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I made a request on my Facebook sites for a request of which book I could post the first chapter(s) for everyone to read. I got no response at all. Maybe FB didn’t share that posting, as it chooses. Anyway, I’ve decided to post a short story instead. Most of the novels have the first several chapters available on the “See Inside” feature on Amazon, so if anyone wants to read the beginnings of any of my publications they can do it there.
This short story is included in my anthology, Twisted Vine, and republished in The Gift of Oneself, a 99 cent Kindle (and booklet) of four romantic stories from the same anthology. I hope you enjoy it. I wrote it after the first sentence won 5th (reader’s choice) out of 10 finalists out of four thousand entries in one of Writer’s Digest’s monthly contests (#33, in case you can’t guess). It’s been tweaked a bit. I was at a point of giving up on writing when I won. I got the message and have only now slowed down, but my writer’s lobe is always working even if I’m not doing anything except making notes. It also appears in ‘Tis the Season, an anthology put together by the East Texas Writer’s Association, and printed by White Bird Publications. I hope I get a few responses here, since WordPress shows over 1200 followers.
SWEET CHERIE PIE
After my record thirty-third blind date calamity, I embedded my so-called lucky charm into a wad of my nephew’s Silly Putty and gave it my best Texas quarterback toss… out into the Hudson.
No more lucky charm, and no more blind dates, but I’ll have to take Andy another Silly Putty on my next visit to Roanoke. He can fill the new one with spaghetti, too, if he wants.
The faint aroma from my doggy bag reminded me of the long evening’s misfortune. I retrieved it from the bench to shuffle toward home. I was feeling mighty low.
It has to be me. She was lovely… but too practiced with that dismissal—a polished New York professional.
Cold shivers ran up my back shaking my shoulders. I wasn’t sure if it was an early autumn chill, or my mood. It generated a myriad of thoughts.
I guess I’ll never blend in, even with these Armani suits. I’ll start wearing my western cut suits again. Without an employer to tell me how to dress I could do that.
I kicked an imaginary rock with my tasseled Gucci loafer. My situation fell heavy as an old cloak over my shoulders.
Ah, get real, Joe, you chump. She brushed you off because the big cutbacks locked you out of the financial district. Gawd, she probably makes more than I ever did. Wonder if she saw me as the gold-digger? Katy’s not going to like my report on her “best choice” for me.
At least the chef accepted my compliments. Nice touch, the free dessert. Guess I’ll have hers for breakfast. Did I look desperate, taking the leftovers? I can’t believe she paid the bill. How low can a guy get?
I sighed deeply as I reached the corner, before hailing a cab.
It’ll be the subway soon.
Just the thought made me claustrophobic. I stopped the cabbie before he put his foot to the pedal, handing him a couple of bucks. I had to walk… get lost in the night’s crowds. The noise and bright lights were good. It kept me from thinking too much.
* * *
A week later, after two curt interviews and nowhere else to go, I got a call from my best friend and old teammate, Jake. I hoped he didn’t have another prospect for me, unless it was job related. Before he could get into it I spoke.
“You chose better than I did, Holtster. Being a doctor with lots of opportunities is better than being a financial whiz kid with no place to go.”
“Feeling sorry for yourself? Don’t worry so much, Magnetti. You can always stay with us till you get on your feet, but I think I’ve got just the cure.
“This one’s the one, bro. Take it from your doctor friend, the guy who knows you best.”
Gotta be better than my sister, Katy’s, picks. My thought only allowed a moment for that disgruntled exasperation that comes from friends trying too hard to fix your life.
“O… kay,” I mumbled, “here we go again.”
I hesitated, slapping my forehead. My hand slowly rolled down over my face as I listened. He gave his best sales pitch ever. I finally gave in.
“Yeah, alright… okay, but only because she’s from Texas. And this is the last time.
“What is it with you married folks, anyway? Just because I didn’t have an old girlfriend to transplant to the big city like you did doesn’t mean I want one now. Hell, I’m jobless.
“The next time someone calls to arrange a blind date, or if this one’s as bad as the others, he’ll be put at the top of my Hit List.”
