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by Paul
Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2191253
He has problems asking.
Note: This is a rewrite and edit of a previous story. I’ve learned quite a bit since I wrote the first one and I’m trying out my new muscles. It’s being entered in a magazine contest.


He Is Clueless


I met her because I let my ego out to play. I walk trails that start and end in a local park. Usually it’s the easy path, but that day my ego said I could do the harder one. My ego lied to me again, it was brutal on my legs.

I’d seen her before at a distance with her two girls, sitting on the same park bench. Usually I come out across the park, but this new trail brought me out where her bench was. My intention was to stroll past, smile and go on maybe leaving her with a couple thoughts about the fit old man.

My body betrayed me. I smiled and nodded walking past, but my knee locked and cracked like a gunshot. What escaped my mouth was, "Ohhhh!"

She jumped up and took my arm in her hands, supporting me and saying, "Are you Okay? Please sit here in the shade.”

“I don’t want to intrude.”

“You’re not intruding, I heard your knee, please sit. I've seen you before, you spend a lot of time in the park.”

"Thanks! Oofff! Sorry, that path is tough and my knees are killing me. I walk to stay healthy and remember. I've seen you too with your girls; six and eight? They're beautiful, like their mother . . . no offense intended."

"Thank you, no offense taken. I don't get many compliments like that. Claire, the ponytail, is seven and Angela, the French braids, is nine, I'm Evelyn . . . and I’m not telling you my age."

My thoughts were, don’t get compliments? You’re beautiful. "I find it hard to believe you don’t get compliments, Evelyn, and you tell me only what you want. I'm Ian MacRae and it’s a great pleasure to meet you. I’m also hot and thirsty and I’m getting something cold from Andy’s Cart, would you and your girls like something?"

"Uhhh . . . Yes, thank you, we'd like that."

"Any preference?"

"He makes an orange fizzy we all like if that’s okay."

"Hey, Andy! Four of your world famous orange fizzies. I have it on good authority that’s true."

"One minute, Ian."

“Thanks, Andy.”

“Thank you, Ian. Excuse me,” her next words carried across the jungle-gym, swings, slides and sandbox full of kids, “Angela and Claire, fizzes.” There was no verbal response but pony tails and French braids jumped up and headed our way.

Each blurted out, “Hi mom!” as they skidded to a hault and turned their attention to me.

“Girls, this is Mr. Ian MacRae. Ian, this one is Claire, she’s 8 and this is Angela, she’s 7.”
I shook each ones hand as I said their names, “Hi, Claire, and you too, Angela. It’s nice to meet you.”

In unison I heard, “Nice to meet you, Mr. McRae.”

“Call me, Ian, or Mac, Mister makes me feel old.” They giggled and put their heads together.

Mom said, “He’s buying us all fizzies.”

Claire said, Thank you, Mr. M . . . Ian, we appreciate it. Mac sounds flippant.” Flippant from 8 year old . . .

Angela said, “What she said.”

Mom started to say something, but my laugh stopped her and we sat drinking world famous fizzies listening to the girls buzz over what they’d discovered that day.

“Sorry, Ian, we have to go, the world doesn’t stand still for soccer games. We’ll see you again I hope, bye.”

“Yes. Thank you, it was nice meeting all you ladies, and I come to the park most days.” Mom smiled and both girls giggled.
*****

Several weekends of meeting them had passed. She’s there, I‘d think walking into the park and seeing her, sitting where she always sat watching the girls. At some point I realized I was anxious walking in, hoping I’d see her and thinking that made me smile.

"Hi Evelyn, it's a beautiful day and the girls seem to be really enjoying it."

"Hi, Ian, they are, but they love your stories, you always make them feel good. And you buy them ice cream. It’s not necessary, they like you. As soon as they see you they’ll be here for more stories."

It didn’t take me long to love them. They are sweet young women and, like their mother, know their own minds, taking guff from no one. They’ve backed me away a couple times when I tried to get them to try something new.

"I enjoy them. My wife died five years ago and all our kids are grown, but none live close. I love teaching children and watching the wonder they show learning new things. Paige and I were married thirty-five years and had 5 kids, 14 grand kids and 3 greats so far.”

“Wow, I’m impressed, and 3 great grand kids.”

“Others efforts, I didn’t have anything to do with it.”

“You had the grand parents. The girls love hearing it all from you. Angela is still blown away about being made of stardust and each hand maybe from different stars. She stares at her hands a lot now and wants to be a cosmologist."

