Thomas Prescott never answers the phone. On the other hand no one ever calls. But today, the day after his thirty-third Thanksgiving, he must be feeling the need for some human interaction; so when the phone rings, he answers. It's a wrong number. Harold Humphries from the retirement home across town called his nephew to bring him some groceries. Rather than say, "sorry, wrong number" and hanging up, Thomas stays on the line and agrees to bring Harold what he wants.
Harold proceeded to rattle off a list of supplies he needed. When he was done, I looked down at the list on my inside palm: Maxim , Sour Patch Kids, Red Bull, Macadamia Nuts, Big League Chew (Grape), Nestle Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and three lotto tickets. In a nutshell, a bunch of nursing home contraband.
[Thomas stops off at the grocery store; next stop, Harold's place.]
I walked through the double doors and was struck by the stench of old. Antiseptic meets dried apricots. . . [stopped at the front desk to ask directions to Harold's room] . . . She eyed the briefcase suspiciously. I had a feeling this wasn’t the first time old Harold had tried to pull one over on the headmistress.
I made it to Harold’s room and knocked. Two and half minutes later the door creaked open and Harold peeked out. Harold was probably 5’8” in his prime, but his height was now at a right angle. He had these huge ears— the size of tea saucers— and I imagine if he wasn’t bone deaf he could hear for miles.
He took two deep inhales of oxygen and said, “Did you get my stuff?”
I held up the briefcase and said, “Right here.” I added, “I forgot the condoms.” He smiled and invited me in. . .
. . . I surveyed Harold. He had a huge chaw of Big League Chew in his mouth and was flipping through Maxim with quite possibly the biggest grin in the history of time. The TV was set on horse racing and I watched three races while Harold devoured the candy and the magazine.
[Thomas ends up spending the afternoon with Harold, they watch a couple of horse races, Harold takes him around and introduces him to the other residents, gives him the grand tour of the facility, and when they return, Harold recalls childhood memories while Thomas listens. The last story Harold recounts is a memory of an encounter with a fifteen year old girl when Harold himself is just a boy.]
He had this big smile on his face. He patted my hand lightly and I could feel his smile crawl inside of me.