“Just make it apple this time, goofus. That’s my favorite.”
“I don’t know. Those juicy red globs looked pretty funny dripping down all over your face the last time.”
“That was to celebrate… a long time ago. And I still hate cherry pie, thanks to you. It’s only okay because we’re still friends.”
“Yeah… best ever… for life, Buddy. Just remember that when you have my pie all over your face again.”
* * *
This time I went as the down-home boy. Western cut suit with boots, Texas College, Texas football, love pickup trucks, horses and Waylon. Still miss my old dog. And when she entered the room I almost whooped like an old rodeo clown.
She was a real Texas beauty. No big city polish. Just warmth, and flavor, like biscuits and gravy, or… hot cherry pie.
Dinner was a typical New York steak, as close to home as I could get. She was Texas friendly, trying something more New Yorkish, as she put it. I made a few suggestions of my own favorites.
The conversation was all about the big state we both called home. She had some good stories to tell of recent events I’d missed. It made me homesick, but it was the first time I’d laughed on a New York date. She smiled big at my response and I melted.
Cherie, sweet Cherie pie. It was a warm thought.
I felt like the luckiest Joe on the planet, and it didn’t matter what state I was in. She liked me. And I liked her. We seemed two peas from the same patch.
We did it again, many times… the dinners, but also great walks in Central Park for long chats, eventually holding hands. The quiet moments were nice, too… comfortable and cozy, like thick socks on a winter’s cold floor.
We visited several museums, attended a play with a couple of my friends, a concert courtesy of my elderly neighbor, got guest invitations for a movie premier from an old colleague, saw all the national monuments and landmarks, then went crazy shopping… like tourists. It was fun, even the deli lunches, hot dog stands and feeding the pigeons.
We watched Good Morning, America on my small hand-held set sitting on a bench across the street below their big window. I brought my dad’s binoculars so she could see up close.
She talked openly with strangers in the crowd. Some finally warmed to her, but she made the cutest face when they didn’t. One older lady shared her hot cocoa after borrowing the binoculars, and we all laughed about our little early morning adventure.
My girl had the most beautiful, heart-warming laugh.
I’d never truly seen this amazing city before. It opened my eyes to see it through hers. No wonder I felt I’d never fit in. I would always be a tourist here.
Then she had to go back home… to Austin… my alma mater town. There were some exciting exchanges about familiar locations, past experiences and areas we each liked. It was all so good until she revealed her real purpose for her visit. I should have known. Everything was too perfect. She confessed during our last, most intimate moments.
She was on sabbatical, that was true, but it was for recovery from a long, hard bout of chemo. She assured me the cancer was gone, but there were no guarantees. She said she’d had a grand time; it wouldn’t have been the same without me and made me promise to keep in touch.
My heart sank.
I promised myself I wouldn’t let her go, even as I watched the plane disappear. But I was in that hard place nobody likes to be. The rock in my stomach didn’t help. It’d been the best weeks of my life. I didn’t want it to end.
* * *
Days of sitting in darkness followed, listening to Waylon’s saddest refrains.
I started pacing the apartment I was about to lose, unsure if I could be so bold. I couldn’t let it end, but my jobless status put indecision where gusto wanted to reign.
No one knows what tomorrow will bring, I kept telling myself. We’re not born with a guarantee stamped on our bottoms. And things can change for the better. I had to believe that or I couldn’t go through with it.
Jerking up the phone in desperation I called in a promise made years ago.
Then I called her. We talked a long time.
* * *
Later, with my package next to me on the seat, I called Jake from the cab on my way to his uptown apartment.
“I have something to ask of you, bro.” I said it soft and slowly so he’d know I was serious.
“I wondered how things were going. It’s been over a month.”
I heard the concern in his voice.
“I think I need a new lucky charm.”
“Did you lose that old football charm you stole from your sister’s bracelet?” He sounded puzzled.
“Something like that. I was thinking… maybe this time something measured in carats.”
“You got a job!” He was elated.
“Sure did,” I said without fully explaining. “And I’ve got pie.”
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