You remember I told you about Charles? Yeah, he’s the guy I told you about while I was doing laundry last week. He gave my profile a nudge on that on-line dating site. No, not that one. The other one. Yeah. I just had a date with him. I drove 214 miles to the other side of the state to have dinner with him and his girls. Yeah, at his house. No, that part was OK. His kids were there and everything, but everything else was a disaster.
Yeah, I’m fine. I’m driving back now. Damn! I just passed a cop car and I’m going too fast and I’m talking on the phone and… I’m putting you down while I put my seat belt on. That’s better. Hello? No, he had somebody stopped already.
So, Charles sounded so great on the phone. He’s a mechanic. Calls himself a grease-monkey. Really. He’s been a certified lead mechanic at a dealership for twelve years. He’s got health benefits and a retirement plan and everything. He’s buying his house. I didn’t even think which one of us would have to move.
I’ve been office manager for Dr. Chaudrey for ten years myself. It’s a great job. And, I couldn’t take my kids out of school here. I couldn’t even move them out of the county. I agreed to let Jack keep them every other week in the divorce settlement. And, Charles has his kids still at home and in high school. They’re all settled in and set up and it’s too far to drive for just dating. I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s probably just as well that I bailed out tonight.
It was incredible. No, I mean like unbelievable. I got here and his place is down in the bottoms by the river. It didn’t hardly have any paint. There was junk in the yard and two cars up on jacks. I almost drove right by but I called when I reached town and his oldest girl, Millie, was sitting out by the road watching for my green Camry and she waved me down and had me back into the drive.
I really like Millie. She’s got a smile that would light up Wisconsin. She’s kind of quiet, but just has to be a great student. She uses words like Copeland uses syncopation. She’s a thinker and just a sweet, sweet person. We really got along from the start. And little Paula is a sprite. She’s playful and full of mischief. I’m going to miss those girls. I could have really loved those girls. We just really hit it off.
Chuck? Well, he’s pretty good looking. He came out when he heard Millie and me talking. He’s even better-looking than in his picture. A little on the chunky side. Yeah, “Chunky Chuck.” No, really, I guess I expected a grease-monkey to be a little rough and maybe have some dirt under his fingernails. But, like they say, “He cleans up real good.”
We sat on a yard swing while the girls went back in to finish supper. It was actually real nice to sit with him and watch the sun set over the river. We just talked about things. He put his arm over my shoulders. He smelled real nice too, but I was surprised by how hairy his arms were. I think he must shave all the way to below the collar of his tee shirts.
Well, there was a lingering smell of oil in the yard and there was a hint of lanolin hand cleaner, but I must have mentioned that I liked Old Spice ‘cause he was wearing it. And, the smells coming from the kitchen were great too. There was some Cole Porter coming from the back. Millie probably put it on.
Paula called us in for supper. I couldn’t believe it. There was a motorcycle half-assembled in the middle of the living room like it had exploded. I started to walk around it and Chuck said “mind the carburetor” and had me walk around the other way. I can’t imagine if he started doing engine work inside after his ex left him or if, maybe, that was part of why she left.
And, that wasn’t all. They’ve got this huge green parrot and it screeches all the time like in the jungle. He just flaps around loose and goes where he wants. Literally. There was no way to not step in crap from that awful bird. Chuck told me to not worry about the bird, that he doesn’t bite unless you try to touch him. I should have left right then, but you know how I am. I decided to try to be polite.
Anyway, they had all been working on supper for hours. They made pork chops. The meat was tender; the juices had been sealed in with a crisp coating. There was baked beans and they had made homemade mustard potato salad. It has just the right amount of mayonnaise to keep it moist without being sloppy and the recipe had just a hint of horseradish and celery seed.
I’m betting that Chuck’s ex was a great cook and she taught the girls. They had made a cherry-apple pie too and were just taking it out of the oven. It had a top crust woven from slightly-crenelated strips. Then they had applied a sweet glaze over crumbles and let it just barely begin to caramelize. I have never seen anything like it.
The food was good, but when we sat down to eat, that damn bird hopped right up on the edge of the table next to my left arm. I have no idea of whatever made it think I liked it. It squawked and started eying my plate, so I put my arm on the table by the forks and it took a piece out of the sleeve of my good Merino sweater.
I put my arm back under the table to keep it from taking a hunk out of me. It started doing a little wiggly victory dance on the side of the table and then dropped a big wet poop on the floor. I could hear it go plop. Then the thing side-stepped over to my plate and started picking at my food. I told Chuck, “Your bird is eating my pork chop.” You know what he said? “Don’t worry, he doesn’t eat much.”
I was about to lose it so I just stood up and went to get my purse. The girls came over and I gave both of them hugs and a kiss on their cheek. You could see they understood completely but were going to be sad. Chuck had the grace to see me out, but I gunned the engine and sprayed him with gravel anyway and I’m glad I did.
Just a minute. I’m going to hang up. I’ll call you back in ten. I just went into a Quick-Mart and they’ve got pints of ice cream and there’s a Chunky Monkey with my name on it.