“She made me tell her all about it, and physics after I told her.” The initial ice had been broken so I could ask. “How about dinner again tonight? I enjoyed the Thai place you took me last week. There’s a new place downtown that does a standing prime rib. Do you like prime rib? I recommend it. They have a kids menu too.”

"The girls too?"

"Of course. I love having them around. They make me feel younger."

"Uhh... okay... 6:30?"

“Good, see you then. It’s a casual place, nothing fancy.”
*****

More weeks passed and we had dinner several more times. A couple lunches too. Last week Claire brought up the beach so there we were. I was exhausted from playing with Claire and Angela in the surf and stumbled back to our towels. Evelyn sitting on them in her 1-piece suit drew all my attention.

I dropped to my knees then fell forward, but I was farther up the towel than I‘d intended and barely got my eyes closed before my face hit the sand.

“I don’t think I’ve ever watched a grown man fall face first into sand.”

Pushing myself up I sat back on my heels, spitting out the cup of sand in my mouth and said, “It’s soft sand,” and started brushing it off.

“But you were wet and now you look like ‘The Sand Man Out To Put The World To Sleep.‘ Here’s a towel.”

"Keeping up with those girls exhausted me. I’m 65, not 25. I’ll just lie my weary body back down here and fall into exhaustion."

"You're fantastic. I’m thinking fifty watching you body surf, but I know your youngest is forty."

"Umm, mostly that was belly-flopping . . . maybe I should go rinse, brushing this off is a pain."

"Well I'm impressed anyway. Here, give me the towel, I’ll help. I’m exhausted too and I'll only be thirty-three in Decemb . . . oops!”

"Thanks, your secrets safe. Can I open my eyes?”

"Just a sec. It's not a secret, after 21 most women don’t admit to any age.”

"I remember. How are you and the girls doing? You seem down today."

The girls are okay, I’m not. Their father was killed in Pakistan the day Claire was born. I miss him. A hell of a birthday gift. Her eighth birthday is next week. We do a memorial a month later, I don’t want to infect her birthday with that. There, it’s safe to open them.”

"I didn’t know, I’m sorry. We’ve been here five hours and they look pretty tired. Maybe we should feed them and get them home.”

“Yes. Thank you. I think you and Steve would have liked one another.”

A trip to In-n-Out then home for them. “There, all tucked in and asleep. They couldn’t finish the hamburgers, but they did drink all their shakes. I'll call you tomorrow. I have a great idea for Claire’s birthday. I know a professional clown."

"Thank you for helping me carry them in, I am beat. We can talk about the clown tomorrow. I think it‘s time for a goodnight kiss, don’t you?"

I miss the closeness and touch, but it’s very difficult for me to ask women for a date or a kiss the first time, impossible for me actually, they have to ask first.

“Umm . . . thank you. That was unexpected and totally wonderful.”

“Well, it’s been 2 months since we met. I waited 3 weeks then had to ask you out first. Why? Now six weeks for a kiss, and again I had to make it happen. Why again?”

“Well . . . I’m a little slow . . . I’m old.”

“Ohh no you don’t! After today at the beach you can’t play The Old Card with me, Ian McRae, especially after that kiss. That curled my toes.”

“My wife loved kissing, I got a lot of practice.”

“Thank you . . . Paige? Right?”

“Yes. You’re pretty good too.”

“Pretty good? I’ve never had complaints before.”

“Complain! What? That was not a complaint! That was wonderful. I’m a little slow.”
*****

"Hi Evelyn, We’re here to set up."

"Set up? But you said a clown? And I’m not ready! What's all this? 3 trucks?"

"When I talked to Fred, the clown, he mentioned Dean and Evvy and their Punch and Judy show then Dean told me about Steve and his juggling who told me about Paul and his trick dogs and—.”

“Okay, okay, is that it?”

“Yes. Except for Mandrake."

“Mandrake? Who—?”

”He’s a very good magician. I think he’s a real wizard sometimes.”

“Okay. But I only planned for ten people. I’ll run—.”

“I already did, it’s in one of the trucks. We’ll be ready in two hours for the scheduled start. I got tables and chairs too. Go get yourself and the girls all gussied up and try to keep them from peeking.” I thought, She’s gonna love this.
*****

"That was wonderful, Ian, you turned a sad day into one of marvel. I think Mandrake’s a real wizard too. Angela and Claire know he is and think it was all magic. Thank you so much, I can’t thank you enough. You are an incredible man.”

"You just did. The girls would have been happy with just Fred, I brought the others for you.”

