Floyd had just finished locking up when he heard tapping on the door.
“Hold on,” he yelled.
The taps turned to thumps, and by the time he reached the door it sounded as though someone was trying to jack hammer their way in. He was greeted by Henry, the gentleman who lived in the apartment above the barbershop, his forehead dripping with sweat.
“Hallelujah,” he said, trying to push his way into the shop. “I have an emergency!”
Floyd’s blood pressure nearly hit the roof. Henry’s place had flooded several weeks prior, and the last thing he needed was another ceiling incident.
“I need to be somewhere in twenty minutes and my hair’s a disaster.”
Floyd sighed – a little annoyed, slightly amused, and totally relieved that the plumbing was still intact. He pulled the door open and signaled toward the chair.
“Oh, hallelujah!” Henry shouted as he looked at the ceiling and raised his hands to the air.
Floyd laughed, finally understanding why everyone in town referred to him as ‘Hallelujah Henry’. He was quite the talker. In the ten minutes it took to trim his hair and beard, Henry managed to fill Floyd in on the last fifteen years of his life.
Henry grew up in Jagger Hills (where he’d been born), but he moved to Hollywood, in pursuit of stardom, the day he turned twenty. He never said what went on in those years, but people in town suspected that something traumatic happened.
When he returned, at the age of thirty-seven, Henry spent most of his days on Washington Avenue, traveling from Rory’s Pub on the west side, to the Frog & Toad on the east. Leroy, the bartender there, kept a cab on standby – ready to drive Henry home when he was inebriated.
On his ‘off’ days, he would lock himself in his apartment – lights off, blinds shut tight, and covers over his head. It was on one of those dark days, some five years ago, that Henry saw the light. He ran downstairs and into the street, his clothes wrinkled and his hair an oily, tangled mess.
Henry got down on one knee, bowed his head for a moment, and then he raised his hands to the sky and shouted…
“Hallelujah, I am free!”
And that was that. Henry never drank again.
Once sober, Henry took on odd jobs around town. He helped out at the church, worked at the library twice a week – putting books back on the shelves – and he did a little gardening now and then for Felicity and Mrs. Peabody.
Everyone knew that Henry was barely squeaking by, but he never complained, and he never, ever, asked for help.
“I think we’re done here,” Floyd said, brushing loose wisps of hair from the back of Henry’s neck.
“Hallelujah! What do I owe you?”
Floyd thought for a moment. He imagined he’d be struck with guilt if he asked Henry for money – knowing what he knew about him now and all. Or maybe that was Henry’s plan? Nah. Floyd hated to think that people in Jagger Hills might be manipulative.
That was one of the reasons he had moved to this quiet, small town – to get away from the fraudsters and hooligans that he had to deal with in the city.
His shop there had been vandalized three times, and looters ran off with his brand new, extremely expensive hair dryer. “Who in the hell steals a hair dryer?” He thought to himself.
Floyd’s business in Jagger Hills had grown faster than he imagined, and there were days when it took all that he had just to fall into bed at the end of the day.
“This one’s on me,” he said, his mind still churning. “I was wondering though… would you like a job here… sweeping, taking out trash… things like that?”
“Heck yeah!” Henry sang.
They agreed to work out the details later, so Henry could make it to where he was going, and Floyd could go home and get some rest. He locked up again and grabbed his bag.
As Floyd was leaving he could hear Henry’s footsteps trotting up the stairwell, and the squeaking of his door as it opened and closed. A rather large smile came to his face as he heard a muffled roar… coming from Henry’s apartment…
TO BE CONTINUED
So, I’m still having fun! I really enjoyed writing about Henry – my “H” word. When I started the story, the idea that I had in my mind was much busier and more complex – with Floyd’s clients arguing and gossiping inside of the barbershop. It may still get to that point, but for now I’m going where the characters lead me, and they are much more mellow than I imagined. Ha!
I’m doing the illustrations first so that I have time while I’m doing it to think about who the character is and how they might behave. I thought of ‘Hallelujah Henry’ for some unknown reason and I loved the idea of his quirky, constant (but authentic) praise. Maybe he’s a metaphor or a symbol, for how grateful (most) alcoholics are when they finally get sober. Imagine if we all ran around shouting… “Hallelujah!” Hard to imagine, but it doesn’t sound all that bad when you think about it.
I think that’s about all for now. Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the story and illustration.
By the way, a photo of Andy Garcia was my inspiration for this one. My son sees the resemblance, but I think that’s because he saw the original photograph that I used as my guide. Maybe you can recognize him in there… or maybe not!
Anyway, I’m off to ponder the letter “I” and I’ll be back soon to write about it.
Until then, Peace & Love!
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Thank you Stuart!! 😃