Gone Awry

TBP
TBP


Well, tonight was the night. I was going to ask Audrey to marry me and I had it all planned out. Audrey and I had been dating for almost three months and we were in love. It was time for me to ‘make an honest woman out of her’ as my old Pappy would have said. Audrey was a big baseball fan and I had good tickets for the Isotopes game against the Bees that night. It was a televised game and I had talked with the Isotopes marketing team, well in advance, to get things set up. During the 7th inning stretch they had agreed to send a camera crew over where Audrey and I would be sitting. Isotopes management thought it would be a great human interest story. The whole thing was going to be filmed and broadcast live on channel 4. I really loved Audrey and was looking forward to spending the rest of my life with her. I knew she was going to be thrilled. I just knew it.

I had a ring.

I had borrowed money from my folks and made a small down payment on a tiny split level in Belen.

I was thinking about getting a dog.

The dog would be to keep Audrey and the baby company while I was at work. I had just landed a new job as assistant purchasing agent at Albuquerque Tractor Supply. It was an entry level job but it had real potential.

I had some time to get the dog though – there was no baby yet. There would be though. I knew that, as soon as we got married, Audrey and I would start working on that right away. We hadn’t yet though. I mean, we hadn’t even been practicing for that. Audrey was saving herself. I loved her for that.

Game time was 5:30 so I took off early from work. I wanted to shower, shave, and put on clean clothes. Not really nice clothes, I didn’t want her to suspect anything, but clean clothes. I wanted to smell clean, at least.

I pulled to the curb in front of her apartment at 4:30. I checked my pocket for the ring and picked the flowers I had brought for her off the front seat. I was giddy and dancing with anticipation as I made my way upstairs and knocked on her door.

Audrey answered the door wearing a really soft tee shirt and sweat pants. She was beautiful and one of the things I loved about her was that she was not a slave to fashion. She could wear whatever she chose and “rock” it.

“Hey Mark,” she said, “Come on in.” She took the flowers and grabbed a vase. She tossed the dead daffodils it contained into the sink and put the fresh flowers in their stead.

“Thanks Mark. They’re beautiful.”

“Audrey? Did you forget we’re going to the game tonight? The ‘Topes are gonna put a hurtin’ on Salt Lake! We got tickets behind home plate.”

“Let’s stay here Mark.” She said. “I got some stuff I want to talk with you about. It’s about us and I’d rather not discuss us in a crowd at the ball park, if you know what I mean?”

I wanted to talk about us too, and the way that she said it made me think that maybe she was ready to take our relationship to the next level. That physical level, if you know what I mean, but I couldn’t let it happen. We had to go to the game. There was too much riding on the next few hours and I knew that if she was thinking about what I hoped she was thinking about it would be even better if we were engaged. Hell, engaged is almost married and that was what she had been saving herself for.

My mom was going to be watching the game tonight and so were all the guys at the shop, so, I guilted her into going.

I reminded her that Cummins was pitching tonight and that if the ‘Topes won they were almost guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. I reminded her that our tickets were behind home plate and it would be a shame to waste them. She finally agreed and went back to change her clothes.

When she came out she had her hair tucked up under her ball cap and wore a number 17 Isotopes jersey. She looked good in cut off jeans and carried a fielder’s mitt under her arm. I loved her for that too.

We missed the warm-up and half of the first inning but got to our seats as the Bees were taking the field. The scoreboard showed no runs, no hits, and no errors in the top of the first. I got Audrey seated and went to the concessions. I bought us a couple of beers and a bag of peanuts. We settled in to watch the game. Well Audrey did. I kept getting up to go pee. I was so nervous about popping the question. By the end of the fifth, I had calmed down. The ‘Topes had a 2-1 lead. The Bees got two men on base in the top of the sixth but Cummins got the third out when he struck out Johnson. Ramirez was the leadoff batter for the Isotopes in the bottom of the inning and he hit a double with a drive between right and center field. He managed to steal third but that was as far as he got before Salt Lake retired the side.

Top of the seventh and the Salt Lake catcher, Sosa hit a two run homer, giving them a one run lead.

We entered the stretch behind by one. Not the most auspicious circumstances to ask the woman you love to be your wife but I was ready.

I was looking around for the camera man when Audrey grabbed my elbow, “Mark, I’m gonna go powder my nose.” She said as I spotted the camera guys making their way towards us through the crowd.

