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It was 7:00 AM on a Monday morning when Henry Service woke up on what would be one of the most important days of his life. Today was the day Henry would be interviewed for a job at the local law firm. His eyes flickered open and he got out of bed, sliding his feet into some worn slippers and feeling his way in the dark to his bathroom. It took him only ten minutes to get ready -- a regimen he had been practicing every morning since the day he had been laid off from his last job. Checking the time as he clasped his watch, Henry smiled. He was right on time. Buttoning his suit jacket, he looked around. He was almost completely ready -- all that was left was the shoes.
Henry grinned again as he thought of his shoes, tiny lines appearing in the corners of his aging eyes. He allowed himself to spend a few minutes reminiscing. Last week, after he was told there would be an interview, he went out to the nearest shoe store and bought himself a $200 pair of brand new shoes. Money was tight -- it had probably been a rash idea, but Henry didn’t care. It was an important interview, and he wanted to look his best.
He sat down on the bed and pulled the shoes out of the box, tenderly removing the tissue paper packing from the toes. He slid them on. They fit perfectly. He stood up, felt the space in the toe, and did a little jig on his bedroom floor. Comfortable, fashionable, supposedly sensible. With one last check in the mirror, Henry picked up his beaten leather briefcase, put on his hat and walked out the door of his apartment.
Down in the lobby, Henry waved good morning to the doorman and pushed himself happily through the revolving door. However, when he got around to the other side, he just kept revolving through.
It was raining.
He pushed himself around and around in the revolving door, cursing himself and beating his head against the cold hard glass of the door. What would he do now? He most certainly had to go to his interview, but the building was blocks and blocks away. He didn’t have the money to hire a taxi. He would have to walk.
Sighing, Henry went back into the lobby and took an umbrella from the stand near the door. Adjusting his hat so it covered a wider area of his face, he opened the umbrella and stepped outside. The rain poured down, leaking off roofs and flowing out of drainpipes. Clutching the umbrella tightly, Henry began the long walk.
After a few steps, Henry relaxed. Under the protection of his wide black umbrella, Henry was safe and dry. Smiling slightly, he began to slow his pace. After a few minutes, however, a truck rumbled by, sending a wave of dirty brown water rushing towards Henry’s unprotected legs. Noticing the wave just in time, Henry dove out of the way. The water splashed harmlessly onto the sidewalk, but Henry had lost his balance. His grip of his briefcase loosened and it fell to the ground, right in a particularly deep puddle.
Cursing himself and the torrential rain, Henry lifted his dripping briefcase out of the puddle. Brushing it off as best he could, Henry jumped over the puddle and continued walking.
A few minutes passed. The wind began to pick up, sending gusts of rain blowing sideways. Henry felt a tug at his umbrella. He tightened his grip, but the tug worsened. Abruptly, the umbrella inverted and wrenched itself out of Henry’s hands. He watched it tumble away across the street and down a narrow alley. The rain came down in sheets, and the wind howled. Henry began to run, keeping his head down and leaping over puddles.
Unfortunately, his increased speed also increased the wind. His hat flew off and began to spin away of a torrent of wind. Henry abandoned his route to chase after it. The hat fluttered on the gust for a few moments, graceful as an eagle, and then tumbled down into a big puddle of water.
Henry was surprised to feel the sting of tears behind his eyes as he bent to retrieve the hat. It was soaking wet. He shook it a few times to remove the excess water and then began to walk again, disheartened, carrying his wet briefcase in one hand and his wet hat in the other.
After a few blocks of no unfortunate events -- save for the driving rain -- Henry began to look up. He was almost there. He quickened his pace, checking his watch. He had twenty minutes to get to the building. Excellent. Being there early would come in handy.
Careful not to step in any puddles, his shoes wet but not completely ruined, Henry set his pace and began purposefully walking towards his destination. He would get there in one piece, semi-dry and ready for his interview!
But then he stopped short in his tracks.
The building was right across the street -- he could see the big white letters announcing the name of the law firm. But flowing right down the center of the street was a veritable river of rainwater, at least a foot deep in the center. Henry stood, speechless, on the sidewalk, his mouth slightly ajar, his eyes flicking back and forth from the river to the building. He couldn’t make it across without completely ruining his new shoes. Would he have to turn back?
No. He had come this far; he would not turn around just because of a little water. He was smart, he told himself as he looked around. There must be some sensible solution. Could he walk alongside the river until he found a shallower crossing? No, there wasn’t enough time. Could he fashion some sort of boat in which to flat across? No, that was stupid. Henry cursed as he racked his brain, looking around frantically for some sort of aid.
And then he saw the chairs.
Just two folding chairs, the paint peeling, the hinges rusty, waiting alongside a broken-down dumpster. Someone probably had left them out for the garbage to pick up. But they would work. Henry ran over and grabbed them, unfolding them and making sure they were sturdy enough to hold his weight. Then he set one down right at the beginning of the river. Climbing up on it, he moved the next chair a foot farther into the rushing rainwater. Taking a deep breath, he hopped from the first chair to the second. The chair held. Heaving a sigh of relief, Henry moved the first chair in front of the second and hopped onto it. In five minutes, he was across the river and safely under the awning of the law firm.
Henry beamed as he looked back over the expanse he had crossed, clutching the chairs to his side. Then he looked down. His suit was soggy and covered in rust from the chairs. His shirt was soaked through, and his tie was shot. His hat, crumpled and wet, peeked out of his pocket, and his briefcase was still dripping from its endeavor in the puddle. Shrugging, Henry accepted his fate and walked into the building.
“Henry Service, here for an interview,” he told the pretty receptionist, wringing the water out of his tie.
“Very good, sir. Mr. Eastwood will be here shortly to interview you. Just have a seat there,” the receptionist replied, indicating a few armchairs off to the side. Henry nodded and sat down, trying not to look at himself or think about his appearance but using what small bit of his clothing that was still dry to get the water off of his shoes.
After a few minutes, the door burst open and a man looking about as sorry as Henry bustled through, shaking his own soggy hat and stamping his feet on the mat.
“Good morning, Evelyn,” he said jovially. “Is my eight-o’-clock here?”
Evelyn the receptionist pointed to Henry, who stood up and offered his hand.
“Ah, excellent, wonderful to meet you! My name is Jeff Eastwood.” The man beamed and shook Henry’s hand. “You must forgive me for my appearance. You see, as I was walking to work today, I dropped my case in a puddle…” he lifted his dripping briefcase. “…and then the wind blew away my umbrella and hat…” he tossed his wet hat onto the receptionist’s desk. “And goodness knows how many puddles I stepped in.” He did a most curious jig on the carpet, trying to shake the water out of his shoes.
“So, shall we begin the interview? Please, take off your coat; I know you must be terribly uncomfortable. Let’s just go up to my office…” Mr. Eastwood directed Henry to the elevator.
“Thank you. You know, I had a difficult time getting here today as well,” said Henry as he stepped onto the elevator.
“Well, you look like you had a better time of it than me,” said Mr. Eastwood as he pressed his thumb on a button. “Your shoes look impeccable. And they are some very fine shoes, if I do say so myself…”