What’s Eating Harry


Jerry A.G. Ericsson


© Jerry A.G. Ericsson 8/23/2000


            Ron, Harry and I were the closest of friend.  We grew up together.  From the day I moved to town we were together every day.  Then as people do, we drifted apart when we grew up.  In fact it had been over seven years since I talked to either one of them.  I lived a couple of hundred miles from where we grew up, while Ron and Harry stayed there.  Then came the day when Ron called.  I was surprised to get his call, but it was great to hear from him again.


“You gotta come home, there is something wrong with Harry, I don’t know what to do!” Ron said over the phone.  I told him I would be right there, and without a second thought, I grabbed my coat and was out the door.  My wife was just getting out of her car, and I shouted to her that I had to go back home for an emergency with Harry. She understood.


I drove like a maniac, all the time thinking that I should have stayed in touch.  My thoughts went back to those happy days we three spent growing up. The Three Musketeers they called us, as we were together night and day.  I remembered that day down by the lake when Ron and I dared Harry to strip and dive in the lake.  “Go ahead,” I told him “I’ll be right behind you.”  Then we laughed, as the naked fifteen-year-old shrieked as the icy waters of Larson Lake covered his body, which was taking on a frightful shade of blue. 


Harry was always just a little slow.  Not a retard or anything, just a little slower at catching on to things then the rest of the world.  Now something was wrong with Harry, and I needed to be there, I needed to be with Ron, so we could save our friend from whatever mess he found himself in.


I pulled into the oncoming lane and passed a slow moving farmer on his tractor, he waved as I sped by, then flipped me off, when I didn’t return the wave.  Things were changing even back here in the mid-west; the days of the easygoing farmer were being replaced by the days of the survivalist tax protestor.  I regained my speed and in another hour, I was in the outskirts of my hometown.  God, it seemed as though the clock had turned back, nothing had changed.  The old man sitting on the bench in front of Herman’s Barber shop looked exactly like Goofy Gordon, yet it could be, as Goofy died over ten years ago, must be some relative I supposed.  Two more blocks, and I came to the old Ranger Bar, where we spent many hours drinking 3.2 beer and playing pool, it looked the same, except maybe the windows were a little darker with a thicker coating of cigarette smoke.  I took a right and drove the four blocks to Ron’s house.  Ron still lived in the house he grew up in, he moved in right after his mom passed on.  It was exactly the same as it head twenty years ago, but the paint was not as bright as it used to be, faded by many years in the bright Dakota sunshine.


Ron met me at the front door; he shook my hand so long that I began to feel like a hand pump in the old City Park where we used to play as children.


“I am so glad you could come, I just don’t know what to do next!”


“What happened to Harry?” I asked


“You know how Harry is,” he began, “He never was all that bright, well seems he met this young lady, Donna was her name, I think, anyhow this gal talked Harry into moving in with her.  They seemed happy for awhile, but then Harry seemed to change, not so’s anyone else would notice, but I did, as I know Harry better then anybody, even you.”


I nodded my head and took the can of Coors that Ron brought me from the fridge.


“Harry began to take on airs, I think this Donna was building up his ego for some reason, that I have yet to figure out, but he was changing, and I didn’t like it one little bit!”


Ron motioned me to join him on his deck just off the dinning room, and we walked out the sliding patio doors and sat down in his folding lawn chairs.  Ron busied himself lighting the gas grill, then came back and sat next to me, and continued with his story.


“Well Harry came by here about three days ago, and told me that he was taking Donna and moving out to his uncle Bob’s house in Thunder Hawk.  I thought this rather strange, as Harry never got along with Bob when he was alive, and I never heard anything about Bob willing the house to Harry, but you know how Harry was, kind of slow on the uptake.”


Ron went in the house for a second, and I heard the fridge door close then he returned to the deck and put a couple of strange looking steaks on the grill, then came back and sat beside me.  He continued his story.


“Never heard from Harry the next day, so I took a drive down to Thunder Hawk, and went to Bob’s house.   I found Donna there; she was hanging from the curtain rod that was in the hall between the living room and Bob’s bedroom.  I couldn’t find any sign of Harry but I knew I had to find him.  If the law found him first, they wouldn’t be able to take Harry without killing him, you remember how scared Harry was of the police after we pulled that trick on him back in High School.”


I remembered that day well, how we fooled Harry into believing the police were after him because somebody told them that Harry drank some beer and he wasn’t old enough, heck Harry began shaking then broke down and bawled, it took us three hours to convince him that we were just fooling, but he was terrified of the police from that day on, and no matter what we told him, he just knew the police would beat him up and take him to jail.  You do some dumb things when you are a kid, some of them you live to regret to your dying  day, and I knew this was one of those things.  I asked Ron to go on, and he did.


“Well, I looked high and low for Harry all that day, and I finally found him the yesterday.” 


Ron paused to turn the steaks, boy did they smell good cooking on that grill, it reminded me that I didn’t have a chance to eat lunch when Ron called, and my stomach began growling, just to emphasize that fact.


“The steaks look done, I’ll be right back then we can eat and I will go on.” Ron said, going back into the kitchen.


When he returned, he put a steak on each plate and brought them over to the glass top table in the corner of the deck, you know the kind with the umbrella that sticks right through the middle and shades you as you enjoy your outdoor lunch.  They sure smelled good, yet they had a strange smell that I attributed to the bar-b-q sauce that Ron was coating them with.


As we began lunch, Ron went on with his tale of woe.


“Well I found Harry down in that old shack we used to use for a fort down on Flat Creek, he was sleeping on the floor, and he was a mess.  I tried to get him to tell me what happened but all he could do was cry, between sobs he told me how Donna had made him mad, and he got so mad that he beat her up.  When he couldn’t get her to wake up after the beating, he got scared and hung her up where I found her on that curtain rod.


He stopped talking and filled his mouth with a bite of steak, I was to busy eating the delicious steak to say anything right at that time, and he continued.


“Harry kept crying, and heck all I could do was hold him as he sobbed in my arms.  I kept thinking what jail would mean to Harry, and you know I just couldn’t turn him in.”


Ron stopped and took a drink of Coors and another mouth full of steak.  I could see this was hard for him to tell, and I was beginning to fear what was to come next.  I had to ask.


“What happened next?”


“Well I just couldn’t see Harry go to jail, so I took that old baseball bat we left standing in the corner of the fort and while Harry turned to sit down on the bench, I swung.  It only took one hit, and Harry was dead.  I didn’t know what to do with the two bodies, would be hard to explain this all to the police, that’s why I called you.”


“Well what do you expect me to do?” I asked.


“Keep eating!”  Ron said.  “This is the first course, we are just starting with Harry, we still have several more servings of Harry and lots of Donna to eat too.”