Stephen was the first to speak. “You know, your Grandfather sure needs to get some better stories.”
Carol, ignoring him, said what we were all thinking, “I feel terrible. All this time we have been making fun of him, calling him, ‘Mean Mister Mullins.’ I don’t think he’s mean. I think he’s just…just…” “Sad,” Frieda said for her. “Mister Mullins is very, very sad.”
“That explains it,” I said more to myself than anyone else. “Explains what?” Stephen asked.
“Why he never waved or answered back,” I replied. “I bet he never even saw or heard me. Grandfather said Mister Mullins doesn’t see or hear well. I thought he was just being…”
“Mean,” the others said for me. “What are we going to do?” Frieda asked. “Do?” Stephen said. “What can we do?”
“I don’t know,” she replied. “But it feels like we should do something.” Carol agreed. So did I. But we didn’t know what we could do.
Finally, Stephen suggested, “Let’s think about it. We’ll talk tomorrow after school. That okay?”
We all nodded. Usually we would play a game. But no one felt like it that afternoon. They went home and I went to my room. That night when I laid down on my bed, the sound of a squeaky rocking chair drifted through the window…but it was no longer creepy just sad, very, very sad.
The next day after school we met. This time we had all kinds of ideas. We made a plan and set out to do it.
Months passed. I got home from school one day and saw Grandfather’s truck in our driveway. Soon the whole gang was gathered in the kitchen for snacks. Once again we went to the den to hear Grandfather tell another story, willing to give him another chance. Just as he was about to begin, there was a knock on the front door. I ran and opened it. There standing on our front porch was Mean Mister…I mean…Mister Mullins! I just stared at him. He took off his hat and said, “May I come in?” I was so shocked that I couldn’t speak at first. Then I mumbled, “Uh, sure. Sure you can.”
You should have seen the faces of Carol, Frieda, and Stephen when I walked back in with Mister Mullins. Even Grandfather looked surprised. We all stood up. Grandfather said, “Jacob? Jacob Mullins? Is that really you?”
“Afraid so,” Mister Mullins replied. “It’s been a long time, far too long.” The rest of us just stood there looking at Mister Mullins. We had never seen him this close before and more than that, we were wondering why in the world he was here. We did not have to wait long for an answer.
“I thought,” he said, “that I would come over here and see if any of you could help me with a mystery. You see, it seems that when I would get back from town, my grass was mowed. Someone even picked up the trash in my yard. This fall my pecans were missing again except I found a brown bag with some of them in it along with some money. It was resting in my rocking chair on my front porch. And just yesterday I found a cake on my front porch, a birthday cake, though it wasn’t my birthday. It had a hundred and twenty candles on it! Someone must think I’m ancient. Things like that have been happening for months now. Anyway, I was wondering if any of you knew anything about this?”
We did not say a thing! Mister Mullins must have seen and heard better than we thought. Grandfather said, “Jacob, you know, it might have been angels. Angels do things like that, don’t you think?”
We all looked at Mister Mullins to see if he was going to buy that lame explanation. He smiled and said, “Why, yes. Now that I think about it, I’ll bet it was a bunch of little angels.” We had been called a number of things over the years, but “angels” was not one of them.
We all stood there for an uncomfortable moment when Mister Mullins said, “I guess I had better be going now.”
Mister Mullins turned to leave but I found myself saying, “Mister Mullins? Don’t leave. Stay awhile. Grandfather is about to tell us a story and mom has made some lemonade and I know there’s a cookie left.”
Mister Mullins turned back around and smiled. He patted me on the head and said, “I think that would be quite nice.”
I ran to the kitchen to get him some lemonade and the last cookie, but mom was standing there already with them, tears in her eyes. I brought them to Mister Mullins.
“Jacob, would you like to sit here?” my Grandfather said to him motioning toward the rocking chair.
Mister Mullins looked at it for a moment and said, “No thanks. That couch looks mighty fine.” He sat down. We all sat down and Grandfather said, “Now, what story shall I tell today?”
Stephen leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I sure hope it’s better than the last one he told.” But we knew that that was really the best story Grandfather had ever told. (Author’s note: If you need a moral from this story, the one I learned is this: Do not be so quick to judge anyone, for you do not know what heavy burdens they are carrying).