Monday, January 31, 2011

A Ticket to Love


            "Find Mr. Right yet?" Aunt Myrtle asks, and gives me a glance.
 My dating life intrigues her. She loves the details.
"Maybe...I'm not sure."
We're driving in my old, rattly Ford Tempo. I'm taking her to lunch. I do this every Saturday at noon. Then I drop her off at the Fair Grounds to play bingo.
A widow, she meets with three buddies, one of whom still drives; she gives all the ladies a ride home.Aunt Myrtle's seventy-six, my only living relative.
"There is this one man...lately..." I say. "Harold Mason."
I stop for a traffic light.
Aunt Myrtle says, "I don't remember your mentioning him before."
'I've known him for a long while. We went to high school together. But maybe said Hi two or three times in four years."
The light changes. My foot presses the accelerator.
"What does he do?" Aunt Myrtle asks.
"He's a policeman. We've talked. I'll see him again. He's joined our church."
"A policeman? Goodness, how did you meet a policeman?"
I smile. "He gave me a ticket a few days ago for speeding.
Fifty-five miles an hour in a thirty-five-mile-and-hour zone. "
"Oh lord, Kathy, what were you thinking?"
"Lately on Monday mornings I've been late getting started for school—I open the library for early-bird students."
"In my day," Aunt Myrtle said, "I'd have batted my eyelashes at the man, smiled, and said, 'How are you doing today, officer?' He would've given me a warning. Asked for my telephone number—I don't understand men these days. "
"He gave me a warning the first time."
"Oh, my goodness," Aunt Myrtle says, and shakes her head. "You mean he's stopped you twice?"
"But I've gotten only one ticket."
At that moment, in my rearview mirror, I spot a black-and-white squad car pulling up behind me in traffic. I glance at my speedometer. I'm doing forty in a forty-five mile an hour zone. My seat belt's buckled. Aunt Myrtle's  is, too. I'm not yapping on a cell phone or fixing my makeup. I'm safe, I'm legal.
Why does my heart start hammering so hard?
Halfway down the street, I pull into the Blueport CafĂ©'s parking lot. The squad pulls in behind me, blocking me—like I'm on a most-wanted list—so I can't escape. A fugitive.
Aunt Myrtle and I climb out of the car. It's Harold!  He's already slipped out of his squad, and is facing us, leaning against his squad's fender, his arms crossed.
I blink.
"I'll handle this, Kathy." Aunt Myrtle huffs and steps in front of me.
Smiling his gorgeous blue-eyed smile, Harold says, "Ladies..."
"Now listen here, young man..." But Aunt Myrtle falters. Harold's good looks and awesome smile have apparently disarmed her.
"Hi," I say quickly to Harold. "This is my Aunt Myrtle..."
He nods hello, then says to me,  "You left taillight is out."
"Oh my! No!"
Harold tips his hat, still smiling his awesome smile, and my stomach flutters.  "I won't bust you this time," he says. "But you should get it fixed."
Aunt Myrtle scowls at Harold, but I sigh, relieved to have escaped without another ticket.
"Have a nice lunch, ladies," Harold says.
"Thank you," I say.
Aunt Myrtle says nothing; she's still scowling.
Inside the Blueport, while we each enjoy a chef's salad, garlic bread, and ice tea, Aunt Myrtle says, "That young policeman is handsome, but he should be asking you out instead of giving you warnings and tickets. In my day..."
"Maybe next time," I say wistfully.
When we leave the Blueport and approach my car in the parking lot, I'm stunned to find a yellow ticket under my windshield wiper.
"The nerve of that young man!" Aunt Myrtle says, bristling.
I'm starting to bristle, too, until I grab the ticket and realize it has a note paper-clipped to the back of it.
Kathy, the note reads, I realize your aunt doesn't exactly approve of me. Still, I'd like to call you later today and maybe we can go out to dinner and catch a movie tonight—if you don't have anything else planned. Here's a ticket you can tear up. Just for fun. A big smiley face appears at the bottom. The note is signed, Your friendly traffic officer, Harold Mason. P.S. I'll bring a bulb to fix your taillight. He left his telephone number.
My face is flushed, my heart hammering again.
I give the note to Aunt Myrtle. She reads it, smiles, and says, "My lord, what a nice young man."

