by Paul Beckman
SHE WAS NUDGING forty, lived in her late parents’ bungalow, worked part-time at the soup kitchen, and part-time at the library, and was looking wearier by the day. She mowed the grass, but that and changing a light bulb maxed out her abilities as a do-it-yourselfer.
Finally, she called a plumber to fix a long time dripping leak in her kitchen sink and another in her bathroom, and he, a skosh past forty, finished his work and accepted her invitation to rest a bit and have a cold glass of lemonade, and while no charmer himself, he looked at her in her best housecoat without noticing the hard years on her face, but her soft voice, and girlish smile, enchanted him. Then she noticed the strength of his chin, but not his gnarled hands with greasy fingers and whatever under his nails. And they talked, and he thought her charming and she, thought of him as worldly, and not once, ever having a date before, decided that this was her first date and she liked the feeling, while he, thinking he was in plumber’s heaven, finally made himself leave to go plumb the two jobs waiting, and after he walked out the door she got a sudden burst of courage and called after him. She said she was cooking meatloaf and had plenty, and if he wasn’t busy would he like to join her for dinner, and he told her he loved meatloaf and hadn’t had it since his mother passed, and she asked him if six-thirty worked for him and he said he’d better get going to finish his jobs, and even though he like cold meatloaf he liked it hot better. Next, she hurried to her mother’s recipe books and looked up meatloaf while he phoned and put off one small plumbing job until the next day and stopped at an honor stand near his house and left the $3.00 for a bouquet of daisies, all the while thinking of home-made meatloaf and not his usual TV dinner meatloaf, although he did like the hot apple pie without the crust that came with it.
After dinner, as she was pouring coffee into his cup he slapped himself on his forehead with his palm, slid his chair back and said he left something in his truck, and sprinted outside and grabbed the bouquet of daises and slow walked back in holding them behind his back. She was standing at the door watching him and when he reached her he apologized. He handed her the daises saying they were fresh when he bought them, and he forgot to bring them with him because he was thinking meatloaf thoughts. They were pathetic, wilted and drooping over like a chastised puppy, but she still oohed and aahed like a schoolgirl
She led him back into the house, opened the breakfront and took out a never used dusty vase and washed it off as she filled it with water all the time telling him how thoughtful he was, and they may be a bit droopy, but she liked droopy and they were beautiful. He puffed up his chest and they took their seats at the table eating her homemade chocolate chip cookies, sipping their coffee, and chatting away like two old friends.
Paul Beckman’s latest flash collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press) was a finalist for the 2019 Indie Book Awards. Some of his stories appeared in Spelk, Necessary Fiction, Litro, Pank, Playboy, WINK, Jellyfish Review, Fictive Dream, The Wax Paper, Monkey, and The Lost Balloon. He had a story selected for the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology Lineup and was shortlisted in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition. He was nominated for 2021 Best of the Web and had a story selected for Best Microfiction 2022.