Monday, February 17, 2014


Beulah was sitting on the sagging couch watching television. Every once in a while she would lean her heavy body forward, take a chocolate from the half-empty box in front of her and pop it into her mouth, chewing daintily until it was gone.
            She was watching her favorite soap opera, “The Gathering Gloom.” Aurora, the show’s heroine, was reading a love note from Derek, one of her ex-husbands. A tear welled up in Beulah’s eye and began rolling down her cheek. She didn’t get love notes from anyone, not since she and Broderick Bickford had broken up—not that he had ever written love notes to her even when they were going together. She reached for another chocolate, picked it up with pudgy little fingers and stuck it into her mouth.
            She heard Tommy White, the mailman, drop the mail through the slot. She waited for the next commercial to see what Tommy had left. No one ever wrote to her. It was always just bills for her mother. So when she did pick up the mail, she was surprised to see a letter addressed to her. She took her letter back to the living room and sat on the couch to read it.
            It was not a letter but a poem:
            As I sit in my lair,
            Dreaming of your hair,
            Floating on the air,
            Do I dare, do I dare
            Hope that you could care
            With a love so rare
            That I could hardly bear?

            Beulah had never read anything so beautiful, but who could have sent it? There was no signature, no explanation. She didn’t recognize the handwriting. It wasn’t Broderick’s. He could never have written anything like that anyway. He did not have a sensitive soul like Beulah, who saw the poetry, the drama, the music in life all around her.
            Just then she heard a knock on the door. Beulah hurried to see if it was the man who had written the poem to her, but it was her friend, Lucinda Fogg. Lucinda was so tiny that it almost looked as though Beulah could, if she wanted, pick Lucinda up and stick the young woman in her pocket. Lucinda was returning a book she had borrowed, Tessie’s Torrid Tryst.
            “It was wonderful,” the young woman said. “I especially like the part where Tessie and Tyrone were marooned on a desert island. While I was reading it, I kept thinking about me and Harrison Plunket being marooned on an island.”
            Beulah showed her the poem she had received in the mail.
            “Oh, that’s wonderful,” Lucinda said. “It just makes chills go up and down your spine. Is it from Broderick?”
            “No, me and Broderick had a fight and broke up again. I don’t even know who sent it to me.”
            “I’d just die if I could get Harrison Plunket to write a pome like that.”
            “Have you got Harrison to ask you out yet?”
            “No, he don’t even seem to know that I’m alive. This is fated to be a one-sided romance,” the young woman sighed. “I know I ain’t got no chance with him—not with so many beautiful women around.”
            Poor Lucinda, she was not just tiny, but thin, straight up and down. She was plain all right, but if you looked at her closely, you could see that she had a beautiful soul.
The next morning Beulah’s mother woke her up before she left for work. She held an envelope in her hand.
            “This was under the side door,” she explained. “I thought you’d probably want to see it right away.”
            The handwriting on the envelope was the same as that on the poem she had received the day before. Inside the envelope was a note:

            Dearest Beulah,
            Please meet me for lunch today at Maisie’s Diner.
                                    Your secret admirer

