Helping Hands, Part 4

Ven led the Richardsons through the front door of his apartment building. Hannah and Nicholas immediately raced up the stairs, then stopped and turned back on reaching the landing. Hannah called down — “Where do we go?”

“Third floor. Apartment 32, first door on the left. It’s open.” The children then raced away, leaving their parents and Ven to their slow ascent. The building had been erected without an elevator in the 1950s, and since it housed university students and recent graduates almost exclusively, no thought had ever been given to installing one to relieve the burden on its fresh-legged tenants.

Quentin, whose legs were too long to ascend a single step comfortably, began climbing two steps with each stride. Ven held back his own pace to stay with Bonnie-B, who asked if he was excited for the move.

“Relieved, more than anything else.” As they reached the second floor, a popular song with a rousing beat blared from an apartment down the hall. “Feel like I’ve been living out of boxes the last few days. Just want to get this over with.”

“Patience, Ven.” The young man always appreciated the calming sound of Bonnie-B’s voice. “You’ll be there soon enough. Try to live in the moment.” Ven returned her energetic smile, and for the first time that day was glad to have the Richardson’s assistance. He then looked up the final set of stairs, and saw Hannah, her short arms under the banker’s box that contained his few kitchen utensils. Her eyes were only slightly above the box’s lid, and her right foot was reaching blindly and with hesitation for the first step down.

“Whoa there!” Ven raced up the steps, and placed a hand on the front of the box. “Grab it by the handles, so you can see where you’re going.” He took the box from her, and demonstrated how to hold the box to give a clear view of her feet. Quentin then came, carrying three large boxes of books, each nearly too heavy for Ven to carry himself; father and daughter then began descending the stairs together, as Ven entered his apartment with Bonnie-B and Nicholas.

The boxes and crates were cleared from the apartment in three trips. The lightest containers were removed after the second, so Hannah was assigned guard duty outside the van as her family and Ven went up for the last run. Bonnie-B and Nicholas took down a pair of end tables and lamps, and were then relieved of further furniture duty. Ven struggled to keep up with Quentin as they moved the larger furniture down the narrow stairwells. Quentin’s remarkable strength and stamina, the qualities that made him a holy terror during touch football games at fellowship retreats, were on full display, and on many occassions Ven was convinced time would be saved by having Quentin do the work himself. Only his sense of responsibilty kept Ven from making that suggestion.

When the final piece of furniture (a futon Ven had purchased at a yard sale back in the fall) came down, a steady wind had begun, and clouds were forming overhead; the storm that Ven had heard in the forecast appeared on its way. The apartment now empty, Quentin then supervised the loading of the rental van, displaying the management and organizaitonal skills he had honed as a structural engineer. “Get the furniture and bulkier items into the van first — weight doesn’t matter. Now get the book boxes in, on the floor. Ven, where are those moving blankets I told you to ask for? Pack things in tight, don’t leave any space for stuff to slide around. Don’t leave anything fragile outside a box, if someone has to carry it on their lap that’ll be fine.” His tone was cool and commanding, his advice ever practical if not always easy to follow.

When Quentin closed the twin doors at the rear of the van, Ven glanced at his phone. Eighteen minutes before noon — they were far ahead of his most optimistic estimate. He was now definitely glad the Richardsons had come.

A sudden gust then swept across Ven’s face, and a raindrop fell on his forehead. He suggested they break for lunch, but Quentin dismissed the suggestion. “Let’s get you moved in to your new place, before the rain starts. Bonnie-B fixed us a big breakfast this morning, we’ll be fine with a late lunch.” Ven had barely eaten that morning, but the prospect of getting to his new place, and to avoid the weather, was more enticing than his hunger.

Nicholas looked up at his father. “Can I ride with Ven?” Ven flashed an approving smile at Quentin, but was met with a frown. “There’s no room in the back, and you’re not old enough to ride in the front.”

“I’ll ride with him.” Bonnie-B’s suprise offer surprised Ven, yet the idea instantly appealed to him. A moment later, he was behind the wheel with Bonnie-B in the passenger seat of the rental, followed by the Richardson’s sedan, as they headed south, away from the quiet college town where Ven had lived the past six years, into the city.  

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