Penny and Harvey



400-word story about a lopsided relationship.

Her heart cracked open a little when she saw him standing there all scraggy and worn. Waiting on the porch step like somebody’s forgotten luggage. Sad of the soul with his hangdog eyes and gaunt face. Made her true love gush right out and want to take care of him.

He’d been on the road so long he looked older somehow. Weather-beaten. Like the sun had taken away every last drop from him and didn’t give nothing back.

She said he looked hungry. Lean, like he hadn’t had a right meal in weeks. Then she took pity on him. Penny always did, you know. Not sure any of us really knew why.

“Wipe yer feet,” she threw back at him, over her shoulder like as she walked away. Back inside the few gloomy rooms her freedom could afford. She always sat in the dark to keep the bills down, you know. And then here he come, wanting to eat.

“Let him come in,” she said, like she could read my mind.

“I didn’t say nothing.”

“What? He’ll eat, sleep, and be out again before the sun rises.”

“I know.”

She couldn’t have stopped him if she’d wanted to, though. She knew that and I knew that. He knew where he lived. She could no more stop Harvey from coming back home again than she could prevent him from leaving in the first place.

It was just that way with those two. It was a lopsided relationship, and all but she could see it. He was his own person, but on the other hand, she didn’t want him in her hair most days anyway. At least that’s what she said, but I don’t know how many of us ever believed that. She longed for him at night. She got lonely, and you could tell, too, because she hardly never talked of nothing else when we all got together.

Broke yer heart to see it, you know, but what are you going to do? Myself, I was on the fence about him. Say a harsh word to Penny about her Harvey and you’d see the mean pit bull come out in her.

“Don’tchoo talk like that about him! He’s jist a dog. Don’tchoo know he can’t help it?”


Even so. Man’s best friend, and all? And him treating her like a motel.

Now don’t even get me started about her cat.




Sheila L James is on Twitter.  Follow her @SheilaLJames


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