The two of them, each in his or her own way, were simply, as the phrase goes, 'trying to make it'.
Mike Willard was at home. It was rare for him to be there in the afternoon but lately he'd been getting a bit restless and he'd learned long ago to let the business things slide for the moment and take some quiet time with Rumbles, his cat.
Mike had, to tell the truth, inherited the business from his Dad but had, with his flare for the work, translated that into, these days 'businesses'. They were doing that well, and he and Rumbles had a leisurely life.
The fly in Mike's ointment, at 36, was his loneliness. He'd had a very humiliating and saddening 'she left me at the altar', literally in his case, experience with his French fiancé, the French Woman, and simply closed himself down for a period of a year or so, after that.
He suspected, maybe untrue but he still suspected it, that he needed to tone up and make himself more presentable. So, in the ensuing year, while he fended off the attempts by friends and colleagues to 'fix him up', as the saying goes, he got a personal trainer and began to work out. It was a practice that he'd had when younger but had slacked off on. He was sorry for that slacking off, especially during the first month of his exercising.
But it seemed to be paying off. He was in shape now and carried his 187 lbs nicely on his 6'1" frame. He regulated his habits and tried to keep intake of sweets down to a minimum, his great failure and major temptation.
Mike had curly hair, which was already, at his young age, shot through with gray. He never tried a mustache or beard but was tempted. Those were decisions to be put off 'til later.
He called his office and got his assistant, Doris on the phone, who simply told him to relax, everything was humming and he wasn't needed that day at all.
"Thanks, Doris!" he said, "But shouldn't you be heading home soon?"
"Yes," she said, "I'm going out to dinner with that handsome husband of mine!"
"Enjoy!" was his comment, and after he hung up the phone, he simply sighed.
Now, it wasn't that Mike wasn't attractive but he was, from early days, a bit on the shy side. He was periodically heavy and never seemed to attract the ladies. He was still in a bit of a heavy phase, when he met and courted Monitte, the runaway French Woman. That had put paid to Mike's attempts at self confidence with love.
He was having an afternoon cup of tea and idly watching a baseball game on the tv, and talking to Rumbles.
"Know what I think, buddy?" he asked.
And Rumbles lashed her tail against the arm of the chair, where she was sitting.
"I think that I need to simply ask someone to marry me. You know, take a chance; give in to Karma or whatever that is."
He laughed at the thought, and just the pursuing of that kind of possibility made him happier. He laughed and said: "That's what I'll do, old gal! Shall I? Dare me?"
He laughed again and said: "I can see the doubt on your face. You don't think I have the nerve! Well, I'll show you, my lady love, next pretty woman I see is going to get a proposal from me."
That was Mike's frame of mind that Friday afternoon.
While Mike was having his 'do you dare me' talk with Rumbles, the closest he'd come to a real girlfriend for a long, long time —- he refused to consider Monitte that, especially since she did the runner on their wedding day —-outside Tracy Keenen was working her way down the street.
She had her 'faithful companion', it's what she called her giggling eight year old daughter Ramona, with her, and was pleased to at least have a job that day.
With the economy working its way out of a rough patch, there were no jobs for Tracy. She had long ago decided that she'd take anything and this gig today was only a temporary thing.
She'd answered an ad and ended up passing out leaflets for a loan agency from door to door. She knew right from the start that it sucked but she'd get paid today.
She made it a plan these days to hoard her unemployment money but that too was coming to a foreseeable end, and she was worried.
Tracy had lost her parents fairly early and had realized, afterwards, that he father wasn't in as great a financial shape as she'd thought.
Once the bills were paid, there was precious little money left, and that had been bleeding away, since the downsizing at the business where she'd worked as a secretary, while she hastened to get better credentials through an on-line educational outfit, which was now out of the question, since there was no internet anymore, at least not for her or Ramona.
