This is a repeat of a story I released in May of this year, except for the ending. The test was, did the tone of the story change with the ending. Which did you like best? You decide.
HARRY SAUNTERED DOWN Brooklyn’s Spencer Street with his hands in his brown corduroy pants pockets. His new blue shirt felt a little scratchy under his parka, but it looked super. That’s what Mama told him. One of the tails of the shirt hung out a little. Mama said he should hurry, but the nice day with blue sky and a few white puffy clouds slowed his steps. He could see the boys playing catch or something way down at the end of the block. They looked like little sticks, like ants. He chuckled.
A brisk, cold wind pushed at Harry’s back, but his big fluffy coat made him feel warm inside. Harry had the whole block to himself and he liked being on the street walking alone. He didn’t worry because the kids always made fun of him, but then they’d slap him on the back and laugh and he’d smile and the kids would crack up and then they’d let him go on and he’d wave and feel good about having so many friends.
He didn’t notice his dumpy body. When he climbed the special stool under the sink in the bathroom at home and looked in the mirror he saw his small mouth and slack jaw and his almond shaped eyes. He even saw the small skin folds on the inner corners. His Mama said not to worry that he looked different from others. He looked fine to her. Mama loved him and cuddled him and he sure loved Mama. She’d let him go to the store again, just like last time.
“You’re Mama’s big boy,” she said.
He heard his Mama and the lady next-door talking low one day and they said he had Down syndrome. It didn’t sound bad to him. He ate well and dressed himself and Mama loved him. What else mattered?
Mama said, “Bring the milk back right away, Harry. I need it for tonight’s supper.”
“Okay, Mama. I’ll come right back.”
His tongue made him say things funny, like it felt too big in his mouth when he talked, but even though his friends laughed, Mama understood him very well and she never laughed at him.
Harry jingled the change in his pocket until — up ahead a little — he spied something on the ground. Maybe it’s a present. Maybe he could take it home.
Hands in pockets, Harry ambled twenty-five feet further and stopped to look. A glove! The glove had smooth black leather with little dimples on it and Harry thought it looked expensive. It lay on the curb, almost falling into the street. He didn’t have any gloves like it and he really liked gloves. He remembered his shoe box of singles at home and he thought about them for a minute. He didn’t have one like this. The glove just lay there and he needed it. It didn’t belong to anybody or it wouldn’t be there, right?
Mama didn’t tell him he shouldn’t save things he found, but she told him to look for anybody nearby, because it might belong to them. Like Mama watched over his shoulder, Harry looked up and down the street. He didn’t see anybody.
He looked up at the blank faces of the brownstone row houses across the street and then at some tenements on his side, but right where he saw the glove he saw a narrow patch of empty, nearly grass-less land with a couple of sad looking trees. His eyes rested on couple of weather worn metal and wood benches with their feet set in cement. Sometimes old men would sit there, and sometimes they would talk to Harry if he went by, but no one sat there on a cold day like today.
Harry didn’t see the owner of the glove, so ‘finders-keepers’. Mama told Harry that. Harry always listened to Mama. He bent down and picked it up. He felt the softness of the leather and he laughed because he had the best prize ever in his hand right now.
His eyes didn’t see well, but he could see the boys down the street playing stick-ball now. Harry didn’t think any of them saw him pick up the glove. He knew they liked to have fun and they might take it away from him. He shoved it deep in his jacket pocket.
For a moment he stood, remembering. Milk, Mama needed milk. He’d better get along. He started for the store again. In a couple of minutes the boys were close and they’d stopped their game. They seemed to be waiting for him.
“Hey, Harry, how you doon?” the pitcher said.
A towheaded boy with the bat said, “What you pick up, Har?” Sometimes the boys called him ‘Har’ and he told them his name was Harry. But they still called him ‘Har’.
“It’s mine,” Harry said. “I found it.”
“Let’s see it,” a short Italian kid called from across the street at first base.
“It’s mine,” Harry said again and put his hand in his pocket to feel it. It felt so wonderful!
“C’mon,” the first boy said, “show us.”
These kids were his friends, but he found the glove and he didn’t want to share it.
“No, it’s mine.” He hugged his pockets with both arms.
“Hey gang,” Tony, the Italian kid said and he got closer; “let’s see what Harry’s got.”
The kids converged on him. Two of them grabbed him around the middle and one reached into his pocket and pulled the glove out.
“Hey, look,” Tony yelled, “he’s got a leatha glove. Nice.”
Harry struggled. “Give it back. It’s mine.”
Tony threw the glove past Harry’s nose to Chuckie the first baseman. Chuckie caught it easily and tossed it to Johnny the pitcher. Harry tried to grab for it but the kids were too fast. They brought it close then whipped it away. They kept it up for about five minutes. Finally, Harry started crying and his arms hung limp and he felt so tired.
“It’s mine,” he cried. “Give it back.”
“Wadda freak!” Tony laughed. He waved the glove in Harry’s face. Harry grabbed again, but his tears interfered with his eyesight and his short arms didn’t move like Tony’s or any of the boys.
Not one of the neighborhood kids saw the big black Cadillac pull up to the curb. A well-dressed man got out wearing one glove.
All activity stopped. The kids looked at the man and their eyes grew wide. They knew him, Big John Pallachino, the mob boss. They dropped the glove and started to run.
“Hey! You kids come here!” The kids stopped in their tracks.
Harry reached down and picked up his glove.
Big John turned to him. “Where’d you get that glove, kid?”
“It’s mine,” he said. “I found it.”
Big John looked Harry over. His hard eyes softened. “What’s your name, kid?”
The crime boss stood for a moment, thinking. Then he reached around and took off his other glove. He handed it to Harry. Harry reached tentatively and took it.
“Here, Harry. What good is one glove without a mate?”
Then he turned to the other kids and said, “I saw what you kids were doing. This Harry is special. I don’t want to hear that you kids have been hazing him anymore. Understand? You do that, you answer to me. Understand?”
Too scared to say a word, they nodded.
The kids took off running.
“Harry, you want I take you home?”
Somehow Harry knew this man scared the other kids, but he wasn’t scared.
“Mama told me to never get in a car with a stranger,” he said.
The stranger nodded. “Smart woman, your Mama. You run along now, Harry.”
Harry watched the man get into the back seat of his Cadillac and motion to his driver. The car sped away.
Harry looked at the two gloves in his hands and laughed at them delightedly.
Then he stuck them in his pockets and headed for the store. Mama would be wondering about him. That made him feel nice, too.