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American Contemporary Funny

Out To Lunch—George Davis

  Now let me see. I thought the roast had to go in at five-thirty to be ready for seven when Helen gets here. She is coming from her home twenty minutes away in Cumberland Falls just over the Sagamore River bridge. 

  I’ve got the table all set. All I will have to do is transfer the food from the kitchen to the dining room, light the candles, and pour the wine. 

  This has to be the best meal I’ve ever cooked. Understand, I am not a cook. I am the manager of Bickford Savings and Loan Company. I have an MBA degree. This cheffing thing is new to me. I prayed all morning this special meal would come together and culminate in the best meal I’d ever prepare. 

 Tonight I am going to propose to Helen Brigham. Helen and I just met last Sunday at church. Helen moved here only last month. Did I say, she is the most beautiful girl I have ever laid these poor eyes on? Well, it is true. Her shoulder-length blonde hair, steely-blue eyes, small turned-up nose and slightly chiseled chin makes her a living, walking dream-girl. And if tonight goes as I plan. She will become my girl for life. 

  My brother, Sal says I’m a cheapskate. I bought her ring over the Internet from an auction site. It was marked down from $110 to $69 and was guaranteed not to turn her finger green. Its sparkling reflection flashes red, green, blue rays that dance on the walls and ceiling. 

  "But big brother,” Sal says. “You do realize that ring is plastic don’t you?” 

  “So what. It is pretty; It looks real.” 

  “I wonder what Helen will say when you show her that counterfeit band. I don’t want to be there when she discovers her boyfriend bought a bargain ring over the net.”

  “People buy all kinds of things from different websites, Sal.”

  “Yeah, but when it comes to trying to impress your girl…buying a diamond knock-off is…well just not cricket.” If I paid attention to everything my brother told me. I’d be in the insane asylum.

  I looked at my dog, Woof, and said, “Well, Woof what do you think?” He looked at me as if I had four heads, laid down in his bed, and quickly fell asleep, snoring up a storm.

  Seven o’clock sharp the doorbell chimed. I took one last look at the table, proud of the job I had done.

  “Evening, Helen,” I said. “Let me take your coat.” I put her jacket in the front room closet.

  “My Ken, what a nice place you have here.” She stared at the dining room table, turned and said, “Ken, I never would have guessed you’d be such a good cook, but look at all the food, and the roast looks wonderful.” I just burst my buttons I am so proud.

  “Sit down, Helen. You are here, and I am here.” I said pointing to the chairs I’d placed around the table.

  “Oh, Ken, this salad is wonderful. What is the dressing?” 

  “Just oil and vinegar…balsamic vinegar.” 

  “You have done a great job,” she said, reaching for the potatoes. 

  “Here,” I said, “have some pot roast.” She took two slices. Suddenly, her expression changed.  

  “I’m sorry, Ken, but my roast isn’t done.” After browning the outside of the meat, I put it in the oven. I know it looks rare, but I cooked it for an hour as the instructions said. But, I didn't turn the oven on. I quickly pulled her plate over and removed the raw roast. “I am so sorry, Helen. I must be losing my mind. I’ve never done this before.” 

  “It’s okay, Ken. Let me treat you to dinner. I know a nice restaurant just up the street, the Bickford Inn.” 

  “No way, Helen. It will be my treat.” 

  “Don’t let pride stand in your way, Ken. It is all right if a woman pays. Thirty years ago, it would have been unthinkable. Not so today. I’m buying or we don’t go.” 

  “Okay, but let me leave the tip. Okay?” 

  “Okay.” 

  The Bickford Inn is in an old Victorian-era house, renovated and turned into a fine eatery. The designer left the charm of the old home intact. Mahogany everywhere, the red and green hall carpet was matched beautifully by the light-green pained wall. 

  “Right this way,” the host led us to a table in the rear of the restaurant that overlooked the Sagamore River. The last of the sun’s rays caused a rippled reflection on the river’s surface. 

  “Isn’t it nice here, Ken?” 

  “Yes it is.” 

  “I haven’t been here in a while. The food is first-rate. The inn is a five-star eatery.” 

  We ate with little conversation. My father always told us, ‘you came to the table to eat, not talk.’ 

  The rib-eye steak I was eating was cooked to perfection, medium-well. The special touch was the asparagus tips in cheese sauce, and roasted red potatoes sprinkled with parmesan cheese.  Helen opted for the baked haddock with cheese sauce, a baked potato, and fresh roasted green beans. 

  “That was a great meal,” Helen. 

  “They are the best food preparers in the state. My haddock was delicious. How was your steak?”

  “It was the best ribeye I’ve eaten for years. I liked that they put a pat of butter on it…yum.”

  Helen paid for our meals with her Visa card and added a tip of $15. The waiter was surprised. It was more than the usual 15%. “I like to pay the wait staff a little extra for the great service we get.” 

  I drove Helen home, and she invited me in for a nightcap. Her nightcap fresh-squeezed lemonade. That was fine with me. I don’t drink alcoholic beverages.

  “Can we do this again sometime, Helen?”

  “I’d like that, Ken.” 

