My name is Carl Wallace. During the days I spend my time helping other people get full use out of their computers, but in the evening I try to write, poetry mostly, although occasionally I’ll try to write a story or two. Sometimes it’s easy and at other times there seems to be no way that I can get anything down on paper.
On those nights when the muse is in hiding, I go down to my favourite pub to hoist a couple of beers and listen to the plans and dreams of my friend, Sam Martin. He doesn’t let many folks know that his first name is Sam, prefering that people just call him Martin, but he has an ulterior motive. The pub is called the Purple Martin, so folks who don’t know any different think that he owns the place. Unfortunately, the most that Sam ever owned in the place is the clothing that he wore on his back.
Not that Sam is a ne’er do well, he has a little import business on the side that keeps him occupied when he isn’t slinging drinks. Which is why we first became friends, he was having trouble with the inventory program on his computer and he called me up to sort it out. I ended up saving him a few bucks and after he paid me, he invited me down for a beer. The company in the pub was great and I enjoyed the evening, besides some of his regulars gave me a few ideas for a verse or two.
Dropping in to visit him became a habit whenever I was bored, too tired to be able to write, or suffering from whatever form of tedium that life had dealt me.
In some ways the pub was refreshing because it was always changing, and yet there were always things about it that were constant enough to make the place feel like a home away from home. The one constant, five nights a week, was Sam himself. He seemed to always have another idea on how he was going to get rich, so he and I would argue about the merits of his latest scheme in the spare moments he had between serving his regulars. Another constant was that he often had one lady or another dropping in to visit him, but his lady friends never seem to come around more than a few times. As he described each one to me, she was always more glamorous than the last and when I meet them, I was always disappointed. To me, they all seemed to be made in the same mould. All of them were small, plump, meek, and most of them had bleached blonde hair. The worst traits they all had though, were the fact that they all giggled at the slightest hint of humour and all of them wore cheap, but strong perfume.
I had gradually come to know what to expect. If Sam started to break off our conversation, watch the clock, and then polish glasses at the far end of the bar, I could be almost certain that another of his lady friends was due to come in soon. Not that he ever excluded me from the conversations when she came in. In fact he had come to depend on the fact that I always sat next to a post and draped my coat over the seat next to me. He would smile at his new ladylove and motion her down the bar to seat her next to me. That coat on the seat almost always guaranteed him a place to have his lady sit and I suppose that I was someone he could trust to talk to her whenever he got busy. He knew that my taste in women was radically different from his, besides he also knew of my extreme shyness with the fairer sex.
However, one night he took me totally by surprise. It was a Monday night. I’m sure of that, because the pub was almost empty. Mondays are one of my bad days. I think computers that sit unused over the weekend get lazy, so I’m often very busy on Mondays and I come down to the pub most Monday nights just to relax after a hard day at work.
I was tired and when Sam started his dance with the clock and the glasses, I thought “Oh great another night of giggles and cheap perfume. Just what I need!”
When his face broke into a smile and he led his friend down the bar, I didn’t even bother looking up. It wasn’t until I heard a contralto voice at my elbow that I even glanced in the mirror behind the bar. Behind my shoulder I could see a tall blond who in no way met Sam’s usual standards. Unfortunately the bottles racked in front of the mirror were obscuring my view, so I turned to be able to see the lady.
“Is this seat taken?” she smiled.
Sam chuckled. “Carl, move your coat and make room for Janet to sit down. Janet, meet Carl; Carl, Janet.”
I was astounded. This lady was beautiful. She had long, ash blonde hair, blue eyes, classically beautiful features, along with a gorgeous smooth complexion. She carried herself confidently, and she was tall and thin. Altogether not what I expected, since she didn’t see to be Sam’s type at all. Her hair was a soft silver blonde, shoulder length, with just a hint of a curl at the ends. She didn’t look to be the giggling type and certainly wasn’t wearing a strong cheap perfume, what she was wearing was subtle but should have been called “Raging Hormones” or perhaps “Ultimate Lust.” Whether it was her voice, her looks, her perfume, or my shyness, I simply sat there for long seconds, staring at her, totally unable to speak.
I came out of my fugue long enough to mutter a short “Hello,” then went back into a state of shock, but now my silence was based on my frustration with talking to ladies. I have always had a hard time speaking to women, other than at work where I’m all business. If I’m meeting someone new, I seem to become tongue tied and if I do speak, I have an unerring instinct for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. A long time ago I’d come to the conclusion that I was so shy and unskilled with women that I’d probably die, still a virgin.
Basic introductions done, Sam had served us both, and then went to the other end of the bar to polish more glasses. I had expected him to stick around and chat with his friend, but he was plainly letting me know that he wasn’t in the game. It seemed he really had just found a pretty lady a seat where she would have company. The ball was in my court, it was my serve, and I was lost. This lady was so beautiful that she intimidated me more than any woman I had ever met before.
I watched her in the mirror behind the bar through the spaces between the bottles. As she sat beside me, her eyes were on a level with mine, they were that powdery ice-blue shade that I’ve only seen in glacier lakes, and soft twinkles sparkled across them like sunlight on waves. Her complexion was clear and looked soft as silk. Her lips had a hint of colouring, but like the rest of her make-up was subdued. She sat erect, yet relaxed, but when she moved it was with the grace of a cat.
