Thursday, July 9, 2009

1,000 Words for Charity - Rose

Title: A Promise Kept
Three words provided: library, laughter, lingering.
Word count: 1,000
Fun fact: she asked for a romance. She didn't specify what kind :)

The maple tree cast a swaying patch of shade onto the verdant grass at its feet and, when the breeze was gentle, over the wooden bench that faced it from ten feet away. When the wind picked up the shade was swept aside and the sun peered down on the bench and its lone inhabitant, Charlie Poole.

Charlie hardly noticed the changing light, for his faded brown eyes were locked on the sliding glass doors of the building that was just visible under the lowest hanging branch. He seemed to be keeping time by tapping a white sneaker-clad foot on the dirt path that led away from him.

As the sun neared its zenith, the door of the red brick building opened to allow an elderly gentleman to escape its confines. Charlie’s back stiffened slightly at this sight and he seemed to remain seated only with great difficulty. The man made his way over to the park bench, seemingly in a dead heat with an unseen snail, and finally seated himself next to Charlie with two creaks, three groans, and one muttered oath.

“Well Danny, let’s hear it!” Charlie said, now nearly bouncing in place. “What’s she reading this week?”

“Are you really sure it’s not time to give up? I’m telling you Charlie, it would be a better use of your time to practice for the County Lawn Bowling Championships - it’s only two weeks away now! We really need you to be in top form if -”

“Out with it already you stodgy old fool,” Charlie cut in. “I’ve got a good feeling about this one, right down in my bones.”

“You sure that isn’t your arthritis acting up again?” Danny asked, doubt hanging off his drooping eyes and wrinkled forehead. “And honestly mate, I’m not convinced that old rock knows how to smile - forget laughing!”

“Well there’s a first time for everything, right? Besides, I really think I almost had her with that Pride and Prejudice crack last week.”

“Yeah, that was a right corker,” Danny said flatly. “It‘s really not fair though, is it? Only giving you one joke per book like this?”

“Never mind that. Go on then,” Charlie said as he leaned in conspiratorially, “what’s she reading?”

“Do you really think she’ll keep her promise then? I reckon she‘s just enjoying all the attention you‘re giving her,” Danny said before seeing his friend’s expression darken. He held up his hands and sighed. “Fine. It’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. Good luck with that one.”

But Charlie was already deep in thought, his eyes searching for the words that would finally find a chink in his sweetheart’s armour. The sun peaked and began its descent and still no words were spoken. The wind played in the maple leaves, sending several prematurely floating down to earth, and Charlie continued to ponder.

At last, as closing time edged ominously closer, Charlie shot up from the bench and clapped his hands together. He looked down at his friend and smiled an excited, gap-toothed smile.

“That‘s it!” he shouted, ignoring Danny’s embarrassed attempts to quiet him. “This is perfect! I’ve been waiting months for an opportunity like this!”

“Charlie, maybe you should run this one by me first. Bea is retiring in three weeks, remember? If this one doesn’t work you’ll only have two tries left! Let me hear it and then… Charlie! Get back here!”

Charlie, however, wasted no time on his friend’s concerns and shuffled at a steady pace down the dirt path, his hands hovering in front of his large silver belt buckle, his elbows swinging from side to side, and only slightly favouring his bad right hip.

Charlie entered the public library at his top speed and headed straight for the check out desk, where Bea sat reading her latest novel. He made a great show of inspecting the title before rubbing his chin and looking off into the distance. Bea paid him no mind, as usual, until at length he snapped his fingers and smiled broadly.

“So I’ll pick you up at five o’clock on Saturday then,” he said with a nod, turning away.

“I don’t award persistence Charlie,” Bea said, looking up over her lenses. “You still have to make me laugh before I agree to a date.”

“But I already did,” Charlie told her over his shoulder. “You laughed so hard you nearly fell off your chair!”

“And why don’t I remember this?”

“Well,” he said with a sly wink, “time travel is a tricky thing, isn’t it?”

Bea’s eyes narrowed and her mouth tightened. But as she opened her mouth to reply, understanding dawned and her pale blue eyes sparkled. Her lips twitched upwards, threatening to coalesce into a smile, but then were firmly pressed together and flattened into a thin line.

“Nice try Charlie,” she said as she returned her eyes to the pages before her. “Quite clever, actually. But better luck next week.”

Charlie’s face fell and his shoulders sagged heavily as he turned away again. His feet slid across the floor as he made his way towards the exit, as though separating them from the carpet was too much effort. Just as the doors slid open for him a smothered sound made him look back one last time.

He could hardly believe his eyes.

Bea sat behind her desk, her shoulders shaking with barely contained laughter and one wrinkled hand firmly clamped over her mouth. Charlie took two halting steps towards her, shock playing over his weather-worn features, when suddenly a long, clear laugh escaped through her fingers.

Charlie stared at Bea as she regained her composure, the laugh lingering in the air between them as the room returned to its usual soundtrack of hushed whispers and turning pages.

“So… five o’clock then?” he asked, struggling to not look too pleased with himself.

“Yes, five will be lovely,” Bea told him as she buried her face in her book once more. “I’ll see you then. Don’t be late.”


Crazy Mo said...

Oh, but that was romantic. I even air punched the air for Charlie at the end. You go, old timer!

Marc said...

Haha, awesome. Totally the reaction I was hoping for :)

Thanks, that comment brightened my already sunny day.

Greg said...

That was really nicely done! The joke was a great one, and the delayed laughter was exactly what I'd have expected from anyone I'd told it to too.

My favourite part of isn't quotable, it's the idea of the Charlie's determination to win Bea over in such a charming way. Makes such a change from our time-strapped society today.


Marc said...

Greg - that makes me so happy. Initially I had there being no delay before the laugh and I absolutely hated it. It took me a while to get around to the idea of there being a bit of a delay.

And I'm so glad - I was quite fond of the idea of a lengthy, persistent pursuit of a romantic interest :)