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William and Mary exited the church with her parents after saying goodbye to Father Peters.
“Mary,” William said. “How about a walk in the park?”
“That would be lovely,” she said, showing him a rather large smile.
“Have a nice day,” he said to her parents as the held each other and smiled. Her father winked at William, and her mother’s eyes became a bit glassy as she waved, too choked up to say anything else.
They turned the corner toward the park and Mary looked up at her boyfriend. “Can you believe it’s been a year since we met? A whole year.” She put her arm through his and pulled him closer as they passed the five and dime, which was closed.
“Too bad everything is closed, we could have picked up something and had a picnic,” she said to him. He looked at her and smiled.
They continued to the park entrance, which was eerily empty today. Mary stopped. “That’s odd.”
“What is, dear?”
“Where is everyone? Mister Simpson is always feeding the ducks at the pond at this time of day. And this is a park, usually there are children playing! No jumprope, no kites, nothing. Nobody is here.”
He smiled. “It is rather peculiar, isn’t it?” He turned and looked at the Johnsons’ home, noticing the curtains move just the tiniest bit. He knew it was a small town and word traveled fast; it wasn’t the least bit surprising that Mrs. Johnson would take a peek as they passed.
“My, the trees look beautiful, don’t they? Look at all the red and orange. I love Fall,” she said to him as they promenaded through the park. He nodded.
Deep in thought, William hadn’t noticed that his pace quickened and he’d left Mary a few steps behind. He realized it and stopped, waiting for her to catch up. “Did you forget me?” She asked him.
“No, no I guess I was in another world,” he responded.
“Are you nervous about something? You seem to have a small case of the jitters.”
He smiled and took her hand as they walked past the trees, some of which were already bare. He pulled Mary from the path onto the grass toward a hill and the sound of crunching leaves under their feet echoed through the empty park.
“William M. Masters, what’s gotten into you?”
He smiled and led her through a small grove of bright orange and red trees that still had their leaves and there was a red and white checkered blanket with a picnic basket waiting.
“Oh, look at this! Someone has left a perfectly good lunch here,” he said with a sly smile. She squeezed his hand as he brought her over and helped her onto the blanket.
“Why thank you!”
“You’re welcome, darling. Why don’t you go through the basket and see what we’ve got for lunch?”
She got up and walked over to the basket, opened the lid and on top of some chicken, potato salad and fruit she found a small, black box. She picked it up and when she turned to William he was down on one knee.
“Mary, will you marry me and make me the luckiest man in all of Greensville?”
She smiled with a glow and said yes.
“The bed and breakfast should be right around this bend,” Adam said to his new bride, Bertha as he turned the wheel of the car.
“I can’t believe it! I will be waking up with you tomorrow. It’s like a dream.” Bertha was glowing, and he couldn’t believe that just a few short hours ago they’d tied the knot. His friends always bet he would never take that final leap, and yet he was the first of the group to do so.
He knew he would be the second he’d met Bertha. He fell for her on the spot.
Adam smiled at the beautiful brunette as he pulled up to a 1900s farmhouse-turned-bed and breakfast. The siding was painted a pale blue and the woodwork around the porch was a light pink, just as his co-worker described it.
As Adam pulled to a stop his car skidded a bit on the gravel, sending up a small cloud of dust and alerting the owner to their arrival. “Here we are, 1620 Sycamore!” he said. The owner came out onto the wraparound porch and waved to them. As he did so his wire-framed glasses began to fall down his nose a bit and he had to catch them with his hand and push them back into place.
“You must be the Burnses, eh?” he asked them from the porch as they got out of the car.
Bertha giggled. “You’re the first one to call us that!” Adam came around and opened the trunk.
“And you must be Mister Oliver, the owner?”
“Yessir, that’s me!” He fixed his suspenders and let them slap against his oversized stomach as Adam reached into the back seat and pulled out his hat. He placed it onto his head and approached Mister Oliver, hand outstretched.
“Mighty fine place you have here, sir! Lovely. Just perfect for our honeymoon.” The older man smiled and winked at him.
“Haven’t had newlyweds here in a while! Mother and I will enjoy seeing young love again. Here to see the falls?”