  “Look, I’m going up to my camp on Sebago Lake next weekend. Maybe you would join me. We could have a BBQ and take a boat ride around the lake.” 

  “I’d like that, Ken. However, I’ve made other plans. I’m sorry. I am going to New York City with an old friend of mine. I haven’t seen him since college. He’s here for the summer.” I was disappointed but didn’t let her know I was jealous. Jealous? You’ve only known this woman for a little over a week. She has known this other man for years. 

  I was back from camp. It was Monday morning and I was at the Wayfarer Diner eating my breakfast. The door opened, and Helen walked over to where I was seated in the booth near the rear of the diner. “Well, hello,” she said, peeking at me from under dark-brown sunglasses. “How’ve you been, Ken?”

  “Oh,” I said, pretending I didn’t notice her entrance. “I’m fine, Helen. How about you?”

  “I’m fine.”

  “How was your weekend? Did you get to see your friend?”

  “Oh yes, I saw him.” 

  “So’d you have a good time reminiscing with him?” She took off her glasses. She had a royal shiner, the purple showing down to the corners of her mouth. 

  “I wouldn’t call it remembering old times. He hasn’t changed one single bit, Ken.” 

  “Did he do this to you?” 

  “Yes. I knew he was abusive when I went to see him. However, I thought over the years he might have changed. He has not.” 

  “Where is this jerk now?” 

  “He’s over at the inn. He's leaving this morning; going back to Arizona. Good riddance, I say.” 

  “I’m going to pay him a little visit. What’s his name?”   

  “No, Ken, let it go. It’s all over, and he’s leaving. I don’t want any trouble.” My blood had reached a boiling point. I was irate. There is no excuse for hitting a lady. None at all.

  I arrived at the Bickford Inn just as a taxi cab was pulling up to the curb. It must be his cab. I waited, and soon a tall man carrying two suitcases walked down the brick steps. I met him on the sidewalk. “Hello,” I said. “Tell me, do you know a Helen Brigham by any chance?”

  “Yeah, so what?”

  I asked, hoping this was the guy I was looking for. “Did you see her yesterday?”

  “What’s it to you, pal?”

  “Well, I have something for you.”

  “Yeah, what?” I brought my fist up from the sidewalk and struck him dead-center. His nose laid on one side, blood flowing down over his suit. “You broke my nose…you…you.” He raised his fist, but before he could throw his punch. I hit him again, knocking out his two-front teeth. I left him laying on the ground, crying like a baby. “You split my lip and knocked out my teeth.”

  “You are lucky I didn’t kill you. No one hits my girl and gets away with it.” 

  “She’s a first-class…” 

  “Be careful what you say. I don’t want to break your neck.” He closed his mouth, and spit blood from the gap in his front teeth. 

  I got home at two in the afternoon and took a shower. I wanted to wash the remainder of that scum bag from my mind and skin. As I got out of the shower, the phone rang. It was Helen.   

  “Ken, can you come over. I want to talk to you.” 

  “Give me ten minutes.” I drove over to Helen’s home. Her car was in the yard, but I had a funny feeling someone was there with her. I carefully approached the rear door. Whoever it was would expect me to come in through the front door. I opened the door and was sneaking into the living room when I heard a familiar voice. “Where is he, Helen? He drove up here.” It was the man whose teeth I had knocked out a few hours ago. 

  “Okay, Ken,” he said. I know you are out there.” He hollered through the open front door.

  “Come out wherever you are. I’ve got a surprise for you.” He laughed. “I’ve got your sweetheart with me. I am going to kill her if you don’t show yourself.”

  I sneaked into the living room, putting my finger to my lips as Helen looked at me, fear in her eyes. The jerk was still looking out the door. I got behind him. “You looking for me?” He turned death in his demeanor. He had a .38 in his hand. I quickly knocked him to the floor and stepped on the hand holding the gun. He released it, and I reached down and pulled him up. His expression changed to fear. He cried, “Please, don’t hurt me, mister. I don’t want any trouble.” 

  “Is that so? Then why did you come here? Why were you holding Helen by her arm, and with a  .38 in your hands?” 

  “I was only trying to scare her. I mean, we’re…good friends, right Helen?” 

  “You are no friend of mine, Billy Haskins. I hate you.” She kicked him right where it did the most damage. He keeled over and fell to the floor writhing in pain. 

  It has been years since I fought anyone. I guess you couldn’t call it a fight really. I did all the work. He only cried from the pain. I picked him up, and threw him out on the front lawn, where he laid sobbing like a little baby.   

  “He won’t bother you again, Helen. I can almost guarantee it.” She hugged me. “Thank you. You are my hero.”

 “Gosh, it wasn’t anything. He won’t bully anyone else. I think he’s learned his lesson.” 

  I was a hero in Helen’s eyes, and six months to the day; we were married. She has been my loving wife for four years. 

  I still can’t boil water, and Helen can’t cook. We eat most of our meals over at the Wayfarer Diner. 

  Cooking isn’t everything. A marriage needs love and understanding, plus faith in each other, and in God. Amen! 

June 29, 2021 12:20

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