When Words Lost Meaning, Rich Paschall
If there was anything Harry did not need, it was more disappointment. He’d had a lifetime of disappointments, but it seemed he was in for another. Mistreated and mislabeled, he was now also abandoned. Unintentionally abandoned, but for Harry, alone was alone.
Harry came into the world with great hope. His mother picked out for her new-born the name of the most famous boy in the world. The little child was named after the boy wizard of book and movie fame, Harry Potter. She thought he even looked a little like the drawings of Harry on the book covers.
As he grew, little Harry had trouble learning. He never developed good reading skills. He often baffled his mother, telling her the letters moved, and words did not make sense when put together. Eventually, his mother told him he was stupid, and accused him of not trying. Just to confuse the issue, she followed that by telling him he was bright (which was true) and could read if he wanted to read. Which was not true. The further behind he fell in school, the more labels he acquired. But no one gave him the right label: “Dyslexic.”
The lad withdrew. He began hiding in the last place anyone would look for him. The library.
And so, a boy who could not read looked at the books in the comfortable Florida Public Library and waited. Maybe someone would come and read to him. Someone who would explain the stories. It was hard to find anybody to do this until he spotted Harold looking at the Harry Potter books. Little Harry decided that Harold was his new friend.
Harold had been going to the library every Tuesday and Thursday to read books on engineering and machinery. Sometimes Harold considered histories, but one day he strayed from his usual plan to look at the books about which he’d heard so much. The Harry Potter series.
When Harry, the boy with the reading problem, spied Harold in the “fantasy aisle,” he instantly knew he’d found someone to read to him. Since Harry had become rather withdrawn in recent months, he began the relationship by staring at Harold and the first Harry Potter book.
The librarian’s assistant misinterpreted Harold’s attempts to send little Harry away. She thought Harry and Harold were together. So she opened the usually shuttered reading room, making it possible for Harold to read aloud to the boy.
Harold read to the boy that first day but had no intention of continuing. Nevertheless, it turned into a regular Tuesday and Thursday affair.
Harry knew old Harold was not a great storyteller. He was obviously uncomfortable reading out loud. But little Harry liked Harold’s awkward attempts at it. And Harry was learning. It seems Harold was keeping an eye on little Harry and when he could see the boy did not understand something he read, he would stop to explain it.
Sometimes the boy would be emboldened to ask questions. Even though the boy with the little wizard face was not yet learning to read, he was building his vocabulary.
Then one Tuesday there was no Harold at the library. Harry waited rather impatiently, but his new friend never showed up. The boy roamed the lobby, then just stood there staring off into space, as if he was lost. It was a sad sight. Thursday brought the same scenario. When the little boy looked as if he was going to cry, the Librarian stepped in.
“What seems to be the problem, young man?” she asked Harry in a businesslike tone.
“He’s not here,” Harry said loudly, and tears rolled down his face.
“Shh. This is a library. Now, explain to me. Who is missing?”
Harry tried to explain, but was so upset he couldn’t. Seeing this, the librarian’s assistant rushed over to help. When she finished telling what she knew, the three stood there staring at one another. Harry remained dejected.
At last, the assistant suggested, “Maybe your friend is ill and can’t come. I’m sure he’d be here if he could be.” Of course, she had no idea how accurate she was.
“But he’s supposed to read to me today,” Harry whimpered.
“I know,” the helpful assistant said, “but he can’t come if he’s sick. You know how your mother makes you stay home if you’re not feeling well, right?”
The boy didn’t know. His mother ignored him when he was sick, figuring it was a ploy to stay home from school. The boy looked at the Librarian and her assistant, his face full of sadness and mistrust. So the assistant went on.
“I’m sure your friend will be back to read for you very soon.” Of course, she had no way of knowing when, or if, Harold would be back to read.
Even while the three stood in the Library lobby wondering, a doctor stood at the foot Harold’s bed in the hospital’s Intensive Care unit reading his chart. This Thursday, Harold could not read, talk, or explain anything to anyone.