Then there was Ramona. Ramona was literally an accident. It was the result of a night of passion with a guy at a party, where, for the last time, she declared, she drank too much and ended up making love to a faceless, nameless guy. Nine months later there was Ramona. The love of her Mom and Dad had seen her through that but what it meant was that Ramona was now her companion in hard times. They were walking this street together, passing out ad sheets for the loan agency, with a promise from the boss that there'd be more work for her. But the promise was accompanied by a leer that made Tracy say to herself that she'd be clear of the creep after that very day. But at least the pay this day would add to her little pile that she used to see them through the days.
For Tracy it was Ramona too who was the sun in the sky. She was a lovely little girl, as lovely as her Momma, with a sunny and very bright personality. She seemed to be wise beyond her years and often enough raised her Momma's spirits, when they were flagging, by her own insistence that things were going to be just fine. It was Ramona's mantra: 'Things are going to be just fine'!
Tracy, at 26, was just a little on the heavy side, really more 'zaftig', as the Germans say, than heavy. She was a treat for any man who wasn't looking for a skinny model type.
During the time when she was working, she worked extra hard to get back into shape, after the birth of Ramona, and tried to keep herself that way.
The death of her parents, in an accident, and the tough times that came later, once the job went away, had almost conspired to keep her from getting heavy. She used that determination as a way of disciplining herself.
Today, with her walking these streets with Ramona and the loan company ad sheets, it was food and rent for them. Those were her main issues.
That's what she was thinking of, as, walking hand in hand, she came to Mike Willard's door.
He happened to open the door, looking for the mail, just as Tracy and Ramona, laughing about something, got to him with her loan agency ad sheet.
After having talked to Rumbles about his determination, Mike had no idea that Tracy and Ramona were just then approaching his door. He was in a good, almost a fey mood, and the 'determination' that he spoke to Rumbles about was sitting on his mind.
What happened then might well have been choreographed by Fellini, and strangely it was little Ramona who fairly saved the day.
Mike Willard was prepared to carry out the threat that he'd told Rumbles that he was about to perpetrate, and the effect was to set Tracy Keenen's world ultimately on its ear.
He was surprised to find, as he opened the door of his house and looked for the mail, that a pretty woman and a lovely little girl were approaching his door.
"It's a sign!" he said softly to himself, and heard Rumbles making cat noises behind the door, as if in agreement.
It was then that he did it, as the two, the woman and the little girl, approached his porch.
(Mike's house was one of his indulgences for himself. He'd bought it to celebrate the fact that the business, and then businesses were doing so well. He needed to do something tangible to celebrate that, and after a late night chat with Rumbles, decided to move from his apartment into a grand, large house. That's where he was, when Tracy and Ramona came up his walk.)
He stopped the two of them dead in their tracks by asking, with a smile on his face: "Hi! Will you marry me?"
Tracy only stared, as though looking at a crazy man.
"What?" she said.
"I asked, will you marry me!" he repeated, a broad smile on his face.
Ramona giggled and asked: "Momma, are you going to marry the man?"
"I'm sorry," he said, "Are you already married?"
Tracy, who was still rendered semi-speechless by the request, shook her head 'no', indicating that she wasn't married.
"Good," he said, "Then you can marry me!"
(Mike was having a great time with this little ruse of his, and realized that he had to get serious and stop showing the lady that he was a crazy man.)
"Momma?" Ramona said, "You didn't answer the nice man!"
"No, honey," Tracy said, "I didn't."
She turned to Mike then and said: "No, not today!"
Mike turned to Ramona and said: "See! She didn't say definitely 'no', did she?"
"No," Ramona said, giggling again, "Momma didn't say definitely 'no'."
"Well," Mike went on, "In that case, will you sit and have some iced tea and scones with me? They're fresh today?"
"Well," Tracy said.
But Mike interjected: "I'm sure that your, um daughter?, is tired from walking around and passing out whatever you're passing out. Iced tea and scones on the porch?"
"Momma!" Ramona said this time, shaking her head 'yes'. Tracy then said: "Yes, thank you! We've been up and down these streets for hours."
"Well," Mike said, "Settle down on the screened porch here and I'll fetch the tea and scones."
.... There is more of this story ...