She was so excited that she got up and called Lucinda Fogg.
            “Lucinda!” she cried excitedly. “I got a note from him. He wants to meet me for lunch!”
            “Who?” the sleepy voice asked.
            “You know! Him! My secret admirer!”
            “That’s wonderful!” Lucinda exclaimed, awake now.
            “I want you to go with me.”
            “I couldn’t go with you—not on a date,” Lucinda protested.
            “I don’t mean go to lunch. I mean just go with me until I meet him and see who he is. We’re going to meet at Maisie’s Diner at noon.”
            At eleven-thirty Beulah and Lucinda were in sitting in Lucinda’s father’s car, across the street from Maisie’s Diner, watching the people who walked into the diner. At about ten minutes of twelve, Beulah saw a young man approaching. He was wearing a shiny blue suit. A wide, flowered necktie was knotted about an inch below the top button of his collar. He had horn-rimmed glasses and dark hair, which he kept brushing off his forehead.
            “Look,” Beulah said. “There’s Harrison Plunket. I wonder what he’s doing here?”
            Lucinda scrouched down in her seat. “Oh, I don’t want him to see me,” she said.
            “Why not? How do you expect him to notice you if he can’t see you?”
            Harrison stopped in front of the diner and looked around. He glanced at his watch. Beulah noticed then that he was holding a bouquet. He brushed his hair from his forehead and started pacing back and forth in front of the diner. He looked at his watch again.
            It was Lucinda who first realized it. “I wonder if that’s him,” she gasped.
            “You know. Your secret admirer.”
            “Oh no! If that’s him, I just couldn’t go.”
            “No, you go,” Lucinda insisted. “I guess me and him just warn’t mean for each other. If I can’t have him, then I’d rather you have him than anyone else.”
            “No! I couldn’t!”
            But Harrison had spotted them. He crossed the street to where they were. He looked at Beulah and asked, “You got my note?”
            Beulah looked at Lucinda, who whispered, “Go ahead. I want you to go.”
            Beulah got out of the car, and she and Harrison started to cross over to the diner.
            “I hope you don’t think I’m being to pushy,” the young man said, “but let’s face it, I’ve always admired you. There aren’t too many people in this town who appreciate the finer things. Then one day it hit me like a ton of bricks. I figured it’s better late than never. So I burned the midnight oil to write you a token of my esteem.”
            “It was just so beautiful,” Beulah murmured. “No one never wrote me no pomes before.”
            “Like I said, I always knew you appreciated the finer things, so in the last analysis I decided to take the bull by the horns and strike while the iron was hot. I had a sneaking suspicion that you and Brick had had a parting of the ways.”
            Beulah looked at him with admiration. “You have such a way with words,” she said.
            Then, just as they were ready to enter the diner, a burly young man approached them.
            “Where do you think you’re going with my girlfriend?” he demanded.
            “You and me ain’t going out together no more, Broderick,” Beulah said. “so I guess I got a right to go out with whoever I want to.”
            “It’s a crying shame,” Harrison said to him, “that you can’t let bygones be bygones. To all intents and purposes you and Beulah have severed your relationship, so it stands to reason that she should be free to go out with whoever she wants. It’s about time you learned the facts of life.”
            “I’ll teach you the facts of life,” Broderick roared. He lowered his head and started running toward Harrison. Beulah gaped at muscular Broderick gathering steam as he rushed toward scrawny little Harrison. She started to scream.
            She needn’t have worried about Harrison, though. At the last second Harrison stepped aside, and Broderick ran head-first into a telephone pole. There was a loud crack, and the pole seemed to move slightly. Broderick landed on the ground moaning, his eyes swimming out of focus.
            Beulah ran to him and cradled his head in her arms. Harrison went over to see what he could do.
            “It goes without saying,” he said, “that he was the aggressor in this little dust-up. I certainly didn’t do anything with malice aforethought, but when jealousy rears its ugly head, something like this is likely to result.”
            “Don’t talk to me, you brute! What have you done to him?” She turned her attention back to Broderick and said, “Speak to me, my darling. Are you hurt?”
            Broderick sat up and started looking around, a puzzled expression on his face.
            Eben Danforth had come out of the diner to see what was going on. “Good thing he hit hisself in the head,” Eben remarked. “He might of hurt hisself otherwise.”
            Harrison was standing, a bewildered expression on his face. Lucinda Fogg came up to him said, “I know how you feel. I know what it is to be spurned by the one you love.”
            Harrison looked at her as though he had never seen her before.
            “If you need a shoulder to cry on,” the young woman assured him, “you can always count on me. I’ll always be there for you.”
            “Thank you,” He answered. “You’re like a shot in the arm, a breath of fresh air, just what the doctor ordered.”
            The two young people walked off together.
            Broderick brought his eyes into focus and looked Beulah. “I’m sorry I got mad at you,” he said. “I missed you.”

            “I missed you too, Broderick. Let’s go into Maisie’s and have some lunch. They got chocolate cream pie for dessert today."

"A Love So Rare" was first published in Rafale.

I plan to publish the whole collection as a kindle book in early March

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