AMERICAN STORIES - A Girl for Walter
Written by Theodore Jacobs
Now, the Special English program AMERICAN STORIES.
Our story today is called "A Girl for Walter". It was written by Theodore Jacobs. Here is Shep O' Neil with the story.
We never knew what Walter was, we called him an idiot. We called it that without knowing if he really was as foolish and stupid as an idiot. Walter worked for a food store. He carried food to the homes that ordered it on the telephone. When we saw Walter coming down the street, pushing his four wheel wagon filled with food, we knew we would have fun. We stopped playing our games and followed him. We always saw him coming. He wore the same cloth every day. A brown hat, green shirt opened at the neck, and a pair of gray pants. We recognized the way he walked too, long slow steps with stiff legs. We followed him down the street, try to walk as he did.
Often, we would try to pull his hat off and see how funny he looked. Walter did not seem to be troubled by our words, except when we talked about girls. When one of us asked him how his lover like was, or said "Hey, Walter, I hear a beautiful woman is looking for you." He was get very angry. He would push his food wagon with one hand and try to capture one of us with the other. If he caught one, he held him close to his face and shouted in a loud voice. "I am going to get a girl. I am going to get a girl." Sometimes, he would say it again and again even when we get tired making fun of him. He would walk down the street shouting to himself. "I am going to get a girl."
Walter did not bring food to our house, mother was afraid of him. She went to a different store and bought the food home herself. When grandmother came to live with us, this changed.
Grandmother liked all sorts of people. She was interest in people no one else loved. During her life, she had made friends with men who drank too much, women who ate too much, and people who were just very lonely. Grandmother worked with church groups for many years but finally stopped. I think she could not work with them because she did not agree that it was right to try to change a person.
Grandmother liked people for what they were. If she knew a man who drank too much, she would not tell him to stop drinking. She would tell him how to drink and still be a gentleman. Once, she wrote a book on ten different ways to drink, and still act as if you had not had a drink. The important thing to grandmother was that things were done well in the right way and with control.
When grandmother learned about Walter, she told my mother she wanted Walter to bring the food to the house. Mother, of course, was strongly against it. She thought all sorts of strange things would happen. She did not trust Walter. But grandmother simply said, "Oh pooh, you are forty two years old, Sarah." And then she telephoned to the people at the food store and told them to let Walter bring the food.
Walter and grandmother became friends. The first time, he came to the house. He told grandmother he was going to get a girl. Grandmother seemed pleased, and told him how nice it would be. She said the trouble with young man today is that they do not know how to win a girl's heart. "You must be honest", she said. Walter just stood there and listened. Grandmother then told him how her husband won her heart. She told him about her marriage and the great love there was between them.
As he listened, Walter made funny faces and moved his mouth from one side of his face to the other. When she finished her story, she asked Walter where he met his young ladies. Walter did not say anything.
"I can understand how difficult it is for young people to meet these days." Then she said in a low voice, "If you meet a nice young lady, Walter, do you know how to act?"
"What? No, I don't" Walter said.
"Well, you should." Grandmother said, and she told him how.
Walter and grandmother became very close. Every time he came with food, she had a talk ready for him. It was funny to me, but to Walter and grandmother was serious.
Later, she began to read books to Walter, a little from a book each time he came. The first book was called "How to dress when you go out with a girl?" The next book told how a young man should act when he meets the girl's mother and father. Walter seemed to enjoy readings at least he listened. He would stand next to the wall and wrinkle his nose. If grandmother expected more from Walter, she never showed it, she continued reading to him.
As time past, Walter listened harder than before. He never took his eyes off grandmother as she read. When she smiled, he smiled too. When she was serious, Walter became serious. She read about the problems of early friendship. "How to become better friends and how to decide your girl is the right one to marry."
Grandmother was almost finished reading one day, when Walter stopped her.
"Know something Mrs. Gorman, I have a girl."
"How wonderful?" grandmother answered.
"I really do, a girl like you always talking."
"Isn't that wonderful? Where did you meet her?"
"A friend helped me."
"Isn't that exciting, tell me about her, is she nice?"
"I like her very much."
"Well, she must be. What's her name?"
"I forgot. That's something. I told her my name was Walter."
"Would you kind her and a gentleman?"
"All the time, I told her the nice thing."
"I am proud of you, Walter, is she pretty?"
Walter did not answer. He told again how he met her. It seemed to me that he had to say a thing more than once or no one would believe them.
"She must be nice," grandmother said. "I hope you comb your hair and wear a coat when you see her. And you must promise me that you will always be a gentleman."
After that, grandmother read "How to Choice the Right Wedding Ring and How to be Prepare for Marriage?" She seemed to be in a hurry as if Walter might get marry before she had finished his education. Nothing mother said helped. Grandmother continued to teach Walter. The next book she read to Walter was "How to love your wife?" Soon after grandmother finished reading it, she died. Just like that. It was difficult to believe. It was only after I saw them lower her body and cover it that I knew she would not come back.
The morning after she died, Walter came with food. Mother went to the door. "Mrs. Gorman is dead" she told Walter. "She died last night." Walter did not move at first, he did not seem to understand or he thought she was lying. He then tried to enter, but mother shut the door a little. "Can't you understand, she is dead, no one is here, she died last night, please do not come here again." Walter just stood there, his face white. Mother closed the door on him. She telephoned the food store and told them not to send Walter any more.
I did not see Walter again for a long time, I had forgotten all about him and the days that grandmother had read to him. Then one day, I saw him. He looked different, he was wearing a suit of cloth, the coat was old, and the trousers had been worn many times. He wore a white shirt and a necktie. I waited until he walked up to me, and I walked along with him. "Hello, Walter, do you remember me?" He turned quickly toward me, then smiled as he recognized my face.
"Oh, sure, hiya, how are you?"
"I am fine, Walter, how are you doing?"
"Thank you, ok. How are you doing?"
We walked a few steps in silence. Suddenly, I had the old feeling that grandmother was still alive and Walter was still coming to the house. Without thinking, I asked "How is your girl, Walter?" Suddenly, he was on me holding and tearing my shirt. He pulled me close to him and shouted "She is still alive! She is still alive!" His cry was loud and real. He pushed me away from him and I fell to ground, he ran down the street. As I get off, I could still hear him crying until his voice was lost among the sounds of playing boys.
You have heard the American story "A Girl for Walter" written by Theodore Jacobs. It first appears in N.G. magazine in nineteen sixty. Your storyteller was Shep O' Neil. This story is copyrighted, all rights reserved for VOA Special English. This is Shirley Griffith.