Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Not-So-Bad Day

          "Excuse me, miss," the man said. "Do you need help?"
It was 7:30 A.M—a sunny, blue-sky morning in spring. I squirmed and grimaced on a wooden bench that faced the bike path. I glanced up from rubbing the pain in my left calf. 
A fellow jogger with curly blonde hair and startling blue eyes peered down at me.
"I'll be fine," I said, and continued to rub my calf. "Just a bad cramp. Happens when I don't do enough stretching before taking off."
"Sure it's not something worse?"
He was dressed like me, T-shirt and shorts. His gaze sent a warm shiver through me. "It'll go away. I just need to get back to my car."
"Let me help. Please. My name's Alan White—I think I've seen you before."
I darted a look at him. Recognition clicked in my brain, and despite my pain, I smiled. "I've seen you in the hallways and elevators at Mercy Hospital—I'm a nurse. Patty Wilson. Obstetrics."
When he smiled, his left cheek dimpled, and my heart did a little somersault. "I'm in food service management," he said. "New guy in town. Let's see if we can get you to your car."
He held out a hand. I grabbed it, and he pulled me to my feet. While I leaned on his strong right arm, I hobbled along with him toward my car in the parking lot, maybe seventy-five yards away. "I really am glad you came along," I said. "I might've had to crawl to my car. This has already been a bad day."
"Something else happened?"
"Woke up this morning and discovered my air conditioner is out. Repairman's coming Monday."
He smiled ruefully. "I've had days like that."
"This is my car," I said, as we approached a silver Ford Fusion. "Thank you so much."
"Don't mention it. You sure you can drive?"
"Positive. I've already walked off some of the pain."
"Good," he said, and smiled again. "My car's at the other end of the bike path. Be seeing you, I suppose. At the hospital."
"Probably," I said, ready to watch him jog away, feeling a little sad. Was he married? Dating? What was he doing with the rest of his life?
But he didn't jog away. He glanced my new car. Appeared to be studying it. Head tilted, he nodded slowly. "This really is your bad day," he said.
Alarm shot through me. "What?"
"Your car's listing severely to the right—"
My head swiveled. I stared at my car.  "Listing? Severely?"
"You have a flat tire. Passenger's side. Front."
I gasped. I nearly fell over, but I didn't panic. Didn't mutter any bad words. "No problem," I said. "I've got roadside assistance."
"Nonsense," he said. "I'll change it."
"You don't have to—"
"Save your insurance for when you really need it."
While I sat in the grass, rubbing my calf again, feeling the last of the pain ebbing away, I watched Alan change my car's tire. A little breeze blew, and a cardinal sang from a treetop. I wondered what I'd done wrong recently to be punished this way. Furnace, ankle, tire—what was next?
While Alan worked, we chatted. We discovered we both liked our jobs at Mercy; we were single, exactly the same age—twenty-eight—and—to my delight—unattached. Maybe this isn't such a bad day after all.
Finished changing the tire, wiping his hands in the grass while he sat next to me, Alan said, "You'll need to get that tire fixed this morning and remounted. You don't want to drive around on that spare too long. It's only a donut."
"All right," I said. "I can't thank you enough. Um...let me give you a ride to your car."
He shrugged. "It's only a couple of miles away."
"Afraid I might hit a tree—more bad luck?"
I loved his dimpled smile. "All right," he said.
He helped me up from the grass, his hand warm. As I shambled toward my car, he asked, "You sure you can drive?"
While I nudged into traffic to take him to the other end of the bike path, I felt his eyes on me, and I felt heat creeping into my face. What's next? I wondered. I run out of gas? We arrived at his car in no time. I expected him to say something like, Well, this is it.
But as I parked alongside his Camry, he said, "Look, I'm almost afraid to leave you alone—you're having such a bad day already. How about if we drop your car off at a garage, get your tire fixed and remounted—and I'll take you to breakfast while we wait?"
Oh wow!
"I'd love that," I said, my heart doing that somersault thing again with a little cartwheel added.
"I know it's been a bad day for you," he said, releasing his dimpled smile at me. "But—well, it's been a really good one for me..."

The End
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