Words of the Week
for the Week of
July 3, 2016
Fiction first published as a
Words in Progress dated
May 29, 2001.
© 2001, 2016 by Bud Grossmann.
All Rights Reserved.
© 2013 by Bud Grossmann
YOU SURE ARE
A SWELL GUY
(This is the second part of
a two-part story.)
hat if Sharyl answers?
What if? What if? Cmon, Gil, dont be a girl! Call her. Take my dads Chev, and have a good time. Find me here or at OBriens. If youre back by midnight, Ill be okay. I have to milk cows in the morning, so make it midnight, or the car turns into a cabbage. Key is in the ashtray. Go, Gil. Yours for the taking.
But, Butch, what if I wake their mother?
What if? What if? Heres a dime, Lowden. Make the call.
hree years earlier, when theyd been sophomores, Gilbert Lowden and Sharyl Pickard had gone steady for a few weeks in the fall. Theyd both, in that same year of high school, gone on to other loves, but they remained friendly, exchanging letters now and again, after the Lowden family moved to Denver because of Gilberts fathers job.
Mrs. Lowden had relatives in and around the town of Blue Hawk, Nebraska, and on that Thursday night in August, 1967, Gilbert Lowden, just out of high school, was back for a visit. He closed himself into the phone booth near the front door of Holbrooks Bowling Alley and pressed his coin into the smallest circle of the three. The dime dropped, the boy dialed. But when he tried to think of the second of the five digits he had once known so well, he drew a blank and hung up the phone. He looked in the book. Pickard, Harriet—there it was, among less than a page of Ps. Harriet was Sharyls mom. No dad. Gilbert looked at his watch. After ten. Ah, well, Nothing ventured...
On the first ring, a Pickard girl picked up. Hello?
Sorry. Sharyls not home.
No, I mean Valerie! Valerie! I was, I was, I was actually hoping you—
Gilbert Lowden! How are you! Youre here arent you! Whenm I going to get to see ya?
Well, gee, Valerie, do you mean that? I mean, are you, would you, would you like to, well, how about right now? If youre free. We could go for a little drive, I thought, out in the country. If you wanted. They had never dated; Gilbert had never once been alone with Sharyls older sister, anywhere, at any time.
Valerie giggled. The boy felt as he had when he was little, when his mother patted him atop his head. Do you have wheels? Valerie asked. Because I dont.
Yes, actually. I actually do. I have Butch Buchanans car, his fathers Chevy. But we, well have to bring it back at midnight, because—
Valerie giggled again and said, Gil, are you at Holbrooks? Come over. Dont honk, dont knock. Moms in bed. Ill come out.
hey didnt go very far. At the edge of town, in the lane behind the feed mill, they parked the blue Bel Air. A pleasant place of privacy—in those years, the town cop was an older gent who liked to turn in early. If people needed him, they could phone. Gil and Valerie sat and talked. Held hands. They didnt go very far, though not for want of wishing, on Gilbert Lowdens part.
nd now, thirty-four years down the road, and many miles to the east, on a warm night late in May, Gilbert Lowden has returned from a fine first ride in a 61 Chev a lot like that beautiful blue Bel Air. He quietly enters his home. In the first bedroom off the hall, his wifes sewing machine whirrs and chatters. In the dining room a single place setting, Lowdens, remains on the table. Gloria Lowdens dish and silverware are soaking in the kitchen sink. Lowden goes to the sewing room. Gloria tells him, Look on the stove and in the micro.
Lowden peeks into pots and pans and then goes into the garage. He unlocks a large utility closet, steps through the doorway, and tugs the chain for the overhead light. Under a certain can of Varathane, he finds a key. He takes the padlock off an Army footlocker that once belonged to his dad. Inside there is a pistol and a box of ammunition; a coin collection, very incomplete; some stone arrowheads; some fossils; other treasures; and hundreds of neatly bundled letters from the 1960s.
Lowden finds a certain envelope, brittle and yellowed, postmarked Lincoln, Nebraska, May 6, 1968. The two pale blue pages inside are crisp as if new. The message is in small, neat, unslanting script.
How you doing, sweetheart? Since nobody else claims you around here, I will.
I read the letter Sharyl received some time ago. You sure are a swell guy to say what you did and I was happy. Things werent going my way and still arent the best. Sharyl never wanted anything to do with me at the time but she sure shaped up in a hurry. You must have gotten thru to her—maybe a little bit.
I live in Lincoln now and have a wonderful job. At least at the time it is! Moved away from home because I couldnt and still cant get along with the family—which is a shame. They hardly spoke to me during the long 9 months and sometimes still arent too friendly—but I can truthfully say I dont care. Personally I dont care what people say or think about me.
Sorry about the red ink and the scribbly mess. It was the only pen handy.
As you already know I had a beautiful little girl. Maybe I shouldnt say beautiful because she looked exactly like me. I always wish I could have kept her but giving her up was the only thing I could possibly have done. Anyway, it sure was a wonderful feeling having her. I love babies!!
Ive slimmed down a little bit since I had the baby. I can happily wear a size 8—isnt that wonderful? I can tell, too, that Sharyl is pretty jealous—she could do the same by using a little will power. Im not bragging, just happy! (Wasnt Sharyl always jealous of me?)
Whatever did you mean—I must be quite a girl??? You just might regret ever getting to know me better. Im selfish, stubborn and other words. Im also very mean and sometimes not the loving kind—would you believe never??
Thanks for the kind words—friend. Yes—well be friends cuz thats the way I want it.
Sharyl would surely blow her top if she knew I was writing to you so dont let on—okay? Write to me at
230 E. Denham—Apt. 5
It isnt long but at
least I wrote—huh?
owden did the math, counting the months on his fingers, backwards from March when the child was born: nine, eight, seven, six.... In August Valerie would have known. But, by then whom would she have told?
What if, what if? Lowden folded the letter, locked the box, and went to eat his supper. ♦
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This page was updated Sun, Jul 3, 2016, 3:00AM CDT.
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