Willie Harvest was somewhat successful, having had three novels published to moderate acclaim. However, the books had not sold well, in part because he refused to travel all over creation to do book signings. The result was that Willie was poor, and although he’d been content with life in London, it was becoming too expensive for him to live there. When a letter arrived informing him that a distant relative had left him Rose Cottage, mortgage nicely paid off, he decided to continue his less than lucrative career there. Thus it was that one drizzly morning toward the end of October Willie boarded a train bound for his home town of Skippington-on-the-Weald.
As the scenery outside the window changed to the familiar countryside of his childhood, Willie’s mood turned dark as all his old insecurities came flooding back. It seemed like a lifetime ago, but he remembered the type of people who lived in Skippington, and he remembered them with no great fondness.
As a boy, Willie hadn’t been popular with his peers. Perhaps it was because he’d been plagued with a constantly runny nose. Perhaps it was the National Health glasses he’d been forced to wear–the kind with pink plastic-coated wire frames and thick lenses that popped out at the least provocation and rolled, collecting chalk-dust beneath the teacher’s table.
Georgie Peabody had made his life especially miserable, and there was one incident that Willie remembered with particular anger.
Georgie had stuck wads of Juicy Fruit on the floor beneath the teacher’s desk. Her shoes had stuck to it so that when she attempted to stand she’d reeled backward, missing her chair and landing with a thump onto the floor.
Unfortunately for Willie, he’d been crawling under that very desk earlier that morning hunting for his spectacles lens. Six swipes of the cane on Willie’s fingers had been the sad result of his presumed guilt, which Georgie sat smirking from his seat at the front of the class.
It had been a happy day for Willie when his father announced the family would be moving to London. He’d been eleven years old.
Such were Willie’s ruminations as the train roared toward its destination.
In Steppington-on-the-Weald, Mayor George Peabody was on his way to the railway station. He glanced at his watch, saw he was running late, and stepped on the gas. The caretaker of Rose Cottage had told him that Willie Harvest would be arriving on the seven-fifteen, and George wanted to be right there on the platform to meet him when the train pulled in.
George had never left his home town, and now he found himself wondering what Willie’s thoughts must be at returning to his roots after being gone so long. George also wondered whether Willie would remember him. He thought not. After all, he hadn’t been a student who stood out, had been too overweight to be good at any sport. Yes, he’d been something of a clown, but that was only because it was the only way he had to get the other kids to notice him. Perhaps Willie would remember that. George rather hoped not because he’d made Willie the butt of some of his pranks.
Willie had been a skinny little kid, and because of his glasses George had started calling him “Four-Eyes”, and soon the rest of the class had followed suit. Willie never seemed to let it get to him though. Just kept his nose in a book and acted like the rest of the kids didn’t exist, which made George all the more determined to get a rise out of him.
He remembered one particular incident. He’d pulled a prank on the teacher, and Willie had gotten blamed for it. George should have owned up to the mischief, but instead he’d kept quiet and watched Willie take the punishment.
And the skinny kid had not ratted on him.
That, more than Willie’s celebrity, was why George had thought about him so often over the years–with admiration, and a tad of a guilty conscience.
Whatever, now Willie Harvest was returning home, and it was up to the townspeople to welcome back one of their most famous native sons. As a town official, George was glad to represent the community.
With a shudder and a sigh, the train pulled into the tiny country station of Skippington-on-the Weald. As Willie Harvest alighted to the platform, pulling his two bags down after him, he glanced toward the entrance and gaped.
With hand outstretched, and a warm smile, Georgie Peabody was striding toward him.
With no more than a second’s hesitation, Willie dropped his bags, lifted his fist and punched Georgie squarely in the jaw. George landed on his butt on the platform, and stared up at Willie. “Welcome home,” he said.
Reaching down, Willie took George’s hand and helped him to his feet. “Good to be here,” he said.
Born and raised in England, Margaret B. Davidson now resides in upstate New York. Over three hundred of her fiction and non-fiction stories have been published in print and online magazines. Her proudest achievement was in 2006 when one of her stories was nominated for a Pushcart prize by Mindprints Magazine. Please visit Margaret’s web site at www.MargaretBourquinDavidson.com.