This week’s topic in the non-competitive “Blogger Idol” showcase is “First Dates.” I’m 42, and yet I have far less experience in this topic than a lot of 17-year-olds. I’m still single, and a year-long relationship that broke up a couple of months ago was the longest one in which I’d ever been involved.
Conveniently enough, however, I speed-wrote the first draft of a novel during November, as part of National Novel Writing Month. I’m getting ready to try to rewrite it and see if it’s any good. My protagonist, Miller Todd, has some qualities in common with me — including his age and the fact that he’s pretty much an idiot at romance — but he’s different from me in some other important ways. In the novel, he has a crush on the woman who lives in the other half of his duplex. Here — with a little bit of encouragement from a friendly, and married, co-worker — he finally works up the courage to ask her out.
When Miller got home, Kathy was kneeling at his front door. She was startled to hear his car pull into the driveway.
“Miller!” she said. “I’m sorry. I got a piece of your mail by mistake, and I was trying to slide it under your front door. But you have really good weatherstripping, and it wouldn’t go.”
“You should have just put it in my mailbox. I would never have known.”
“I don’t like opening someone else’s mailbox. Isn’t it, like, a federal crime?”
“I would probably not have filed a complaint.”
Eddie’s car pulled up to the curb. He leaped out.
“Eddie, this is my next-door neighbor, Kathy Barrow.”
“Hello, Kathy. Pleased to meet you.”
“The two of you have something in common. Eddie is our plant controller, and –” he shifted his gaze from Kathy to Eddie “ — Kathy is an accountant. You two talk shop for a second while I go get Eddie the papers he came here for.”
Miller ran into the apartment and picked up the stack of center paperwork he had left on the coffee table and pulled out a few pieces that explained the project.
He went back out the door to find Kathy wearing a Predators cap.
“You forgot the cap you bought at the pro shop last night,” said Eddie, “but I told Kathy it looked better on her.”
Kathy grinned sheepishly, took the cap off and handed it to Miller. Was she really embarassed?
“You’ll have to excuse Mr. O’Neill. He was raised by wolves in the Yukon. By the way, Eddie, your wife called. She wanted me to remind you to take your anti-flatulence medicine at least 20 minutes before you get home.”
“Wow, Friday night really is Miller Time.” He turned to Kathy, grinning like a man who’d just won the lottery. “It was very nice meeting you.”
Eddie drove off.
“So … you went to a hockey game last night?”
“My first. Eddie was like a parent taking his little boy to Disney World for the first time. He had to show me everything, explain the rules, what have you.”
“Did you enjoy it?”
“Thoroughly. Have you ever been?”
“No, but some people at the office were talking about a game they went to last month. It sounds like fun.”
Jump on in. The cold water takes your breath away, but you’ll get used to it pretty fast. The only way to do it is to jump on in.
“Maybe we could go see a game.”
“Maybe we could.”
“I’ll check the schedule and see what home games are coming up. I’ll try for a weekend.”
“Sounds like fun,” she said, as Miller tried to identify what sort of geology would make the earth spin that way. “Oh – here’s your mail.” She handed him the envelope.
“Thanks. I guess I’ll see you at the heart walk tomorrow.”
“I suppose so.”
“Maybe I can pull some strings and get you two paper cups of water.”
“I don’t want two cups of water. I’ve seen the porta-potties.”
Miller was expecting the other shoe to drop any second now. Perhaps Kathy was feeling the same thing; both of them made relatively-lame excuses for important business they had to attend to, and they headed for their respective ends of the duplex.
As Miller stepped inside, he walked back to his kitchen table. There, on the table, were the souvenirs he’d bought at Thursday night’s hockey game: a puck, a T-shirt and a little toy Zamboni.
He had not, he was fairly sure, purchased a cap.