This week my prompt comes from Dili, who writes here. The prompt is, "Hi!"
Ahhhh... all the wide open space in that simple utterance. *rubs hands together greedily*
Here we go...
Mitch was more nervous than he could ever remember being, and he found that irritating. He paced back and forth outside the restaurant, mentally belittling himself for opening his big mouth. Would it have been so wrong to just thank her and go on his merry way? Or even just an offer of a cup of coffee somewhere? But this? A dinner date? Stupid, stupid, stupid big damned mouth. He wanted to know her better - she was gorgeous and obviously intelligent. But this was his first date in almost five years, the first time he'd even asked someone out since he and Tash had met, way back when Regan had been in office. Tash. Tash, whom he had loved. Tash, who had slipped away one evil cancerous cell at a time. "Ah, Tash... look what you've left me too. I'm no good at this, baby." Mitch sighed and opened and closed his fists. She would be completely bored with him within minutes. Of that he was certain. Even so, here he was.
If this ended up as anything. "Yeah, right," he thought. If this ended up as anything, what an auspicious and strange beginning it had. There's one for the papers, one to throw the interviewer whenever his fifteen minutes of fame found him. "How'd you two meet?" "We met over a dead dog." Jesus. Mitch shook his head as if that would help clear it.
That damned dog. That would haunt him for a long time to come. Mitch had a few days off between construction gigs, so he decided to indulge in one of his passions. He'd made the twelve mile trip into town, enjoying the shafts of sun peeking through the trees, whistling along to an old Bruce Hornsby cd that he'd cranked to earsplitting volume. Every now and then he'd belt out an all too familiar line of song. "That's just the way it go-ooo-oh-ooo-oh-ooo-ohhhs..." He loved the woods, where no one could hear him howl like a demented American Idol wannabe. Once he got to town, Mitch picked up the obligatory bottle of Jack, then stopped at the grocery store for appropriate snacks - there wasn't going to be any cooking going on for the next few days - he needed cheese, salami, crackers, apples, pears, and some good coffee beans. He tossed in a couple of boxes of granola bars and fig newtons for good measure. Libation and nutrition in order, Mitch's next stop was the art supply store. There he spent more than an hour and an obscene amount of money buying canvases, brushes and paint. "What the hell," he thought. "It's not like I ever go away on vacation, and it's not like I have a drug habit to support." He much preferred to spend the time alone painting, with only the company of the screaming vocals and stellar guitar skills of Messieurs Plant and Page.
Mitch pushed the truck's accelerator a bit as he made his way up the winding hill that lead him back into the woods. His mind was whirling with possibilities that sprang from his new art supplies. He smiled and hummed along to the Bruce Springsteen cd that now graced the truck's stereo system. He rounded another curve and almost didn't see the dark lump at the edge of the road, but something drew his eyes. He slowed the truck, pulled over, and jumped out. The lump was a dog, what had recently been a beautiful black lab. From the glazed eyes to the limp way that the dog's tongue was hanging out, Mitch knew that the dog was gone. He crouched and picked up one of the dog's forepaws, holding it gently in his hand, noting the matted, bloody patch of fur between the dog's ribs and hind quarters. He felt a lump in his throat and a flurry of anger. What kind of heartless fucking bastard would hit a dog and just leave it there for dead? This was someone's pet, someone would soon be missing the beast. Someone's day just got trashed. He felt a tear slide down his cheek and didn't even notice the jeep that was slowing on the other side of the road, didn't even hear the footsteps approaching.
"Hey," the female voice startled him. "Hey... Hey, Mister... are you alri... oh god... is that your dog?"
Mitch let go of the dog's paw, stood and turned. He quickly wiped his face on his shirt sleeve. "No. I just came around the corner and saw him. What kind of douchebag leaves someone's pet like this? I... I just..."
The woman pushed a strand of thick auburn hair from her face and Mitch noticed that she, too, was fighting tears. "I can't imagine. I just can't. He's got an ID tag." They both crouched as Mitch lifted the tag and checked the address on it.
"That's just a half a mile from here," he said. "I suppose I'd better take him and knock on their door with the bad news."
"I could go with you...?" she offered. "I... you shouldn't... I mean..." The woman let out a heavy sigh. "I'm Ann. I'd be happy to keep you company and lend some support." She stuck out her hand rather awkwardly and Mitch shook it, feeling pretty awkward himself.
"You don't need to do that. It's nice of you to offer, but you don't need to."
"I know I don't need to. I want to." Mitch didn't miss the stubborn little frown on her face and knew that she was the type of woman with whom a guy would try very hard not to argue, because he'd lose every time. Ann saw his hesitation as acceptance and continued, "Look, I have an old army blanket in the jeep. Let me grab that and we can wrap him up in it." She walked away before he could protest.
"That was how it started, children," he thought as he paced in front of the restaurant. "A dead dog put the whole thing in motion. And I had to open my stupid, stupid, stupid big damned mouth. Instead of just thanking her, I asked her out. Shit fire to save matches." Mitch nervously scrubbed at his face with a shaky hand. Being a punctuality junkie had its price, as he'd arrived half an hour early. He would love to have a drink at the bar, but didn't want her to show up and get the impression that he needed a drink to have a good time. So, he chose to pace in front of the joint. Shit, did that make him look too eager? He wriggled a finger under the collar of his one good shirt and flexed his neck.
He stared at the cars going by on the street, letting his vision blur, trying in vain to relax. He snapped focus as her jeep turned into the parking lot. Saw her hand shoot out the window in a wave to him as she turned to park around the corner of the building. Mitch suddenly felt numb and cold. He stood, rooted to the concrete as if his shoes were nailed down. This was a mistake, all a mistake, a big mistake. He was sure of it. Then Ann rounded the corner. He was completely taken by the way the warm May breeze lifted her hair, by the way her blue eyes practically glowed in the soft dusk, by the bold way that she walked right up to him and clasped his hands, by the way her mouth turned up more at one corner than the other in a lopsided smile as she said, "Hi."
Mitch reminded himself to breathe. He used the pause to smile back at her, suddenly feeling thankful for his stupid, stupid, stupid big damned mouth. Letting his breath out slowly in an admiring whistle, he squeezed her hands and said, "Hi!"
You can read more about Ann and Mitch here and here. To be continued...