The End
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Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Snowy Afternoon


"Is he single?" Mom asked me.
"A widower," I said. "No kids."
I'd come home from work on a snowy afternoon and was sitting at the kitchen table in my house, enjoying a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll with my mom, rolls that she'd just baked.
"You've inquired about him?" she asked.
I hated to admit this. Nearly blushed a little. "A bit. From other neighbors."
Mom said that at the moment Cody was helping the man in question shovel snow. He'd moved into the neighborhood two weeks ago. I'd parked in my garage in the alley and had come in the back door, so I hadn't seen Cody and the new neighbor out front, shoveling."Have you introduced yourself?" Mom asked. "You might like him."
"I've got a great life," I said. "Why should I complicate things?"
"Why have you been asking about him?"
I sighed. "All right, I admit it, I've been curious."
"About time," Mom said. "Cody would love having a dad."
"I know."
Then Mom left, saying she'd see me tomorrow.
Bundled against the cold, I marched outside to see what was up with Cody and our new neighbor. Six inches of fresh snow had fallen today, but the sky was clear now.
What I'd told Mom was true: I had a great life. Though my husband had died in a construction accident three years ago, I was coping. I was on my way to owning my own home, and I had a great job as dental hygienist. Cody was a delightful son, a straight-A student. Again I thought, Why complicate things, Casey? Still, lately...
As I approached, my neighbor muscled a snow blower up and down his drive, and Cody shoveled up the loose snow that fell off the piles. They looked up. "This is my mom," Cody said, beaming.
The man immediately shut down the blower, pulled off his cotton work glove, and extended his hand. I swallowed. He looked my age, thirty-eight. Maybe a little older. He wore no hat. His golden, curly hair fell over his forehead and touched his ears. His smile sparkled like sunlight on fresh snow.
Before I could remove my mitten to shake his hand, our eyes locked. His blue eyes definitely rocked me, and my heart did a crazy flip-flop.
We shook. "Adam Cunningham," he said. But I already knew his name. A neighbor had told me. And that he was an electrical engineer.
"Casey Kingsley," I said. "I hope Cody's not bothering you."
"Not at all. He's a great helper."
Cody piped in: "We're going to finish Mr. Cunningham's drive and sidewalk and then do ours."
"Don't worry," Adam said. "I won't overwork him."
"You come in if you get cold," I told Cody.
Back home, seated at my kitchen table again on this snowy afternoon, I wondered what to think of Adam Cunningham and my reaction to him—my heart flipping-flopping like that.
About a half hour later, Cody stomped into the kitchen through the back door, his cheeks and nose red from the cold. "Mr. Cunningham told me to go in. He'd finish up—I was shivering."
I peered out the front window. Adam had nearly finished my drive.
Cody plucked his stocking cap off his head. "Grandma said when we finished. I should invite Mr. Cunningham in for a cinnamon roll and coffee.  She said, 'Tell him your mom said it was okay.'"
"Grandma said that?" Nice going, Mom!
"I already asked him," Cody said.  Then he added, a little sheepishly: "Um...I told him about Dad."
I nodded silently.
The next time I peered out the window, I saw that my sidewalk and drive were clear of snow, but Adam was nowhere in sight. He'd obviously gone home, ignoring Cody's invitation. My heart sank.
"Call him, Mom."
"He's new in the neighborhood, Cody. His number won't be listed."
And with that I heard a tentative knock at the back door. I opened the door and before me, filling the doorway, smiling handsomely, stood Adam Cunningham.
I swallowed again and invited him in.
"Went home to change clothes," he said. "Everything I had on was full of snow and wet." His chin lifted. He sniffed. "Smells like rolls and coffee."
I asked Adam to sit down, and I told Cody to hang our neighbor's jacket in the closet. The three of us ate, drank, and chatted like old friends. But mainly, Adam rambled on easily about himself: "Got tired of the big city. I like this little town of Walnut Grove. My life has always been—well, complicated..."
My eyebrows lifted. 
I gazed at the handsome man with blue eyes. His life has been complicated, and I've been fearful of complicating mine. Maybe we could work out some kind of an agreement. Meet somewhere in between. Complicated but not so complicated.
I smiled at Cody and asked Adam if he'd like another cup of coffee.