"George and Blackberry Cobbler"
It is said, walking vigorously for a period everyday is good for one's health. I try to be health conscious...or truth be told, I am aware that I love food, and need to lose weight. So, I walk everyday.
Living in a small town, without even one traffic light, I can easily walk to either of the stores, to work at the only service station where I'd never met a stranger, and rarely drive my own car.
As I was walking home from the grocery, arms laden with items in need of refrigeration, I spotted a person sitting on a park bench, head in hands. They seemed unaware of the world around them as their shoulders trembled with the barely audible sobs ushered into the air. I felt a stirring...some, something telling me I needed to inquire after this person. I was left little choice, though, as my groceries needed to be tended.
As quickly as I could, I headed for home. My mind, however, was still assessing what I'd seen. Very obviously, a man. Appeared to be between thirty and fifty years of age. He had no luggage, no vehicle near, and looked to be dressed out of current fashion. He donned a brown seersucker suit with black leather elbow patches and a gray paperboy hat.
Most odd...I didn't recognize the man. Our town is set a bit off any main thoroughfare and unless you have family here, you generally don't come round. Everybody knew everybody, as they say, and were most likely related in some past or current generation.
As I turned up the walkway to my front door, I shook my mind clear of wondering. I vowed to put away my groceries and *gasp* drive my car quickly to the park and check on the man.
I turned the key in my ignition, and nothing happened. I'd never had significant car trouble before; certainly nothing preventing me from cranking my car. I tried several more times, before giving up in frustration. I took out my cell phone and called Waldo at the service station.
"Hey, Lou Ellen, let me holler at Waldo a minute."
"Hello, Waldo here", he said picking up the garage extension. Sounded more like 'yelll ohh, Watershere,'.
"Hey, Waldo, it's Carrie. My car won't crank, any ideas?"
"Nope. Car was fine last month when I serviced it. I'll come by after work. Take a look."
"Thanks. I suppose I'll be around. Oh! And spaghetti for your troubles."
I heard the 'yessem' as he was bashfully ending the uncomfortable turn of conversation. I smiled. I really liked Waldo and hoped one day he would ask me out on a date. So far, my dinners haven't convinced him. I had to get cooking. I prayed the man at the park was okay, and the man coming to dinner would be my one.
So familiar with my kitchen, I had spaghetti, sauteed green beans, cream potatoes and gravy, and buttery garlic bread ready by six o'clock. Two hours early. I made a quick salad and placed in the fridge to crisp, and decided to bake a simple blackberry cobbler to buy time. I watched some mindless television waiting for Waldo to get off work.
True to his word, Waldo knocked on the side porch door at eight o five. Right on time.
"Come on in, Waldo. Dinners ready."
"Naw, Miss Carrie. I'd just as soon check the car quick like first. I won't do anything but check it tonight. I won't be long."
He replaced the hat he had been twisting nervously in his hand on to his head as I held out my key. He lumbered to the car as I looked on. No sooner did he have the door open, than the engine turned over as perfect as always.
Waldo smiled. What must he have thought! Just happen to make a big dinner, and if he weren't so naive to my wish for attention, he'd probably think I'd made up the whole story to get him there.
"I promise. I tried several times and it would not make a single noise.". I tried to sway my unfounded guilt.
"Miss Carrie. Sometimes, these things just happen. I know you tried. I'll run all the tests on it in the morning at the garage. We'll figure it out."
"Come on in and wash up. Dinner is ready." I didn't add that it had been two hours.
Waldo already knew where to wash up, having done so on several ocassions. As he joined me at the table, he hooked his hat on the back of his chair and pulled out my chair for me. As he sat, he folded his hands and bowed his head to say grace. There was something comforting about having a man head the table. A gal could get used to that.
Our dinner conversation concerned mostly the "excitement" I missed on one of my days off, punctuated by his compliments of my cooking. He did ask if I missed an appointment because my car would not crank. I explained about the man in the park and we surmised about the topic and moved on. I stood to get the cobbler I hadn't mentioned and he nearly knocked his chair back getting around to pull mine out. He was a rare example of the elusive gentleman species.
It was nearing nine-thirty when he offered his excuses and bid me a goodnight. Of course, I couldn't let him leave until I made him a plate with leftovers for his lunch the next day. I am a lady, and his friend.
The following morning, as I drove my car to the service station, I detoured by the park and saw there was no one about. I would just keep checking as I was going bye. Maybe he'd left town already, anyway.
I left my car with Waldo and clocked in on my shift at the service station. Now, we're your stereotypical service station. We sell quick car maintenance items, snacks for the road, touristy items (that mainly catch dust), tobacco, alcohol, and we have a small deli. The garage does lube changes, tires, fluid checks...again, road maintenance type service. We stay very busy as the town's only service station.
I gave little thought to the mysterious man. I joked, laughed, empathized, consoled, and conversed with every one who came in during my day. I took a quick break for lunch at one-thirty. As I was eating my salami on rye, Waldo asked if he could join me. I smiled, as he took out his cooler packed with all the left overs I had sent with him. He immediately sat and said grace. He began eating ever so slow.
I knew I'd have to clock back in before him, but hated to leave. Seemed he had something on his mind. I was about to apologize, when he looked up at me so quickly, I startled.
"Please, Miss Carrie. Stay for just a minute. I've been trying to say some stuff and it just...I don't really know how."
"Of course. Take your time."
"Miss Carrie...I...thank you for this meal. Every other meal, too. You didn't have to go to all that trouble for me. It means alot."
I started to speak, but he spoke up. "Wait. Best let me get it all out afore it gets locked back up inside. What I'm trying to say is, well, no one has ever gone to so much trouble before. I feel kinda special. Now, I feel like we been knowing each other a while now, uh 6years, and uh, I'd like to ask a question if I may and pray I'm not being presumptuous. It's okay if you say no, we'll forget I asked."
Thinking he was finally going to ask me out, I reddened in anticipation. "Well? What's the question?"
He pushed out his chair and walked around the table. He reached in his pocket as he kneeled down on one knee. Clearing his throat he said "Miss Carrie. Would you marry me?"
"Waldo. I can't hear you well. Can you look up at me, please?". I heard him just fine.
Waldo looked up and repeated his proposal. I promise I was going to say YES. That was even better than a date. I was elated! So much so, in fact, that I passed out right there at the table in the service station.
I came too with Lou Ellen smacking my cheeks. I looked up at Waldo, who couldn't have looked more embarrassed. "Yes. Yes, I will.". Then Waldo went kerplunk. A fine pair we would make. Lou Ellen thought we were reacting to the food, and was about hysterical trying to rouse Waldo. He came to with a grin, looked at me, and said, "you...you will? Really?".
At Lou Ellen's questioning stare, Waldo announced. "She said yes. We're getting hitched!". He took me in his arms and spun me right round and laid a soft but firm kiss on me. I knew I was home.
Before the day was out, the entire town knew. Waldo had explained how he was up in the night trying to find the ring his mom has passed down for Waldo to give his future bride. He told everyone he had been waiting for a sign to tell him when the time was right. And he shared one other item. He pulled out a photo of his grandfather, George. Waldo said George was the sign for which he waited...and the blackberry cobbler.
George was sitting on a bench at a cemetery where he had just laid his young wife in final resting. He was wearing a brown, seersucker suit with black leather elbow patches and a gray paperboy hat. His face was in his hands as he leaned forward. Carrie could just imagine his shoulders were trembling with the barely audible sobs of unimaginable pain.