“Yes, and possibly a bit of Canada, too.”
“Good for you, son.” Bertha was still waiting by the car and the old man nodded to her. Adam turned, went to the back door of the car and pulled out her small dark blue cardigan.
“It’s a bit chilly, hun, maybe you should put this on.” He started wrapping the sweater around Bertha, who saw the camera in the back seat.
“Oh! Adam, let’s get a photograph. Can we? It will be our first honeymoon shot.”
Adam pulled the camera out and looked hopefully to Mister Oliver, who smiled.
“Let me take that for you, son!” he said as he waddled down the four steps off the porch. As Adam showed him how the camera worked, Bertha carefully placed her purse and sweater onto the porch. Then she fixed her pleated skirt to make sure there were no wrinkles, rechecked the buttons of her blouse, and fixed her sleeves. Adam ran to her and leaned in.
“Hold on!” Bertha said. “You can’t wear a hat in this!” she said, removing it from her husband’s head, placing it onto her belongings on the porch, and then fussing over his hair. Once she got every strand into place, she smiled.
“Ready for this, Mister Burns?”
He smiled at his new wife. “Of course, Mrs. Burns.” And, of course, she giggled a little.
Every morning, Albert woke up before sunrise for his ritual. He climbed from bed right into his work pants, replaced the ribbed undershirt he’d slept in for a fresh, clean one, carefully put on his starched and ironed white button-down shirt, and pulled the suspenders over his shoulders.
Like all men of his day, Albert knew the importance of remaining clean-cut. After a quick visit to the kitchen, where he started the coffee, he headed back through his bedroom to the bathroom.
The bathroom ritual, after actions unmentionable in polite society, of course, included a shave, washing his face and brushing his teeth for three minutes, no more, no less. He would then pomade and brush his gray hair, wipe off his glasses on the special cloth he’d bought from the kindly door-to-door salesman, and then return to the kitchen.
Before Helen passed he’d always walked in to find some form of eggs, toast, orange juice and something from the meat group, but since her death he just couldn’t get the hang of making breakfast. He’d tried for about a year, the eggs were always either burnt or too runny, plus he always forgot to get orange juice at the market. So these days, if he even ate, it was toast and a pear from the tree that Helen planted back when they bought the small, suburban home.
The emptiness of the kitchen always got to Albert when he first walked in. The smells of the past haunted him, and he often forgot about her passing because he swore he could smell the ghosts of bacon frying in a pan. But whenever he walked in with a smile, adjusting his suspenders, his expectations were always disappointed. It was always empty, the sound of the coffee machine the only noise in the house and the counter meticulously organized and clean, just as he’d left it the night before.
And so he would stand with his back to the counter, as if talking to Helen like in the old days, and pour a coffee. But now, instead of sitting at the table, he ate at the sink, letting the crumbs of his solitary piece of toast fall directly into the empty sink. It kept him from having to wipe down the table, and since he kept the place immaculately clean, just as Helen did in her day, it saved him some time.
The final part of Albert’s ritual was to put on his tie, his shoes and his jacket. He walked up to the rack by the door, took his hat off the post, placed it on his head and opened the front door. The sun would just be rising as he turned and looked at his empty, dark home.
“I love you, honey. See you at supper,” he always whispered before he shut the door.
Hey all! For those of you who follow me here, I wanted to let everyone know my first short story EVER to be published in a magazine is available online today! The story, originally published here on my blog (but since taken down for publishing) is called I Heart Polka (And I’m Not Talking About the Dots). Click here to purchase the Instigatorzine issue. Here’s the cover:
Scroll to the bottom of the page to order it. They even have it for Kindle!
And be sure to check out the cool Melancholy Robot stories I’ve been doing along with many talented artists!
The robot sat on the metro, speeding quickly to its destination. The train slowed, stopped, hissed. A couple got on, holding hands, and sat across from it.
The robot noticed how close they sat to each other compared to other passengers. They started to kiss as it watched. It tried to comprehend why humans kiss. The action served no useful function that it could see, yet the robot found itself yearning for its own partner to kiss.
It rotated its head to a window and looked at the reflection.
It had no lips.