Harry and Me by Jim Harrington

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An out-of-work salesman looking for a job stumbles upon Harry, an orphan who's aged out of the system and is a self-taught musician. After their chance meeting on a forest lane, the two partner up for a new adventure that should be lucrative for both. After all, if one member of their little team has business smarts and the other other has talent, the sky's the limit in what they could achieve. Their first stop? A small village named Hamelin that has a pretty serious rat problem. The two men may have found their first client, but the results of their business venture are about to have some unforseen results. A short story.


The first time I saw Harry he was perched on the railing of a worn-out covered bridge, hunched over, like a question mark. Nodham Bridge, Built in 1862, read the sign over the entrance. I came upon him while traveling across the county looking for a sales job. I'd pulled off the road to take a leak and stepped into the sycamores where Harry couldn’t see me when I heard him talking.

“'Life is something that everyone should try at least once,'” he said, his voice that of a mocking child on a playground. “Well, Mr. Loser Tillman, I tried it and life sucks.”

Later, Harry told me his history teacher liked to quote athletes, even if what they said had nothing to do with history. This one had come from a boxer named Tillman.

As I learned more about Harry, I understood why he thought his life sucked. His mother had abandoned him at birth; and he'd spent the next eighteen years ricocheting from one foster home to another, never feeling like he was a part of any of them. I told him once I'd be his father. He laughed and said he was too old to have a father.

I never married, never fathered any children. When people asked why, I smiled and told them I hadn’t found the right woman. That wasn’t true. I loved Hildie Schwimmer, even imagined raising a family with her, but lacked the courage to tell her—or even date her. I went away to college and accepted a job as a traveling salesman with a medical appliance company, after graduation.

I saw Hildie the last time I visited my parents. Mom, Dad and I went out for lunch. I watched from Louann’s Diner as Hildie herded three boys, the youngest around ten, into the post office. My stomach flip-flopped like it always did when she was around. Mom noticed my tears, but didn’t say anything. Instead, she placed a fresh napkin next to my plate.

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