Something good was in the air.
Walter didn't know what it was, but he sensed it as he crept out from behind a brick walled house, his feet walking the lines of sun-cast shadows along the base of his home. He felt a thrill of excitement within his chest as he scampered across the neighbor's yard and into Jimmy Hayworth's tree house.
His friends were having their weekly meeting that summer day, when the golden waves of sunlight brushed over the trees and homes and glinted off of cars and bikes, and Samuel did not want to miss out on it.
Inside the new, recently-built treehouse was a cluster of seven or eight boys, laughing and talking amongst themselves. Every one of them had an air of importance that these meetings gave them, because on these days, they were able to speak freely. No idea was too far-fetched for these boys—well, except for that time when Tommy Bass thought they could all join the circus and travel the world together. Ten-year-olds were too young to leave like that.
"Walter's here, gang!" Jimmy called out as the little boy entered the room. "We can begin now. Circle up!"
The boys all moved to their circle-formation on the floor.
"Maurice, scoot in further. You're too far out," Jimmy said.
The raven-haired boy obeyed, and then the meeting was able to properly commence.
"The Order of the Eagles has come to order," he said solemnly, then banged his tiny fist against the floor as the rest of the kids gave wild, indian-like hollers.
When they'd finished their opening ceremony, Jimmy placed his fist on his lap and said, "Anything new?"
A contemplative silence overtook them for a moment. One boy said, "I got a cat!"
"That's not important, we can't do anything to help that," complained Jimmy.
The boy stuck his tongue out.
"Anything else besides Tommy's cat?" he asked.
"My. . . sister doesn't think she'll pass her finals," a boy said slowly. "But I don't think we can help that."
"Of course we can't help that. Your sister's doing that algebra stuff." Jimmy made a face. "Anyone else?"
"We got a new neighbor!" Chipped in Wilbert Vega. "But. . . she's kind of strange."
"There we go! Some headway finally. Tell us about this odd neighbor."
"Well. . . Mother said she can't see. She's blind. And she's real old, and her husband must have died because they call her the Widow Hudson."
"Oh, I've heard of her," added a new voice quietly. "She scares me. I think she might be a. . . witch."
"A witch?" repeated several boys at once.
"Okay, hold up, Albert. You sure about that?" Jimmy asked.
"Well, not exactly. I only say it because she tends to talk to herself in a shrill, odd little voice, and she also talks to her trees, and the squirrels, and her black cat. . ."
"She's not a witch!" said Walter. "Witches are mean, and have gross, green skin and warts and long, crooked noses and—"
"That doesn't mean she's not a witch anyway," replied Albert. "And her eyes are white and scary!"
"Blind people are like that, you numbskull. Hush," scolded Jimmy. "My father—he's a psychiatrist, you know—said people sometimes act odd when they're lonely. Maybe she's just lonely!"
"Aww, poor lady," said little Gustav from the far left. "If her husband died, she probably is lonely."
"Okay then, she's lonely," decided Jimmy. "Probably why she has a cat. And she can't see, so how would she know if it's black, white or purple? I say we ask if she needs anything done around her house. Maybe she's real swell!"
When the last child was in agreement, they sang their closing ceremony and departed. Early the next morning, every child snuck away from their house—which the majority didn't mind doing, because they all disliked doing their chores—and hurried over to the Widow Hudson's house.
The house was grey because the paint chipped off. Weeds were all inside the struggling garden, at least two or three cats slept around the stairway, and moss grew up inside the shingles and walls.
Jimmy, being the leader of the Eagles, stepped past the cats and knocked on her door.
It was about two minutes before it slowly opened.
An old woman slowly eased open the creaky, cracked door. She had a green shawl over her head and wore a light brown dress. Her hair was pulled back into a bun, and although her nose was slightly big, it wasn't extremely big, nor did it have any kind of warts.
"Hello?" she asked. Her voice was slightly odd. It was a mixture of high-pitch, croaky—likely from unuse, since she lived alone—and softness.
"Hi, Mrs. Hudson!" Jimmy said cheerily. "A few of my friends and I wanted to ask you if you need anything done around here. We'll do it free of charge."
She looked surprised. Her large, white eyes widened. "Really? I. . . I don't know what to even say! Thank you." She laughed then to herself. "To think that goodness is found in the babes—" she cut her mumblings off. "Come in! I baked cookies."
The boys looked at each other in bewilderment. How could she do that?
The woman had, in fact, baked cookies—chocolate chip. And they were delicious.
The children sat around a worn, scuffed, wooden table and ate their cookies in silence as the woman went over the things she needed done most.
"Somewhere around here I have a cane. I misplaced it one day and haven't found it yet. Would you mind looking for it?" she asked.
"Sure, Mrs. Hudson! We'll do just about anything."
"Oh, you kids sure are helpful." She paused. "My garden I'm afraid is struggling. I can't see where all of the weeds are, so no matter how hard I try, new ones are always popping up. Oh! And I'm afraid the paint has begun peeling off my house. Would you mind painting a bit of it?"
The kids looked at each other. Her house was beyond "begun peeling", but they didn't mind. She needed help, and as The Eagles, they were willing to give it.
"I think that's it. . . I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary," she said.
The boys agreed and set off to work. She hadn't mentioned it, but the grass was pretty tall, and likely needed to be mowed.
They worked well into the day, mowing and painting and fixing things up, but nothing too remarkable happened until Gustav suddenly yelled, "Guys! Look at this!"
He had been digging up a small, old dead tree stump when his shovel hit a hard, brown box.
Three of the nearby boys ran over and started pulling the box open.
Cash. Tons, and tons, and tons of it.
"Jeepers! How much is in there?!" Jimmy asked, his dark eyes wide.
Walter gasped and a smile grew on his face. "If we tell Mrs. Hudson, she can hire people to help her out everyday! I saw she had burns on her hands, likely from cooking. This'll help her!"
"But. . . we could keep it a secret. There's so much money! We could buy a thousand tree houses with this!" Maurice protested.
He was the only one who felt this way though, and after some reconsideration—and the threat of a good blow to the nose—he decided that the money was rightfully Mrs. Hudson's.
They continued their work in silence, having decided to wait until the end to tell her about it, that way they could get all of the work that needed to be done out of the way and let her celebrate freely. Jimmy couldn't stop imagining how happy she'd be when she knew.
Albert finished cutting the last of the yard, and the boys cheered.
"Since I'm the leader," began Jimmy, holding the box, "I should take the box to her."
"But I found it!" exclaimed Gustav, his arms crossed.
"Fine, then we'll both take it to her."
The boys carried the heavy box with all the formality of an army as they climbed the stairs and knocked on the door.
She opened it with a smile. "Yes, boys?"
"We found something, ma'am! Something we think you'll really like."
Walter had been right. Something good truly was in the air that day.
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This is a really uplifting story and very well written too. It’s nice to read something really upbeat. I look forward to reading your other stories.
Thank you so much!! I look forward to reading yours as well.
Great story! The Eagles are so sweet!
Thank you!! 😁