Mel walks out the door to leave for work, it’s a little warmer today, so Coco is staying home. Sometimes, he takes her along and lets her sleep in his truck while he’s working. The two of them have spent so much time together the last four years, she gets a little anxious about staying home alone. When he does live her at home, he leaves the television on to keep her company. He starts up his truck, reaches for his sunglasses on the dash, and sees the paper with the cowgirl’s phone number sitting there. He tucks it under the dog bed, so that it doesn’t get blown out the window. He’ll call her tonight, if during the workday today he can convince himself it is a good idea.
The day goes smooth enough, no big problems, or lengthy delays, so he is done and heading back towards home before 5 PM. He stops by the store on the way, picks up some barbeque and salads for dinner. When he gets home, drops off the food on the kitchen counter, takes a beer out of the refrigerator, and then goes out into the backyard with the dog. The small house he rents has a small patio with a single chair. He settles into as Coco wanders around the backyard, always falling some animal scent with her nose down sniffing away at it. Finally she tires of that activity, and comes to sit by him on the patio. It’s pleasant out here in the early evening, so he puts off fixing a dinner plate, but then remembers to go retrieve that phone number from his truck. He stops back in the kitchen to give the dog her water and food, and takes another beer out back. He looks at his phone and decides it is too early to call, and also that he has no clue what to say to her. He thinks the best thing to do is just sit out here for a while and think on it.
Mel goes back inside when the sun goes down, fixes a plate and puts away the extra food for tomorrow’s dinner. He has one more beer with dinner, but tells himself that’s all for tonight. He could sit here and drink beer all evening, but then he would not give her a call. When his dinner is done, and the dog cleans up the plate for her portion, he rinses off his dishes and goes into front room. The rental house is sparsely furnished, but he likes it that way. Most of the furniture was left by a former renter, or something he picked up at the thrift stores. There is a decent recliner, so he sits in it with his phone and the piece of paper with her number on it. After 30 minutes of procrastination, he punches in the number. It rings, and no one answers, and the call goes to voicemail. ”Hi, this is Scarlett; I’m able to answer your call right now. Please a message.” He starts to hang up, didn’t expect to leave a message, but then thinks what the hell. ”This is Kev, we met last night. Give me a call back if you want to, I’ll be around.”
Well, he thinks, as he turns a ballgame on, I’ll guess I’ll just have one more beer and see what happens next. However, at least now he knows her name now. Nice name too, KB has seen the movie Gone With the Wind, more than once. The dog is sitting at the back door, which is the signal she wants to go out again. Just as he gets up and goes that way, his phone rings and it’s her number. He answers as he opens up the back door, “Hello?” She answers and it sounds she is driving, “Hi Kev, I’m glad you called me. You’re so quiet, I was wondering how long it was going to take. What are you doing tonight?” He says, “Not much, just dinner at home and sitting on the back patio.” She laughs, and he likes the sound of it. ”It must be the Californian in you, you seem to like sitting outside a lot” She replies. ”Tell me, what else do you like to do? Do you like fishing or horseback riding?” He says what comes to mind, “I prefer to watch other people fish and eat what they catch. And I can’t driving anything that doesn’t have a steering wheel.” She laughs again, and says to him, “I have an idea. I don’t have a lot of time to talk tonight, but I’m having some friends out to my lake house on Saturday for a cookout. Would you like to come, then we could have more time to talk and get to know each other.” It doesn’t take him a moment to say, “That sounds good.” She says, “Sorry, can you hold for a moment, I have another call I need to take?” When she comes back on the line, she says, “Great, I’m going to text you the address, and if you need directions, then just call me. I have to go now, I’m really glad you called. Oh, our parties tend to go a little late, come prepared to spend the night. There aren’t a lot of beds, but I’m betting you’re the type that can sleep anywhere”
He goes back inside and starts pacing around the house. He’s thinking, a lake house party? What if she’s rich? I don’t have those kinds of clothes to wear. Back home, if you’re going to a lake house party, you wear flip flops, a swimsuit, and a t shirt. He looks in his closet and finds a fairly new and clean pair of blue jeans, an almost new button down chambray shirt, and his running shoes are clean too. Saturday morning he’ll pack just a small bag in case he stays overnight. And that bag will include the flip flops, swimsuit, towel and t shirt. He’s thinking if nothing else, he can take a Sunday morning swim in the lake. He finds his camping cot and sleeping bag, and sets them by the front door. And then it dawns on him, what about the dog? Maybe, he thinks, I can send her a text message tomorrow to make sure it’s okay that I bring along. Enough thinking for tonight, he pulls a book from the stack and goes to bed. It’s a Civil War history book, seems appropriate before he goes to visit Scarlett.
