Mabel's journals ended up in a box in our basement. I don't wanna read them. I don't
wanna hear her voice speaking to me from the past. Lynn says I might want to someday,
so I guess we have to keep them.
Lynn had the picture of me and my mother cut and put behind one of those cardboard things
so my old man doesn't show. Then she had the picture of Norma and me done to match; and
stuck them in one of those double frames with the hinges, that fold up so you can take
them with you. It was nice.
She kept the picture of me that was on Mabel's bureau. I don't know why she wanted it,
but I see her looking at it sometimes. And then she'll look at me and smile.
We went for that drive in the desert a couple months later, during the daytime this time,
so there wouldn't be any movies or dinners to screw things up. I might not've picked
the best day to go. One of the water pipes at the shop had broken, and she'd spent the
morning mopping, moving, and negotiating with Melvin the plumber. (He drives Lynn crazy;
I'm no genius, but next to Melvin, I come off looking pretty good.)
So she was kinda….crabby. But I'd decided this would be the day, and I figured if I didn't
do it today, who knew how long it'd be before I got the nerve to try it again? I took her
by the hand, and told her we were going for a drive, and didn't take no for an answer.
Before we got to the place I always go, it started to rain. Lynn told me to turn around
right away and go back, and I did, but the wheels started to slide and spin before we were
halfway back to the road. And then we were stuck.
I turned the car off. We listened to the patter of the rain on the roof. Well, actually
"patter" might not be the right word. Pattering sounds like little feet. This was more
like thundering hooves.
"You know," Lynn said-and she sounded so calm-"I think I've had about enough water today
to last me the rest of my life. And I don't even know what we're doing out here."
I was going to lean over and kiss her. She turned and glared at me. I changed my mind.
"Why don't I get out and see if I can push it? You slide over-"
"All the way to the highway? Are you nuts? You won't even get it five feet, and you're
gonna be soaked, and then you're gonna want to get back in the car that way." She folded
her arms across her chest.
"Well, what's your suggestion?"
"We're going to have to walk all the way back to town," her teeth were clenched, "and by
the time we get there we're going to look like hobos, and we'll have to walk right through
the middle of town-"
"If we're gonna hafta walk anyway, what difference does it make if I get wet first?"
If looks were daggers, I woulda been skewered.
"-and everyone will know that at least one of us was too stupid to look at the sky
before he drove us all the way out here-"
"Well, did you? Huh?"
"Well, I thought-" she pulled at the door handle-"-when you said you were going
for a drive-" The door wouldn't open. She slapped the window a few times, and yanked
the door handle again a few times. "I thought…that we'd be driving on a road,
not---" She was hitting her shoulder against the door, and then progressed to pounding
with her fists. "Why won't this damn door open?!!"
I reached around her and pulled up the lock on her door. "Try it now."
If looks were daggers, I woulda been sliced and diced.
She opened her door, got out into he pouring rain, and yelled, "---out here in the middle
of fucking nowhere!" before she slammed the door, and trudged away.
We coulda just stayed in the car till the rain stopped. I'm pretty sure I coulda thought
of something to do.
I sat for a couple minutes. When she slipped and fell, I got out and jogged up to her.
Her hair was plastered to her head already, and her clothes were soaked. Her teeth were
starting to chatter. I held out my hand to help her up, and she threw a handful of soggy
sand at me.
"Are you all right, baby? You seem kinda-"
"Shut up!" She threw another handful of sand. Hit me right where my shirt collar opens.
I really, really hate sand inside my clothes. She knows that.
OK, I've seen Lynn all kinds of ways, all kinds of situations. I've seen her sad, and
happy, furious, thoughtful---this was something different. I didn't know what this was.
Never seen this before.
She stood without taking my hand. I took off my jacket and put it around her shoulders,
which earned me another glare.
As she walked, pulling the edges of my jacket closed, she said through her teeth, "When
are you going to tell me just exactly what we're doing out here in the middle of the
Several smart-ass remarks came to mind, but I figured I'd end up with sand in my ear if
I said any of them.
What the hell. Figured I better do it and get it over with before I lost my nerve.
"Umm…..this isn't exactly how I had planned to do this," I said, reaching into the pocket
of the jacket she was wearing. The blue dye from the outside of the ring box ran over
my hand with the rainwater. Lynn stopped walking when she saw what I was holding. "I
had some real romantic things I was gonna say. I think maybe this isn't the right time
to say 'em."
She took the box out of my hand and held it, just looking at it.
"I've had that riding around in my pocket for a long time. Just, you know, too cowardly
to show it to you. I know I've kinda messed this up….and I know you're real mad at me
already……." I was sorta waiting for her to throw it at me, too.
She opened the box and stared at the ring inside. The rain splashed around it and the
blue dye from the inside of the ring box ran over Lynn's hand. She didn't say anything,
and I started to get a little nervous.
Finally she looked at me, into my eyes. "Oh baby," she said. "You're not cowardly. I
think you're the bravest person I know." Then her face crumpled and she started to cry.
I was kinda hoping she'd be happy.
And then she sat right down on the ground where she was, and really started to
cry. I'm not talking a few tears and sniffles, I'm talking loud. She let go
and bawled. I've never heard her do that before, either. Didn't really know what to
do. Didn't want any more sand down my shirt. So I just sat down next to her and waited.
The rain started to let up about the same time she did. We were sitting in a good sized
puddle by that time. I handed her my handkerchief. She wrung it out and wiped her nose;
hiccupped a coupla times, and handed it back to me.
"There are some things you have to do for me," she said. "No discussion. If you don't,
I won't marry you."
"When we make love, you've been telling me you love me, and I love hearing it. But now
I wish you could say it other times. When we're not making love."
Oh. "I love you." That was pretty easy.
"You have to promise me that you won't ever just walk out the door and leave me, even if
it's for my own good."
"Yeah, but baby, if it's for your own-"
I sighed. "I promise."
"Yes, I promise."
"You have to promise to believe me when I tell you things."
Another easy one. "OK, I promise."
"Even if I tell you you're smart and handsome and brave, you have to believe me."
I didn't know what to say to that.
"It's all right, we'll work on that……" She held up the ring box. I put the ring on her
finger and threw the box away. I pulled her up between my legs and cuddled her. The
rain was down to just baby feet pattering.
"One more thing."
"I have a secret to tell you."
Uh-oh. A secret. Some kinda surprise. I hate surprises.
"And you have to promise me that when I tell you, you'll be happy."
OK, this one could be tough. "What is it?"
"Well, I can't promise what I'm gonna feel like if I don't know what it is."
Her eyes filled up with tears. "Promise me."
"OK, OK, don't cry anymore, I promise……."
I might have to change my mind about surprises. And secrets. Some secrets are sweet
Scary, too……..but sweet.