Crumbs lace my plate. I study the blue willow pattern and wonder if it’s a knockoff. Day dies outside this tiny kitchen, but I want to stay as long as Helen will have me.
“Where you off to? Back home to a family or elsewheres?” Helen finally brings to conversation my parting.
“No family,” I say. “At least not any that expect me anywhere. I told my roommate I might be a week or more.”
“Lands! What did you think would take that much time?” She moves to the fridge and brings an uncut pie to the table.
“I didn’t expect things with Virginia to be so—,” I say and pause.
“So bad,” Helen says plainly. She cuts the pie to serve.
“Thanks,” I say for the pie. “When did you have time to make this?”
“Baking suits me. I would’ve taken this to the neighbor today, but seeing as your here…”
“I thought I might visit multiple days with Virginia. I guess I just had no idea.”
“People rarely do,” she says. “I wish there was a way to make people love other people.”
“Hmm.” What a lovely concept. Utterly without form in this world, but still lovely.
“Do you find people like us often?”
“No, you’re the first.” They say confession is good for the soul, right?
“Maybe some other computer person would make a better story.”
“Would you say you approve of what I’ve done here?” The pie is delicious but the conversation is more so.
“Well, I think your heart’s in the right place. You might call first.”
“You would not have taken my call.”
“No, not likely. It just would have been a kindness.”
Maybe it’s the sugar rush or maybe just the emotion of the day, but I tell her everything. I tell her of Sad Boy. I tell her how I search for him. I tell her how I need to know he is okay.
“You have a big heart,” Helen says when I’ve finally quit speaking. “If you find the right people, you might just find the right story to make a change in this world. It’s a big job.”
“I don’t have much of a following,” I say, knowing even as I speak that I am full of excuses.
“What do suppose are the chances that Virginia would have an episode, that it would be video taped and added to the computer, that people would watch it so many times over? Why, I think I might just as well win the lottery!”
“What are you saying?”
“What I’m saying is you got to buy a ticket to win.”
“I need the right people to share the right story,” I say, standing.
“Maybe not this sad child you say, but somebody’ll want to do the same as you. Will want to stir the heart of the people.”
We begin to wash the meager dishes. She hums, a subtle happiness I’ve not yet seen in her. I ask about the blue willow. She tells stories of her youth and parents, of a time when life was simpler and the computer had not brought the world down around her.