Falling is much more exciting and fun for those watching than for the person caught in the experience. I was falling. It wasn't the first time as many friends, relatives, and onlookers could attest. It wasn't my fault. I didn't see any sign that the walk was slick. There was no sign warning of a slippery area beside the car park for me to see but I found that area. I had been watching Karen and not really where my feet were taking me.
My feet flew out from under me. I could see the ground rushing by as I went down the slight hill sliding helplessly on the damp grass. In front of my path, a dog just finished doing his business and ran to be out of my way. I missed the dog. I didn't miss the spot. I slid right into IT!
That was much of the story of my life. If there was a slick spot, I slipped on it. If there was something messy or smelly, I would fall into or on it If four people volunteered for a crappy assignment, I was the one chosen whether I had volunteered or not. If no one volunteered, I would still be chosen.
I didn't let those situations get me down. Girls usually paid little attention to me because of my misadventures. However, those people assigned to be my partners in classes found me hard-working and reasonably intelligent.
I managed to get changed and arrived at my English class just in time to avoid being late.
The professor was tough but reasonable. This was my second class with her. She was assigning partners for a writing project. She was going through the members of the class assigning partners rather than let us chose. I figured that I had about a one in a million chance of being chosen to partner with Karen. However, the numbers of those unassigned were going steadily down and neither Karen nor I had been assigned yet.
Suddenly, I heard, "Miss Monroe, you will be partnered with Mister Gilman for this project."
I started to rise to object and then realized that she had partnered me with Karen! As I sat down, well, as I tripped, I fell back into the chair earning a slight bruise to add to my collection. Karen whispered, "Are you okay?"
"Pretty much, except for my pride and that takes hits fairly regularly." She chuckled.
The professor finished assigning victims and then said, "Listen up! This assignment will count as much as your final exam. You are to write a short, romantic story. I will tell you now that I don't want it too short or too long. I like happy endings and I don't read or like smut. Don't disappoint me on those issues. It will cost you dearly. Your first two milestones will be due for our next two classes. For our next class, you must have a description of the story crafted to make me interested along with a very short thesis statement telling me what will happen in the story and why it should happen. Over the next two classes, a first chapter will be due. You may later modify that first chapter but it must be recognizable. You may stay to work on your description and thesis statement or leave. If you have any questions, I will be here through the time for this class to end."
I looked over at Karen which was easy to do. I said, "I'm Brad Gilman. I will understand if you want another partner. However, like a good dog, I am faithful and hard-working. Despite my reputation for accidents, my partners have never suffered."
She grinned. "You'll do. You've missed two other things I've heard. You're truthful and pretty smart. I think we can make this work." She grinned even wider. "Just try not to slide into any more dog crap!"
"You saw," My confidence went to a new low.
"Yes. So did about a hundred other people. It could have happened to anyone."
"Karen, that's true but it always happens to me." I whined a little on that sentence.
She said, "Try to watch where you put your feet."
"If I do that, then I hit things with my face." I grinned.
She grinned back. She said, "Let's figure out how we will do this."
I nodded and let her take the lead in receiving and giving phone numbers and emails. She said, "When do you eat lunch?"
"Usually late. There aren't as many people to watch me or for me to trip over. The cafeteria employees have been known to carry my tray so they won't have so much to clean. I am a fairly neat eater though."
She giggled so deeply that it was a chuckle and it sounded very sexy. She said, "You'll just have to be careful around me."
"I will try."
"Brad, I'm sure you are very trying." She laughed quietly but smiled. It was a very gentle smile and looked sincere.
We got together for lunch. I carried my tray very carefully and set it down across from Karen with a sigh of relief since nothing spilled. Karen could see that much of my left hand was black with smudges. She looked at it pointedly. I said, "I was trying to help my math instructor change the toner in his printer. This is what's left after washing, with soap." I smiled sheepishly. "At least I didn't get any on my clothing."
Karen smiled. "You were helping though. That's good."
We ate in silence for a minute. She said, "Brad, let's talk about our assignment. What constitutes a good romance to you?"
I quickly swallowed the food in my mouth. I answered, "I'm not sure. I don't have any personal experience. I've never had a romance, much less a happy ending to one. I've heard of both but have no experience."
Karen said, "I think you have to have a romance before you can get to a happy ending."
I grinned. "Yes, I figured that out. However, as soon as a girl has romantic thoughts about me, I do something that creates a problem. I have found that," I enumerated on my fingers, "girls don't like for me to spill things on them, throw up on them, have gooey things poured on them, have slimy things slide on their bodies or clothes, have smelly things on them, or have similar things happen to them when they're in my presence. However, it always happens."
"Every time. A girl doesn't have to be close by or even interested but messy and smelly things still happen to me. I can trip over anything and, frequently, everything. My laundry is usually a large scale and challenging effort.
"I just seem to have a bulls-eye on my back or whatever might be on top at the moment.
"You saw me this morning?" She nodded. "You saw me slip, then slide down the hill, and finish by hitting the fresh dog crap?" She nodded again. "What are the odds of all three things happening in one event to one person?"
She said, "Very unlikely."
"Not with me. If it isn't grass, it might be mud instead. If it isn't dog crap, then it would be something else equally nasty and smelly. Sometimes, I feel like the target of every smelly thing in the world."
She was grinning and said, "Brad, it can't be that bad."
"You don't walk around like Joe Btfsplk, the character in the old comic strip. Li'l
Abner. He is the one with the dark cloud over his head all the time. It gets old and people's patience wears thin after a while. Even my mother makes me walk on the other side of the street when we walk anywhere." I cracked a small smile. Of course, my mother had never walked with me anywhere but this wasn't the time to air that issue.
Karen laughed. "I would never make you walk on the other side of the street from me."
"You haven't walked with me at all."
She looked at me sharply. Then, she said gently, "Brad, you haven't asked me."
We were almost finished with our lunches. Apparently, neither of us liked big meals for lunch. I said, "Would you walk to the lake with me, Karen?"
She smiled. "I would be delighted to walk with you. Also, my dorm isn't far if I have to change clothes later." She grinned.
We finished eating and placed our trays at the cleaning area. The woman there smiled at me. "A peaceful lunch, Brad. You didn't spill or drop anything. Enjoy your day."
"Thanks, Marie. It's early yet." I grinned and she grinned back. As we were walking to and through the exit, Karen suddenly grabbed my hand and pulled me closer to her. I realized that someone had modified the wall close to the door by moving it into my path.
"Thanks, Karen." I smiled. "That would have hurt."
"Perhaps you just need someone to watch over you."
I smiled. "No one has ever tried that before." I also noticed that she hadn't released my hand. I sure wasn't going to try to get away! It was a very good hand.
I had been watching Karen and thought she was terrific in every way. She had a reputation at school of being unfailingly nice to people. I also had checked up on her grades and knew her to be very smart. She was also tall and, to some, skinny. That was okay with me since, at six foot, four inches, I qualified for tall and skinny. To me, she looked very well proportioned for her height which I figured was six feet or within an inch of that.
We walked toward the campus lake holding hands. I felt ten feet tall but kept my caution going and, if anything, increased it. Confidence, I had found, can be hazardous. I moved us away from the area where I had fallen and slid earlier.
We managed to walk to the lake and sat down on one of the many benches without an incident. Karen never released my hand. I had never felt nor been so sure-footed in my life. At the same time, I also felt lightheaded with excitement. I began to feel that nothing could ruin this moment. Karen looked at me smiling and then kissed my cheek softly and lingeringly.