Not just another day in the Life of Harold by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog
Upon awakening Harold went immediately to the window to check the weather. He was instantly aware that it was grayer than normal for that time of day. He needed to decide on his schedule for the morning.
There was no putting off decisions until later. His orderly life demanded plans be set and executed precisely. Since rain was falling, Harold knew that he’d follow breakfast and some newspaper reading with a trip to town for some shopping. His lists were made; he was ready to go.
When it was almost 9 am, Harold grabbed his lists, a light jacket and umbrella and headed for the back door to the garage. Just as he was about to grab the door knob he was startled by the telephone ringing. He could not imagine who in the world might be calling him. There were no friends or relatives to call. There were no appointments scheduled for someone to needlessly remind him of attending. He figured it might be a telemarketer and while such calls were a total waste of time to Harold, he decided to make sure that is who it was.
“Hello,” Harold said tentatively as if he was not sure anyone would actually be on the line. “This is Harold.” He automatically announced his name as it was an ingrained practice from his many years on the job.
“Hello Harold,” a cheery voice responded. “This is your neighbor, Bill. You know, the guy down the street.”
When Harold had first moved to the Florida community, Bill had come by and introduced himself. Harold had stood on the walkway watching his goods being unloaded by the movers. Bill offered to help anytime Harold needed it and suggested they exchanged numbers in case of emergency.
“Us old guys have to look out for each other,” Bill declared. So Harold exchanged numbers with Bill though he thought it most unlikely they would ever use the numbers.
“Oh,” Harold said hesitantly, “I was just on the way out to the store.”
“I recall you said Monday was for shopping and I thought we could go together and then you don’t have to drive,” Bill replied.
“I see, but I really need to go now as I have a schedule to keep today.” Harold had a schedule to keep everyday. It was the only way he could maintain contentment in his life –and contentment was everything.
“That’s OK,” Bill told Harold in a continued bright and sunny tone which bubbled over despite the unpleasant weather, “I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”
Harold had no idea how to respond to that. It was so rare for anything to impose itself on the master scheduler’s day. “I guess,” Harold said with surprise in his voice, “But I’m really ready to go now.”
“No problem,” came the reply and Bill hung up the phone. If anyone had been present, they’d have seen a remarkable look of surprise on the face of a man who never did anything spontaneously, even when it fit perfectly into his rigid schedule.
In less than 10 minutes, Bill was in Harold’s driveway giving a quick blast on the horn of his brown Chevy Malibu. Harold emerged from the side door and moved toward Bill’s car as the light rain fell. “Where to?” Bill asked.
“I normally go to the Publix, but if you don’t want to go…”
“The Publix it is,” Bill said, cutting off Harold’s attempt to back out. At that Bill proceeded to talk his way to the Publix parking lot. He told Bill all about his first marriage, which ended after a few stormy years. Then he told of his long dedication to the love of his life, who was now gone but would always hold’s Bill’s affection. He talked about his dog, his friends, his family in Tennessee, his work life and a variety of topics that left Harold’s brain in a whirl.
From there the two proceeded to shop their way around the giant supermarket. While Harold worked on a shopping list laid out according to the design of the store, Bill seemed to wander aimlessly, picking up items at random. When Harold was finished and through the check out line, Bill was just getting to a cashier.
Harold looked at Bill’s cart and wondered how anyone could spend so much time shopping for so few items. Unless Bill had a good supply of food items at home already, he would certainly have to go shopping a second time this same week. To Harold, that seemed awfully wasteful.
On the trip home, Bill continued telling Harold the story of his life. Harold, on the other hand, couldn’t imagine he had anything significant to add to the conversation. Mostly he confined himself to monosyllabic responses to Bill’s stories.
Harold took his groceries into his kitchen with an assist from Bill, after which the neighbor was quickly on his way. “Perhaps we can do this again next week,” Bill said as he left. Harold had no idea what to say. He couldn’t imagine another such trip, though there was nothing wrong with the shopping adventure. It was just … different.
After putting away his supplies, Harold looked at the clock and to his surprise, he was right on schedule. It really didn’t seem possible, but Harold’s clock never lied.
The character of Harold previously appeared in “Soup and Sandwich” and “The Case With The Missing Egg.”