“Hang on a minute, Audrey,” I said, “if you go now you’ll just be standing in line. There’s always a line for the ladies room.” The camera guys were close now and started filming the crowd – sneaking up on us.

“Hey, look,” Audrey said, “we might get on TV.” She stood up and waved at the tv crew. They turned their cameras on us. I pulled the ring box out of my pocket and opened it up while she was smiling and mugging for the camera. Dropping to my knee I reached out and tugged on her shirt tail to get her attention. She was still smiling when she looked down at me.

“Audrey,” I said loud enough for the microphones to pick up, “Will you marry me?”

She put her right fist into her mitt and raised her hands up towards her face, shaking her head. “No.” She said, “No, no… no, I can’t.” Then she sat down and put her glove up, hiding her face.

I looked at Audrey. I looked at the camera guy. He shrugged and they moved away, not wasting any time.

Sitting next to her, I put my hand on her shoulder, “Hey?”

“This is what I wanted to talk to you about tonight, Mark.”

I couldn’t find words, so she kept going. “Jennifer, you know Jennifer. My friend, Jennifer? Well I asked her to marry me last night and she said yes. So you’re too late, Mark. You’re too late.” She paused and studied my face, reading the shock written all over it. “I would have said no anyway Mark. I love her.” She stood and kissed the top of my head. “Maybe this isn’t a good time,” she continued, “but will you be my best man? Please say yes.”

 

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The Hot Springs



He had hiked miles to get here the long way. His muscles ached and he was cold but there was less snow here than below. He had never brought anyone else here, not even his ex-wife. He hadn’t been here in years but it still looked the same. Maybe a bit more evidence of visitors than there used to be, but that was to be expected. You can’t keep secrets forever.

There were some empty cans by the lower pools. He made a mental note to collect them and crush them. He had three days to bathe in the hot springs and didn’t want to deal with old beer cans while he was here. He could pack them out when he left. The five pools were easily identifiable by the plumes of steam that rose into the cool winter air. It was quiet, peaceful, and still.

He tossed his pack on a flat patch that looked soft and unrolled his bivvy, making this spot his own. A couple of quick forays yielded plenty of firewood that he stacked at his campsite. He didn’t anticipate much need for a fire as he had an alcohol burner to heat coffee water in the mornings and he knew, from experience that water in the upper pools could be used to warm the camp foods he had brought.

With everything ready he was looking forward to a soak. His ritual had always been to start at the lowest, and coolest, pool; he would then work his way slowly from pool to pool until he reached the top. Water in the top pool could be over 140O F. He would soak in the warmest pool as long as he could then work his way back down again. After letting his waterlogged, wrinkled skin return back to normal and having something to eat and drink: he would do it all over. In the past he would make this round trip two or three times a day; maybe once more after dark. It was a completely different experience when the stars winked at him in reflection from the warm waters of the pools.

He rolled a couple of joints, took off his clothes, folded them and set them on the large rock at the edge of his campsite. Naked and barefoot he picked his way across the frozen ground, avoiding the few remaining patches of crusty snow, to the first pool and lowered himself in. Each of the pools was a bit more than two feet deep. The fourth pool was the biggest and deeper than the others too. It was his favorite.

Leaning back against the side he sparked up and took a couple of tokes, just enough to take the edge off. He wasn’t here to get trashed just to relax. He closed his eyes and listened to the silence. He had some old Roberta Flack song stuck in his head and he just let it roll there, burning across his brain from one ear to the other; and back. It was a good song. He didn’t mind.

He woke with a start and had no idea how long he had dozed. There was some wrinkling on the pads of his fingers but he wasn’t waterlogged. Next pool, he decided. The water was about fifteen degrees warmer here. There was that song again, but at first he was only hearing snippets. It got clearer though and louder.

Then he saw them. There were five of them, two guys and three girls. Two of the girls were empty-handed. The third had an old fashioned boom box, his ear-worm emanated smoothly from the speakers and the guys each carried one end of a large cooler. They spotted his campsite first and set their things on the other side of the lower pool, not crowding him. That was good.

They saw him next and bypassed the first pool coming to join him. The guys struggled with the cooler and the girls were dropping their clothes as they came closer. He watched them and thought about how cold temperatures affect things, like genitals and nipples. The girls paused at the edge of the pool, “Can we join you?” the tallest one asked. “We have beer.”

“And, we’ll share.” The darker skinned girl added. She had a raspy quality to her voice that he liked.

“Sure, get in, there’s plenty of room.” He said and smiled. It was the first time he had spoken all day.