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HENRY

It occurred to him he had known a severe case of arrogance. He had known Henry. Henry knew everything. Henry performed operations on himself to remove small tumors on his ear. His fingers were divining rods. And he knew how to survive in the woods by smelling out the abandoned fetus of a deer and eating it while the doe quivered in the leaves.

Henry was a pure-bred Teuton with queer ideas. He knew everything and perhaps the punishment for knowing everything was having queer ideas, such as always carrying a long, sheathed knife in his belt as he walked in the city . When questioned Henry would look shocked..

"Wouldn't you carry a knife in the city?" The matter was dropped.

He had gone to San Francisco once with Henry. He cringed to think of the memory. The crowds stared at both of them when they should have stared only at the man in sequin cowboy boots and long knife fastened to his belt. Henry strode two paces ahead of him up Market Street his voice as rapid as the traffic.

"What gross beasts you are! Every living one of you can taste the blade of a man!"

The homeless shriveled back into the alleys and pedestrians brushed past the two as though they were ghosts.

"HaaaaHaaaaa!" Henry roared like a general. He turned and faced his companion. 'You see-they're all afraid- they're afraid 'cause they know I know more than they-HaaaaaHaaaa!'

In and out of bars all day the two roamed, Henry pulled his companion along by his arm. He followed the knife-man into a dim bar. The two ordered a beer. Henry's eyes were alive with anticipation. They spun in the corners like oiled marbles.

'Everyone in here is a stupid ass,' he said. The music juking through the place took his voice away into a melange of sound. A fellow noticed the knife and mentioned it. 'You a stabber?"

Henry looked the man up and down. He was confronted by a thin, intense wiry man with thick, black hair.

"Tell me this- you who dare ask me if I'm a stabber- do does abort their fawns?"

The man stared back. "What's this?"

"I'm serious. Have you ever gone hungry in the woods? Hungry enough to eat leaves? In that case the abortion on the floor of the wood is a delivery, salvation.. Don't make me repeat this story."

The man growled and walked away but many of the patrons had turned their heads and glared at the man who knew everything.

"I saw a man eat his own dung one time," one said.

"Did he eat it all?"

"He ate it on a dare."

The two were face to face. The older man held a shot glass in one hand. Henry smiled.

"I wouldn't eat shit on a dare, double dare or an empty belly." The old man laughed grizzly and coughed, clapping Henry on the back. 'Let me buy you another round.'

Within the hour Henry was dancing with two of the drinkers while the companion stared into the mirror behind the bar. A bit later Henry sat on the stool and looked at the companion as though he were from another planet.

"You know why I'm so crazy....it's my father. My father was the meanest rascal in the world and when I was a boy he yelled at me one Saturday, 'Henry, you done broke the lawnmower. I'm going to give you one fucking day to fix it. If it ain't fixed in one fucking day I'm going to tan you. And you know what that means.'

Well, I knew what my father meant and it scared me, gave me the willies. Now, I didn't know nothing about lawnmowers except how to push'em when the engine was on. So, I take that sucker and take it apart, tear it down to the last nut. And I look it over for a lot of hours. For many hours I just hovered over that sucker thinking about what my father was going to do with me. So, I just tinkered and fiddled and played and you know what? I fixed that fucker and my dad was amazed. He yelled at me for something else but I could see the amazement in his eyes."

The companion didn't know what to make of Henry. There was a blind energy in him that never allowed him to pause and reflect on what he did or said. The companion admired that and contrasted Henry with a brother he had; a brother filled with books and severe judgments on nothingness. Henry was actually capable of killing his boss and they would never fire him at work even though he sabotaged his work on more than one occasion.

"Can't we fire this guy?" A line supervisor had complained in an office full of suits.

"Henry is a dangerous character. We try to get as much work out of him as we can but if we fire him he's liable to do anything."

Henry had an enormous head. His eyes were sharp and, even, delicate. He was slight but athletic and always had a huge grin on his face as though he had just put a potato up the exhaust of your car.

In fact, Henry always knew he was going to survive and that the rest of humanity would fade away under the duress of city living and fast food. In the small room he let from the corner restaurant owner he proudly displayed his cross-bow that had killed the deer and other momentos of his resistance to the civilized life.

All the rest of the day and evening Henry and the companion roamed the urbane haunts of the fabled city insulting the patrons of the theater on Powell Street. He knew a Basque bar on Telegraph Hill and the two entered and, in perfect Basque, Henry told them they were all fascist pigs. They ran fast to the cable car connection that was filled with tourists. "Ah, tourists," he shouted to no one in particular, "my favorite victims!" He proceeded to tell them, one and all, that they stank of the body of a dead animal. 'What do you fuckers do? Put dead squirrels in your pockets?' Henry leaped from the cable car just as the brakeman was approaching and, removing his knife, with one perfect swing, cut all the strings from a clutch of balloons a poor balloon man was holding. As the balloons floated up in the air Henry laughed hysterically. The companion raced to try and catch him as Henry raced toward Fisherman's Wharf and caught a glimpse of Henry sweeping crabs and lobsters off the outside tables as though he were Christ in the Temple chasing out the money-lenders. A few of the creatures were in his hand as he threw them over a railing into the bay water. In the distance were sirens. The companion urged Henry to 'settle down.' "Let's make some graceful exist away from here, Henry." But Henry, as though he had plotted his moves for days, deftly side-stepped the companion and ran down into the haunts of Madame Tuassad's Wax Museum. The companion patiently paid for the two of them explaining to the ticket taker that 'my friend is like a little kid in these wax museums.' Fearful now of more than embarrassment, the companion tracked Henry down to the Room of Presidents where he had deftly carved wax genitals from the wax presentation of President Clinton and stuck them between the Presidents lips. "We have to go Henry...we have to work tomorrow...." The companion was fearful that police would swarm the Museum and corner the two but when they emerged into the dusky evening they saw two squad cars by the restaurants and quickly caught a cab to get out of the city.

And so the companion had to say good-bye to Henry who had punctured the tire of his truck so they could laze out in the summer breeze; so Henry could explain to the companion how he could spot the underground creeks flowing down the hill, which leaves where nutritious and which were poison. "This is where life should be lived," he said wistfully. "Out here we are animals and kings."

It was getting late and the companion had to leave. He knew he would never see Henry again but that he would always remember him; remember him putting his pole climbing equipment on to shimmy up the outside structure of a great, custom built house commissioned by the owner of a well known furniture store. Remember the silhouette he made against the late summer afternoon with the distant sound of drill bits and constant taste of sawdust under the bluest sky, against the shaded mountain where he had learned Indian lore and kissed the first woman of his dreams. And Henry astride the great house like a cowboy; swinging his arms as though signaling to the birds that he had found them a home.

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