Suddenly as I sat staring at her in the bar mirror, her eyes met mine, she winked, then she giggled. On her, it sounded good, and it broke the ice. I smiled slightly and turned to look directly at her.
“Did you know you were staring,?” she asked with a blush, as she looked down at her hands.
Her voice rang through me like bells on a spring morning, touching something deep in my soul. I flushed slightly, then caught in the act, I did my best to brazen my way through.
“I’m sorry, but I wasn’t prepared for such an attractive lady to be sitting beside me. I’ll try not to stare, but you’re so beautiful that I . . .” my voice simply faded out, I just knew I’d said the wrong thing, or said too much or . . .
“Thank you,” she smiled, accepting my complement graciously.
I couldn’t speak, I was so surprised that I’d said the right thing and not offended her that I was holding my breath.
“I’m not like most of Sam’s female friends then?” she continued
“No, you certainly aren’t,” I managed to dredge up a tentative smile.
She sat quietly for a few seconds. To try to get her to speak again, so that I could hear that lovely voice, I had to think of something to say to draw her out.
“How did you know that Sam is his real name, he certainly never uses it around the pub, everyone here refers to him as Marty or Martin. I only found out his real name when he gave me a check to pay for work I’d done on his computer.”
Her chuckle was soft and low, like her voice.
“I’ve known Sam a long time. He and I are cousins,” she answered.
We both fell silent for several moments, I was tongue-tied again and I think she was being polite and waiting for me to speak. Finally she looked directly at me, her face flushed slightly, those soft ice-blue eyes staring deep into mine.
“Mr. Wallace, I have a confession to make to you. I asked Sam to set up this meeting. He phoned me when you came in tonight and I rushed down to meet you,” her voice was barely above a whisper.
She paused and sipped at her wine.
She really had me rattled then. She knew my last name and I didn’t think even Sam knew that, at least I’d never told him. Well not that I could remember and I don’t think I’d ever been drunk enough while I was in the pub that I would have run off at the mouth. Not only had she known my name, but she’d admitted that she’d asked him to introduce us. She had to have a reason to want to meet me that I couldn’t see, I was positive it couldn’t be a romantic reason, after all I’m no prime catch. I may be single, and own a relatively successful business, but I’m forty-two years old and slightly over weight. I’m starting to go bald, and I’m certainly no great conversationalist. On top of that I’m neither rich nor handsome. As opposed to that, she was young, beautiful, sexy and extremely desirable. I simply stared at her in astonishment.
“You see,” she continued quietly. “I read a lot, magazines, books, anything I can get my hands on. In fact, my mother used to have to hide the cornflakes’ box at breakfast or I’d read that and forget to eat.”
I had to grin, imagining her mother taking the breakfast cereal box away from her and she smiled back at me. While I felt relief that she had some reason that she wanted to meet me, I was still feeling slightly disappointed that her being there wasn’t for romantic reasons. I waited for her to continue with mixed emotions. Let’s face it, I’m an incurable romantic and I think I had always daydreamed of one day meeting a beautiful princess who would rescue me from my dreary life and make passionate love to me.
She paused and her hand reached up to brush a strand of long silvery hair back from her forehead. Her fingers traced a path up her forehead, over her brow and down behind her ear to her neck, pushing her hair back into position. It was her left hand and as she brought it forward below her ear I noticed that there were no rings on her fingers. Her head arched back and swung from side to side gracefully, seating the hair against her shoulders. Lifting her glass she sipped at her drink, smiled again, then in a soft voice she continued.
“I do read a lot. The last while it’s been mostly poetry. Over the last few years I’ve been collecting poems. Special poems. In particular, I’ve been collecting your poems. I found the first one in a magazine, others in newspapers, and the last one I was given was written on a bar menu. It’s the only one that hasn’t got your name on it. But it’s the only one that is written out in longhand. Could you sign it for me?”
The lady had me really rocked to the core. I admit that I try to write poetry, and I’ve even had it published on occasion, but . . .. I remember doodling on a bar menu while I was in the pub one night, but I was sure that I’d crumpled it up and thrown it away. My face must have shown her that I was slightly surprised, she reached out a hand and rested on mine. A light frown played on her brow.
“Carl, please? I have it here. Sam saved it, after you threw it away. I talked him out of it.”
Her hand was warm against mine and I could feel tingles of emotion running through my whole body as if her touch carried an electric current. I couldn’t get my breath well, let alone respond. Although my mouth opened and closed, nothing came out. I turned and did my best to look at her without falling all over myself at her beauty. I didn’t succeed. I found that my hand had turned over on its own accord and now I was holding hers. At the same time I was smiling like a silly fool.
Sam chose that moment to come up the bar toward us and smiled as his glance caught me holding her hand.
“Well Jan, from the looks of you two, I’d say that for once I introduced the right people. Carl, she’s wanted to meet you for years. She even has some of your poetry framed and hanging on a wall in her house. Did she tell you that she teaches modern romantic literature at the college? She has her students reading your poetry too.”
When neither of us answered, he carried on.