Second place winner in February's "The Bard's Hall Contest!"
“Marry him,” she said.
The idea was completely ridiculous, but Elise’s advice is always ridiculous when it comes to men. Her primary goal in life is to marry and have 2.57 children, and she isn’t ashamed to admit it.
“Marry him?” I asked. “He offered to mow my lawn, not be my husband. For God’s sake, Elise. I don’t even know him.”
“Sarah, trust me. Any man can swing by Wal-Mart for a box of chocolates and an inexpensive bottle of perfume, but how much thought does that take? Not much thought, not very original, not very romantic, and definitely not very interesting. But offer to stain my fence or mow my lawn--suddenly I’m intrigued.”
“Intrigued enough to tie the knot, apparently,” I said with a smile. “I’ll remember that the next time you want to have a painting party.”
Traffic was heavy this afternoon, and our drive home from work was taking much longer. Elise always talks my ear off on these commutes, but today I’d made the mistake of mentioning a man. Now I’d have to listen to her wit and wisdom all the way home.
“How’d you meet this guy, anyway?” she asked.
"The last few times I’ve gone to visit my brother, Sam, he’s been there. I think they’re old fishing buddies or something. He owns a ranch up near Coeur d’Alene, and he wears cowboy boots and big hats. I don’t think he’s really my type.”
“All the more reason to give him a try, don’t you think? I mean, your type hasn’t exactly worked out, so why not try something new? What’s his name?”
“Hmmm, now that’s a strong, masculine name,” Elise said. I rolled my eyes. I could have said his name was Helen of Troy and she probably would have commented on how unique it was. “When will you see him again?”
“I don’t know. It’s not like I’m seeing him, Elise. He’s Sam’s friend. I was complaining to Sam about how I’ve been working so much lately that I haven’t had time to keep up with my yard work and Troy offered to help. I laughed it off as a joke at first, but I’m pretty sure he was serious.”
“But he lives in Coeur d’Alene. He’d drive all the way down to Boise to mow your lawn? What is that, like ... 450 miles?”
“Something like that.”
"Do you like him? Is he handsome?” Elise asked, a childlike sparkle in her eye, and her excitement made me smile.
“I guess he seems nice enough. He has black hair and blue eyes. If I had to guess I’d say he’s around forty, six foot two and 225 pounds.”
Elise gasped. “What the hell are you waiting for, girl? If you don’t want him, I’ll take him!”
I was attracted to him. But if he’s so great, then why isn’t he married? I thought. Maybe he is married! Maybe he has a wife and three kids up in Coeur d’Alene and he’s just looking for a little something on the side. Maybe he’s got several little somethings on the side.
I pulled up in front of Elise’s apartment and we said our goodbyes. As expected, I arrived home thirty minutes late. What I need is a hot bath, an uninterrupted good book and a few hours of sleep, but my reverie was interrupted by the ringing of the phone.
Ugh! Someone better be dead or dying, I thought as I made my way back downstairs. Who’s that? I wondered, looking at the unfamiliar number on my caller ID.
“Hello, Sarah. It’s Troy.”
I was speechless. How did he get my number?
“Sam gave me your number. I hope you don’t mind.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
“Is this a bad time?” he asked.
I cleared my throat and took a deep breath. “No, it’s okay. It’s not a bad time.”
“Sarah, I’m going to make this easy for you. You don’t even have to talk--just listen, okay?”
“Okay.” I plopped into my favorite chair and braced myself for whatever it was Troy had to say.
Troy took a deep breath and said, “I was born May 2, 1965 in Spokane, Washington. My favorite color is blue. I love old movies, long walks, the smell of freshly cut grass and sleeping in on Sunday. My favorite writer is Hemingway. My favorite musician is Nick Drake. When I was twelve, my best friend drowned in Lake Pend Oreille, so I don’t care much for water and never learned to swim. I played college football for two years and was looking at going pro, but a hard tackle broke my right leg in three places and ended my career. I inherited the family ranch when my parents died in a car accident 15 years ago. I work hard and I make a good living. I think you’re beautiful and funny and smart, and the first time I saw you, you damn near took my breath away.”
This is where I’m supposed to say something, I thought. Say something, Sarah. Say something. Say something!
“I’d like to get to know you better, Sarah. What do you say I start by helping you with your yard work this weekend?”
“What about the wife and kids?” I blurted before I even knew what I was saying. Oh, God. I didn’t just say that out loud, did I?
“Pardon me?” He sounded confused.
“I mean, according to the weather report it’s supposed to be 102 degrees on Saturday."
“That’s all right,” he said. “I’m used to working in the heat.”
I thought about what he’d said for a few minutes. Troy waited patiently and didn’t say a word.
“Do you like iced tea?” I asked before I could change my mind.
“Well, I thought I’d whip up a batch of sun tea. Do you like iced tea? You’re going to need something cold if you’re going to work in that heat.”
No response. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, but all I heard was silence. Finally I mustered up what little courage I had left and whispered, “Hello? Troy, are you there?”
“Yes, Sarah. I’m here,” he said, then--as if he’d been waiting for my response with bated breath--he let out what sounded like a huge sigh of relief. “And I love iced tea.”
Word count: 1,069
This short story won 2nd Place in the February 2007 edition of