Thursday, May 12, 2016

Smoky

Let’s try a short short story this week. No, I didn’t computer stutter, and there’s no comma between the shorts because first short modifies the second short, which modifies story, so it’s cumulative, requiring no comma. You might argue it needs one for "readability's" sake. Why did I go off in that direction? I’ll put it down to age and move on.

Hope you like the bit of nonsense that follows:
*****
SMOKY

I called her Smoky.
Her real name was Gwendolyn, and I was in love with her from the moment I met her in freshman English at the University of New Mexico. It was a big class, and I was fortunate enough to sit beside her one day. Before the bell rang, I screwed up the courage to utter the most difficult five words I’d ever spoken.
“Hi, I’m Am. Ambrose Haller.”
She looked puzzled before responding. “Gwendolyn Sharp. Nice to meet you.”
Understanding her confusion, I stiffened my spine and spoke again. “I didn’t stutter. I really said ‘I’m Am.’ That’s what everybody calls me instead of Ambrose.
“Oh? Then she smiled. Smiled with her whole being. With her eyes as well as her lips. Her irises were gray. Not pale. Dark. Smoky gray. They seemed infused with swirling mists of changing shades and shapes. I’d never seen eyes like that before. So she became Smoky to me.
Her laugh was crystal pinging on silver. “Let’s do that over again. Hi, Am, I’m Gwen.”
When I took the dainty hand she offered, some part of my heart seemed to flow through our clasped fingers into hers. Did she recognize what had just happened?
Professor Sorloff called the class to attention, breaking the magic of the moment and earning my undying enmity. Damn Sorloff! Why was somebody with a name like that teaching freshman English, anyway?
For one hour, three days a week over two semesters, I sat beside my angel. Although almost everyone else I knew despised the class, I could hardly wait for 9:00 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We became friends, almost intimates. Maisie Hines probably fit that role better than I; nonetheless, Smoky shared some confidences that made me feel close to her. I suffered some setbacks, as well. There was the boyfriend, Dirk, who showed up after class to claim her as though he owned her.Later came the bitter breakup that left her shaken and unhappy.
My opportunity, right? I thought so, too, but while she shared some of her feelings with me, it was a strapping footballer named Randall who apparently had a more comfortable shoulder. The school term staggered to a close with me little more than a classmate to my beautiful Smoky.
My sophomore year was a drag because she transferred to New Mexico State. Only later did I learn she’d followed her football tight end to Las Cruces.


Twenty years passed before I glanced through the one-way glass wall of my manager’s office at the Central Avenue Branch of the Spartan Bank into the lobby where a woman waiting in line for a teller caught my attention. She was wearing a pair of large, very dark glasses, something a sign prominently displayed on the doors discouraged. As usual, I took special notice of someone who might be attempting to mask her identity. The tall woman was quite well-formed. I’m not certain if I made that mental note as a banker looking at a potential scam artist or as a man who’d recently undergone a bitter divorce. Regardless of the reason, she was in my sights now.
The woman was not a regular customer of the branch yet somehow looked familiar. Drawn by curiosity—or perhaps caution—I moved into the lobby to stand at the tall table that once held blank deposit slips and counter checks before banks went to computers and did away with such necessities. She stood in profile to me as she moved up the line.
Her pleasant features sent my mind racing over wanted posters and past relationships, but I still had not pulled whatever was niggling at me from my memory banks by the time she finished her transaction and started for the door. On impulse, I moved to intercept her.
“Excuse me, ma’m,” I said. “I’m Mr. Haller, the manager. May I welcome you to our branch?”
She halted abruptly, which excited my suspicion.
“Am?” She pulled off the shades and looked up at me.
“Smoky!” I exclaimed.
Her laugh still sent shivers down my back “I haven’t been called that in years. It’s good to hear it again.” She held out her arms and gave me a brief embrace.
“I lost track of you after you transferred to State.”
“I’ve wondered about you often. So you’re a banker?” That tinkling laugh again. “My banker. I just opened an account last week.”
She was more beautiful as a mature woman than she had ever been as a teen. Back then her looks merely promised something. Now she delivered on that promise. True beauty.
Somehow we ended up agreeing to meet for coffee after work. She was employed as an electrical engineer at a firm a couple of blocks down the street. In that enchanted half-hour, I confessed my recent divorce and learned of her difficult breakup from her husband… that same footballer who’d taken her away all those years ago.
That coffee was succeeded by dinner a few nights later. That gave rise to others. Then came the magical night where I found myself where I’d never dared dream I would be.
On top of Old Smoky.

*****
What a pathetic ending, but somehow I wasn’t able to stop myself. Oh well, feel free to lodge your complaints at dontravis21@gmail.com.


New Posts published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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