“What!”

“Evelyn, you’ve been moping around in the doldrums for weeks. After what you told me last week I thought you needed some cheering in your life too and I knew I’d succeeded when you started laughing and clapping. Just accept it as a done deal."

"Yes, I did like it and I’m convinced Mandrakes real too. But this must have cos—.”

"Do not go there. How much is not a concern. In other words, it’s none of your business; it’s a gift."

“Okay, but I’m taking you to dinner Saturday night and I don’t want any arguments. You like Peruvian food?”

“But, you don’t nee—."

“Don’t go there, I need to do it. It’s a gift, remember?”

“Okay, Evelyn, thank you. But, I—.”

“Ian, please, stop analyzing and just say Yes.”

“Okay, yes, thank you . . . what’s Peruvian food like?”

“Trust me, you’ll like it.”
*****

"That was delicious, Evelyn. I can’t remember what it’s called, but I want to have it again.”

“It’s called Lomo Saltado.”

Tell her now idiot, was my thought. “Thank you for a marvelous evening and dinner. What time is your sister dropping the girls off?"

"Nine. "

"Good."

"Why?"

Thoughts again, I hate this! "Would you like some wine? Maybe something stronger?"

“How about a small glass of Cabernet?”

“Good, Carl?”

"Yes sir."

“A small Cabernet and two fingers of the Laphroig Isley scotch."

“Be right up.”

"Scotch? I didn’t know you drank."

“I love good single malt scotch, but I limit myself. This is special. I have something to tell you and it may be a problem. I hope you don't take it the wrong way—."

“Here you go, sir.”

"Thank, Carl.”

“Okay, now tell me.”

“Have some wine.”

"Not right now . . . what? Tell me and I'll work on understanding."

"Okay, it's . . . Uhh . . . I don't want to offend you . . . I’m not sure how..."

"Just say it!"

"I'm—."

"What?" Say it.”

"I, uhh, I think, —."

"What? Come on, stop staring at the scotch. Take a drink of your liquid courage and tell me."

“Liquid wha . . . oh . . . yeah, I can wait too. I think, no, I know I’m . . . uhhh—.”

"In love with you! There, you finally got it out. I wondered when you'd finally get around to telling me, it has been six months. I was hoping you’d say it and I wouldn’t have to drag it out of you. I’ve known for months, you’re just clueless about women.”

"What?"

"I've known for months. It’s the way you look at me, the way you gently kiss me good night, the way you treat me and my children. Jesus, Ian, you Glow with it. I watch you with Angela and Claire and I see two girls with their older father. My friends see it too and have asked me about us. I tell them I’m working on it. I love you too, Ian.”

"Months? But! What? Wait a min—." What happened? It‘s happening again.

"Men are so clueless! Kiss me . . . clueless."

"Clueless? I’m not clueless, I'm sixty-five, I have a masters in engineering and two undergrad degrees in math and physics; and I've worked as a consultant all over the world the last 25 years before retirement."

"You’re clueless about women.

"Horse Pucky! I was married for thirty-five years and—."

"She had to ask you first too, didn’t she? Sound familiar?"

"But. Wait a minute? Months?"

"Just kiss me."

"Okay, but what about—."

"Oh for gods sakes, Ian, I am not your child!”

“But—.”

“No Buts! I’m a woman that wants to be with you. Just . . . Kiss . . . Me."

"Okay, I’ll—."

"No more talking! Get over here, put your arms around me and kiss me. Now, Ian McRae, or you’ll regret it!"

"But all these people?"

"Ignore them and live dangerously. Do something spontaneous.”

"Okay."

“Uummm, thank you, Evelyn, I haven’t been kissed like that in a very long time. What’s...”

“That’s applause from our audience."

"Let’s go.”

“You’ll take me home with you now and with NO arguments, I’ll spend the night. I want to cook breakfast for you. My sister agreed to take the girls for the weekend so it’ll be a couple breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I am a good cook.”

“What about the girls? How will they feel about this?”

“Angela and Claire will be fine. They’ve both told me they love you and grilled me extensively, unmercifully I might add, about how I felt about you. I was noncommittal, then, now I’ll tell them. Now take us home.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Don’t! ‘Yes Dear’ me. Just take me home.”

“Yes de—, of course.”

“Tell me, paige had to drag you to bed the first time too, didn’t she?”

“Well . . . yeah, she did, and it lasted for 35 years. I have a feeling this will too.”

“Me too. Now home.”

“Yes dear.”

“I’ll get you for that.”
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