover point on his way down south. The two of them would be going fishing out on the Gulf.
As I had walked up to my apartment building I saw the dented old pickup with muddy Alaska plates out front, I walked over to see if Henk was sleeping in the back. I pulled back the loose flap on the end of a wood frame which had green duck canvas stretched tightly over it. I supposed that this was an “Alaskan Camper”, homemade, designed to fit over the slightly askew bed of the pickup. The same cheesy odor wafted from it. No Henk. I figured that he had wondered down to 45th St. for a cup of coffee. I was very surprised to find him inside my locked apartment.
Did see my Ol’ Whip outside?” he asked.
I imagined some kind of dog sled implement of encouragement. “Huh?” I responded as I edged backwards a step towards the door.
“You know, Ol’ Whippoorwill, my dog … kind of black … stands about this high,” pointing at his hip. “She’s harmless enough … the only sudden move she makes is to nip at fleas.”
“No, I didn’t see any dog …” My voice trailed off as I noticed out the window this large black animal crossing the street with a pure white cockatiel hanging limply in its mouth.
Henk followed my eyes, “Oh, there she is …” paused, “Well … I s’pose I should fed her before I came up here. I guess I got distracted by that lock on your door. Never seen one of them before. What is it, some kind of combination lock? Took me nearly ten minutes to crack it.”
My apartment was one of those new ones with all sorts of electronic gadgets. If he thought the door lock was unusual, wait until he used the light switch.
“By the way, you might want to talk to that nosy lady down the hall. She probably didn’t realize I’m sort of “family.” She seemed a little put out when she saw me fussing over that lock.”
The flashing blue lights on the cop cars down on the street explained the heavy pounding on the door.
“COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!”
Henk looked a little sheepish, “Well how about that.”