by Lee Cross
His name was Henry, he was blind. That would be the first word anyone would use to describe him but this time it’s not a fair place to start (…is it ever?) because Henry was something else first and foremost, simply put… he was a Badass.
That’s the word which pops into my mind when I think of him – BADASS.
Tall, thin and wandering through the world outfitted in a range of vintage clothing bought for him many years before by his now deceased wife (…forgive me Henry…it’s been lost from my memory how and when she passed…all that remains is the pain of your loss…), which he selects unerringly in the style of a Sitar player tuning his instrument to the mood of the day.
Then there’s the shades and the smile, like a white Ray Charles in my mind. Blessed with near superhuman ears, which on a basic level fuel his passion for music but that talent runs much deeper than just giving him an understanding of notes, crochets and rhythm… his hearing allows him to feel the beat and will of the world… to sightlessly move in time with all those hidden things around him.
Henry’s home is a small rural town in Wisconsin (…the serial killer state…) and he is a radio DJ by day; the most popular one for many miles around in fact, even though he works for a small unfashionable station that no one would have heard of at all but for his voice.
Not that anyone knows it’s an elderly blind man who is hosts of the uber popular breakfast show of course, due to him altering his voice to that of a gun totting, far-right, sports obsessed, Republican stereotype of the first order. His performance each morning is an act of satire, almost entirely for his own amusement, while his audience listen in at the same time each day to hear their version of the gospel.
I’d say he was like Bruce Wayne but that wouldn’t do him justice because he lived with more than one secret identity… as well as being the voice of the conservative mainstream he is also “The Rat”, a hero to the next generation, who listen to his punk rock / heavy mental show once weekly on a pirate studio radio station… he’s Brilliant! A legend! A badass!
When I knew he was going to die it broke my heart.
It was obvious from the start, I can say that now, he was too cool, too admirable… too everything that could be perfect in the world. He had to die. He was of the supporting cast and had very little to do the mechanics of the plot, which centered around the abduction and murder of local children (…what the hell do you expect…it’s Wisconsin…) by some creepy old man who had been possessed by a demon or some similar s*** (…what the hell do you expect – its Stephen King…), trying to bring about the end of the world.
He had to die. I knew it but I couldn’t let it happen. I just couldn’t let it happen. So I read on as far as I dared and then did the only thing I could think of to save his life – I stopped reading the book.
Seriously, I put it down determined never read another word and let Henry live forever.
In the end it was my Nan that killed him. The book had cost her Twenty Pounds, which in Nan money was a fortune (…about 20% of her weekly pension in fact…), when she complained that I hadn’t finished the book… well I had to finish it. Much as I loved Henry, I loved my Nan more, I had to show her how grateful I was for everything she had given me… and on that occasion that meant finishing a book.
I never told her she killed the first character I’d ever loved. There have been others since, many, left behind on shelves to gather dust in the corners of my mind… I read once that your first love lives with you always… I hope that’s true.
(The book is called ‘Black house’, by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I read it as a teenager when S.K.s name on the front cover was the only seal of approval I required. What’s written above is based entirely on what my mind remembers and might differ from the actual text – or your own opinion. For the record I liked it then but I have never read it again… what point? It wouldn’t bring him back…)