1300 words. A man's plan to reassure himself of his girl's love goes awry.
Fool in the Snow
Jim was standing in the recessed doorway of the corner pharmacy, his hands in his pocket, watching the snow in big clumps falling. Wondering what the world record for a clump of snow was, he tried to imagine one the size of a house drifting down.
What he was really doing was waiting for a woman. A doll with a light in her eyes as shiny as a diamond twinkling in a shaft of sunlight. A gem of a girl that he hadn’t known he’d longed for until he’d seen her that first time; so recent that it seemed like he was dreaming. Now, he felt a hollow in his chest that could only be filled when those eyes glazed on him.
He had entered the doorway ten minutes earlier, but that corner wasn’t the planned rendezvous, nor was the treasure of his heart late. They had agreed to meet at Harvey’s Bar N Grill, but he had arrived early and hidden himself along her path, wanting to know how eagerly she went to see him, imagining her walking with a hurried step. Did she really feel the same as he? She had told him she would never be the first to leave, but promises were sometimes given to avoid hurting people. He ached to know.
He checked his watch; she should be coming soon if she were on time. Blowing into his cupped hands, he stamped his feet. The sidewalk now had a thin coating of fresh snow. He stepped forward, lifted the brim of his hat, and gazed into the night sky, gray with the reflected light of the falling snow. The clumps were smaller and more numerous now. Craning his neck around the front window, he looked down the street; there wasn’t a soul, only an approaching sedan that moved slowly through the slush with a duet of swish and splat. He shivered, put his hands deep into his pockets, and retreated back toward the door.
He grasped the tiny package in his pocket and hoped she would like the earrings he had bought for here. It wasn’t much, but these days it was hard to get a decent pay check. What he really wanted to give her was a ring, but he didn’t have the guts just yet.
He checked his watch again. Only twenty minutes had past! That couldn’t be true. He tapped his watch, but the minute hand refused to budge. Things were not going as planned; he should already be holding her hands in warm Harvey’s Grill and easing the want in his heart. What was keeping her? She’d said that she loved him and that she’d always be true. Well, then, where was she? Maybe, she wouldn’t come out on this miserable night. Yeah, that was it. Yet, he didn’t want to doubt her. Maybe, she was at the bar. He decided to wait another five minutes, no longer, before going to Harvey’s.
To take his mind off the cold he began to play back the first time they had met.
“Hey, what are you doing here?”
Startled, he jumped out of his warm reverie back into the cold night. Oh, no, a cop! He couldn’t tell him the real reason, for it sounded so insecure, and, maybe, even a little warped. He didn’t know what to say. “I’m waiting for a dame.”
“Sure, pal. In this weather? On this freezing corner? You must think I’m a dunce.”
“Actually, I not supposed to meet her here. I just wanted to see if, ah, if she was safe.”
“Maybe she’s safe on my account. Come with me, you can share your interesting story with the Captain. I’m taking you in for loitering.”
Nuts! He couldn’t stand her up. Desperate, he shouted, “Ginger, I’m here!”
The policeman, fooled, turned and looked. The next second, he was pushed hard, slipped, and fell. By the time he got up, his suspect was halfway down the block. He yelled, “Stop!”, and ran after him.
Jim sprinted for the corner, planted both feet on the pavement and skid to the corner and across the street. With his long legs, he was faster than most men, and was sure he could outrun the heavier cop. Again, at the next corner, he smoothly maneuvered around it. Now, he went all out for the third corner. He planned to double back if the cop didn’t round the second corner to this street. Puffing clouds of exertion, he nearly flew. The corner was just a few yards more. He looked as he skid to the corner. The street was empty. He made it.
A few minutes later, breathing deeply and hat frosted with snow, he walked into Harvey’s Bar N Grill. Ginger was sitting at a table with a cup of coffee and a paperback in her hand. In joy and relief, Jim stood in front of her expecting a happy welcome. Instead, she kept reading and with ice in her voice, she asked, “Could you move? You’re blocking the light.”
With a heavy thud, his heart sank. “I’m sorry I was late. I tried to get here as fast as I could. I was waiting for you at the pharmacy. I thought I’d escort you here. Give me a break, kid.”
Ginger, at last looked up from her book and, with a smile, said, “Just kidding. What kept you?”
The door of Harvey’s opened and a frigid gust distracted Jim. With a glance he saw the policeman enter as if he owned the place. Smoothly, Jim sat next to Ginger. She dropped the book on the table. “Are you in a jam?”
Jim averted his face from the front of the bar. “Ssshh, that cop was chasing me. He wants to take me in for loitering. If he sees me, I’ll be in a heap of trouble.”
He watched the policeman stride to the bar and speak to the bartender, who nodded to their table. He groaned as he saw the policeman turn and parade as if he savored arresting his suspect. With a smile he looked down on Jim. “You’re not as smart as you think. You forgot I could see your footprints.” He turned to the woman. “I suppose you’re Ginger?”
“Yes, I am.”
“You know him?”
“Sure, he’s my boyfriend.”
Jim butt in. “Sarge, I ran because I didn’t want to stand her up. I was late for the date. I wasn’t breaking no law. I was waiting for her like I said. Come on, have a heart.”
The policeman spoke to Ginger, “Is this fool really your sweetheart?”
She paused before saying, “Sure, he is and he’s telling the truth.”
“So, how come he was hiding in the doorway of the drugstore while you were already here?”
Jim’s heart was quivering. He couldn’t breathe.
The policeman laughed. “Ginger, I think this is enough. I’m beginning to feel sorry for the guy.”
Jim turned in astonishment, but before he could say a word, Ginger said, “We saw you at the pharmacy and I decided to play a joke on you. Jim, meet my brother, Mike.”
Mike extended a hand. “So, Jim, no hard feelings, huh?”
Jim took the hand. “Course not.”
Ginger smiled. “I’m really sorry. Will you forgive me?”
Ginger patted the seat next to her. “ Come here, honey. Now, tell us the real reason you were waiting in the snow.”
Jim couldn’t take his eyes off Ginger’s. They say there’s a twinkle in the eyes of mischievous people, well, the light in her eyes was blazing. He fingered the tiny box in his coat pocket. What was he getting into? Suddenly, his throat was very dry. “I’ll need a drink first.”