Short fiction #43 “The Proposal”
Doris sat like a stone statue on the park bench. She’d been waiting now for over an hour, wondering when David would arrive for their date. She was starting to feel cold; the sun had almost set and there was a chill in the breeze. She had not dressed adequately.
She looked at the young couples walking arm in arm across the grass, along the paths and around the lake. Several couples were lying in the few sunny spots still available; at least one couple was in an amorous embrace. Far too passionate for public display she had been thinking, but her eyes could not stray far from staring at them. She longed to have a passionate embrace from a loving man.
David seemed to be the perfect answer: tall, dark, handsome – actually he was none of those things, but she loved to fantasise. There was no harm in dreaming. Besides, he was good looking, almost handsome. David wasn’t dark either; in fact, he was almost grey all over his considerable head of hair. Distinguished; that would be a better description. And tall – he was barely a centimetre taller than her, and she had never been called tall. ‘Squirt’ her brother had unkindly referred to her when they were growing up all those years ago.
Finally she saw David limping towards her. ‘What happened to you?’
‘You wouldn’t believe it.’
‘Try me.’ She stared at his leg as he gently rubbed a sore spot. ‘I might just be convinced.’ He didn’t see the smile on her face.
He groaned. ‘I can’t believe the day I’ve had.’ He paused, as if gathering his thoughts.
‘Try starting at the beginning,’ she said. ‘It sounds like it might be an interesting story. Something for us to laugh at in our old age.’ She giggled nervously. The withering scowl in response told her it was time to shut up and listen.
‘I was trying to sleep-in after the long movie I watched last night,’ he went on, ‘but the late cup of tea I made myself had other ideas.’
Picturing the situation she wanted to laugh, but caught her automatic reflex just in time. ‘Mmm…’ It was best to let David go on with the account. She didn’t want to hinder the flow of his story.
‘In my hurry to get out of bed my feet got tangled in my underwear.’ He sighed. ‘I’d carelessly left them on the floor just where there was a distinct possibility of potential tripping.’ With dramatic arm movements he attempted to demonstrate how he went sprawling across the bedroom floor. ‘No harm done really, except for badly bruised knees and a pair of glasses smashed on the wardrobe.’
‘Oh dear,’ she said. ‘That’s not good.’
‘Not good?’ he said. ‘It went downhill from that point on. I managed to find my way to the bathroom without an accident and back again to the bedroom without further incident.’
‘No – it gets better – or worse. I knew I had a spare pair of glasses in the chest of drawers. Upended every drawer on the bed and couldn’t find them. Took me an hour to put everything back again.’ David gave a deep sigh. ‘Managed to find something suitable to wear and made it out to the kitchen. When I went to get the milk out of the fridge I saw my spare glasses on top of the fridge. Have no idea how they got there, but finally I could see again. After a fashion.’
‘That’s good.’ Doris covered her mouth with her hand, determined not to giggle, and certainly not laugh. ‘So all that drama made you late for our date?’
‘No – that was just the beginning.’ He rubbed his knees, then his elbows and finally he gingerly felt his head. ‘Mid morning I had to walk down to the pharmacy to get my blood pressure medication. Stopped at the newsagent next door instead. I wondered why the girl laughed out loud. No respect from today’s youth.’
Doris realised that her shoulders were ready to give away the fact that she was also on the verge of laughing. ‘So she kindly directed you safely to the pharmacy?’
‘Yes – and no.’ David frowned at the memory. ‘She took me to the door like she was leading a two-year-old, patted me on the shoulder and said, “There ya go, dear.” I hate being patronised by young people in shops.’
‘Me too. My butcher calls me darling. Hate that.’
‘Anyway,’ he went on, ‘I forgot that there are two steps up into the pharmacy. Made the first one, missed the second – and over I went.’ He gingerly rubbed his chest. ‘Think I’ve possibly broken a rib or two.’ He watched young couple who were still caressing passionately. ‘They were very good in the pharmacy. The young girls there helped me up, sat me down and took care of my script and all. Good service.’
‘So all of that made you late?’
‘No. As I came out some fool had left his dog tied to the rubbish bin. With these old glasses I didn’t see the lead and over I went again, this time cracking my head on the bench seat next to it. Gave me a whacking headache.’
‘So, did you go to the doctor to get checked out for concussion?’
‘No way. You need to be on death’s door to get to see the doc – and then you have to wait at least three weeks. No – I went home. And I made it without further incident, thankfully.’
‘That’s good.’ Doris was beginning to shake. She wasn’t sure whether it was from the cold – or suppressed laughter.
‘That’s not the end of it,’ he went on, ‘for lunch I wanted to heat up the leftover sausages from last night but instead of setting the microwave for 2 minutes, I pressed 20 instead. Burnt them to charcoal.’
‘That’s no good. What did you do then?’
‘Had to deal with the fire brigade.’
‘The smoke automatically set off the fire alarm which alerted my neighbour. When he saw the smoke billowing from my kitchen window he called the brigade. I sure had some explaining to do.’ He paused.
‘But the firemen understood, I hope.’
‘Yes – they were great. I was that aggressive woman who caused all the problems.’
‘So there was a fire woman in the crew?’
‘No. She was the television news reporter. Another rude young upstart.’
‘So all that held you up and made you late.’
‘But that’s not the end of it. When I went out into the garden to check whether the vegetables needed watering, I tripped over the hose. My helpful neighbour had tried to use it on the house before the firies came, and he just left it there. Of course I didn’t land on the lawn – I had to land in the fish pond. Got soaked all over. If I’d drowned I’d have sued my neighbour.’
‘So you then had to change into fresh clothes.’
‘That’s right. And because I’d sorted through my chest of drawers in the morning while looking for my spare glasses I had trouble finding things. I’d been far too systematic.’
‘I know the feeling. Did the same with my pantry a few weeks ago,’ added Doris. ‘It was all neat and tidy but I couldn’t find a thing. Then I couldn’t find my glasses either. I found them three weeks later behind two tins of baked beans.’
David turned and looked Doris in the eyes. He gently leaned over and kissed her with a long and passionate kiss.
‘I think we should get married,’ he suddenly announced. ‘We seem so suited to each other.’
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Copyright 2015 Trevor W Hampel.
You can read more of my short stories here.