Come Saturday at noon, he has his clothes laid out on hanger to change into later, he has looked up the address she sent him and knows the directions, and packed his stuff in the back of his truck. Thankfully, she said that his dog was welcome too, so he puts some travel food, bowls, and a leash in the truck for her. She said in the text that everyone will be coming out around 5 or so, and looking at the directions he thinks it will be about a one hour drive for him. He plans on being ready to leave his place by 3, if he gets there too early, well then he will find a place to park under a tree for a while. The drive takes a bit longer, but he is within sight of her place by 430, he drives by without stopping and is relieved. It’s a nice place, nothing too fancy, but very nice. If looks like many weekend lake houses, or cabins that he grew up going to as a kid. He parks down the road and watches the other guest start to arrive. He feels with relief that no one is too dressed up, he won’t be too out of place. After sitting until past 5, he drives down the street and finds a parking spot along the road. It is a pleasant cool evening, and he is glad he tossed a jacket and sweatshirt into his bag. Coco is still asleep so he leaves her in the truck for now.
He stopped off a liquor store and bought two good bottles of red wine from a Napa Valley vintner that he has tasted before and knows that they are very good. He thought about bringing her flowers but decided that was too much, it’s a party and not a first date. He puts these in the box along with the tray of chile rellenos he picked up. The way he was raised, when you go to a party, you bring something along for the hostess and to share. As he walks up the to the front door, Scarlett comes out of the house with a welcoming smile. “There you are, I was afraid you had gotten lost. What do you have there, and where is that sweet dog?” She says. He smiles back, “Just some wine and a tray of food. Coco is asleep in the truck, I’ll get her out in a bit.” Scarlet is dressed casually, wearing blue jeans sandals and a simple but pretty shirt. ”Thank you, that’s so sweet of you. Come on in and meet some of my friends.” The evening goes really well, and really easy for him. The food is wonderful, and all of her friends are easy going and interesting people. He gets into a conversation about Civil War history with one older gentleman that last for an hour. Scarlett interrupts them, “Don, you’re hogging my date, now go talk someone else’s ear off.” He bows and smiles at her, “My apologies dear, where did you find this man? His wine choice is excellent and he knows history.” She laughs and replies, “I found him in a honky tonk bar.”
She leads Mel towards the back porch by taking his hand. ”Let’s find a quiet place to sit and talk for a while.” Nut is asleep on the porch, but gets up and moves over to the chair Scarlett sits in. Mel takes the one close to her and says, “You’ve impressed my dog.” She takes his hand, and says softly, “You’ve impressed all my friends tonight, and you have really impressed me, I thought there was something about you, but tonight I know I’m just getting a glimpse of it.” She leans closer, and says, “I think you should kiss me now.” He does, first kisses are almost always good, and he has had more than a few of them, but this one was much better than good. They sit together holding hands, in the quiet and darkness of that night, not talking but kissing again. After several more, she gets up and says, “I need to get back to my guest, are you coming in?” He says, “I’ll be inside in a few moments, I think I should just sit here for a little while.” Eventually, as hears some of the guest leaving, he goes inside to say good byes and nice to meet you. He walks out to his truck, gets his cot and bedroll, and sets them up on the lawn below the back deck, and under the stars. Scarlett is busy organizing sleeping places for the ones staying overnight. He doesn’t go looking for her, and quickly goes to sleep.
When the sunlight of dawn hits his face he is awake, gets up and looks around, and seeing no one else stirring, he changes into his swimsuit and heads for the lake. The water is bracing cold, but not as cold as a Pacific Ocean wave. He gets out of the lake after a twenty minute swim, and toweling off sees Scarlett waving from the deck with a cup of coffee. As she watches him walk up the incline towards the lake house, calls out, “Are you crazy?” He just waves and smiles at her, thinking the answer is more than a bit.
Fiction stories, no matter what they are about, should be grounded in both imagination and real life. Maybe real life enhanced and made more real. This is the second of a possible series of stories that are fiction,