Now and then, I try my hand at writing romance. Here’s an early attempt.
Plenty of Fish in the Creek
I drove through the rain until I reached the creek that flowed along the edge of the park. My head seemed ready to explode.
“The creep,” I shouted out loud, “dumping me on Valentine’s Day.”
While I tried to gain control of my breathing, a park ranger, draped in plastic, appeared in the darkness. He tapped his club on my windshield, the glow from his flashlight the only break in the smooth black night.
I wiped my teary face on my sweatshirt and cracked the window.
“Good evening,” we said simultaneously, except that I’d read his badge and added, “Officer Hardy,” hoping to flatter the old man into leaving me alone.
“Everything okay?” He squinted at me behind his dripping glasses.
“I’m fine. Just doing a little thinking.”
I wasn’t about to tell him the gory details of my break-up with Derek.
“Man trouble?” he asked, grinning as if he’d been named Therapist of the Year.
“Guess it shows,” I said, still on my flattery track.
“Well that’s no way to spend Valentine’s night,” my new best friend said. “But don’t worry, there’s plenty of fish in the creek.” He made a sweeping gesture, encompassing the noisy rush of water about ten yards away and down as many feet.
“I know I’m not supposed to be here,” I said, waving my hand in the direction of the “no trespassing” sign. “But I need a little time alone.” I put a slight, hopeful emphasis on “alone.”
“Well, the park’s closed, but there’s no hurry. In fact, if you’ll invite me in, I’ll share my supper.”
I felt a twinge of panic and looked around my car. I sniffed the air for embarrassing odors and did a quick inspection for bits of decaying organic matter. Nothing so unhealthy that I can’t entertain an old man for a few minutes, I decided.
“That would be nice, Officer Hardy,” I told him. I hoped I’d set the right tone—formal, so he wouldn’t get the wrong idea of his chances with the attractive young woman that I was (Derek’s rejection notwithstanding), yet friendly, to preclude a ticket for loitering. I wondered exactly what authority park rangers had, and whether there was a weapon beneath his opaque plastic wrap.
Officer Hardy went to his county-owned Jeep and returned with a bright red metal lunch box, mercifully lacking cartoon characters. I was happy to hear him credit his wife for the treats within. No one mentions his little woman one minute, and then hits on a girl the next, I reasoned.
Mabel Hardy, he told me, prepares a meal for him every night. It’s usually gone by now but, lucky for me, he was distracted this evening by a raccoon fight.
As we sat in my car and drank tract-home coffee, I told him as little as possible about my falling out with Derek. We split a sugar cookie in the shape of a heart with red sprinkles over the top, and I let him think I was grateful for his unparalleled wisdom.
“Buck up and by next Valentine’s Day, you’ll have someone special,” he said, moving crumbs from his raincoat to his lunch box.
Another stroke of luck for me, I thought, I don’t have to take care of anyone’s lunch box.
“Guy that dumps you doesn’t deserve to be walking around,” Officer Hardy said as he repacked his thermos.
“I’m glad you feel that way.”
“Got to go,” he said at last, putting his hat back over his thin white hair. “You lock these doors, and take your time pulling yourself together.”
Just what I wanted to hear.
I waited until the sound of Hardy’s Jeep died away. Although the rain had stopped, the sky was still a mass of the darkest gray, without a trace of moonlight. I switched on my flashlight and walked to the back of my car, sinking into the mud.
I opened the trunk and pulled out Derek’s body. His ugly khaki windbreaker got caught in my bumper and slowed me down, but I managed to free him.
I rolled Derek’s lifeless weight to the edge of the cliff and pushed him over the side. For a moment I stood there, wondering if the fish in the creek were aware of their new companion.
On my way out of the park, I passed Officer Hardy in his Jeep. We tapped on our horns and waved at each other as I drove away.
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