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    Robert Rex
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  • 2,115 Words
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  • 32 Comments

Take A Chance - 1. Story

The battle-scarred ’97 red Ford Ranger listed to the front passenger tire, a victim of a leaking shock absorber. Inside, Terry Daniels pounded the cracked steering wheel. Although we can’t hear what’s said, we can see his mouth form the words, “shit, shit, shit”.

Terry has just discovered another “gift” from his secret admirer. This one is a Beany-Baby, a floppy-eared hound dog holding a sign in one paw that reads, “Be My Valentine”. Appropriate, since the lover’s holiday is only five days away. The gift was left on the dash of his truck, directly above the steering wheel where he’d be sure to find it.

You see, this isn’t the first such gift he’s received.

It’d all started right after the first of the year. He’d only been working at the upscale David James grocery as the produce manager for maybe six months. He’d jumped at the move to the new job in Tyler, Texas--greedily. It was his chance to leave behind the crumbs of life he’d had in Lufkin.

“This market is a mature one; although you’ve always done well with your sales and customer service, we really can’t afford to keep you here in this economic climate.” His boss was kind about his layoff, but it didn’t diminish the loss of his professional identity after 18 years of selling phone systems.

With the job loss, the marriage stresses increased. The slash to finances only made it worse. Terry had known for a long time that his marriage was a hollow one—the resulting job-loss induced poverty only pulled him and Danielle further apart. At this point, they’d been roommates for quite some time; far removed from being husband and wife as in the early years. His “gay issue” didn’t help.

When it all came out after a verbal knock-down-drag-out battle, Danielle had thrown him out. “I don’t know you anymore.” Her words stung. After following the expected path of marrying his high school sweetheart and being involved with two great daughters, the divorce was vindictive on her part, and demoralizing on his. Terry got cleaned out. With no job, no income, and no savings available, he was living in a travel trailer in a cheap mobile home park, paying his rent with random handyman jobs. Thank God he was good with his hands.

His bewildered daughters, both married, living out of state with kids of their own, simply didn’t know how to react. “We need time to think all this through”, the elder said. Whether it was the loss of their parents’ marriage or the gay thing, Terry wasn’t sure. Regardless, there was no contact from them, despite his heartfelt letters asking for understanding and letting them know of his move.

“How can I expect them to understand me being gay when I’m not sure I do?” Terry’s self-analysis was both frustrating—he didn’t understand his attraction to men—and liberating, since he’d never really analyzed himself before. He knew he had an excitement in sex with men; years of furtive blowjobs in rest stops, truck stops, and adult movie theaters had shown that. That he could obtain satisfaction and fulfilment from such encounters wasn’t proven until he’d hooked up with a gay salesman during the last three days of the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. That two-year-old fling had shown him how intimacy with a man comfortable with himself could meet needs that Danielle couldn’t. Although he’d never cheated on Danielle with a woman, he’d pursued relationships with men since then.

Unfortunately, the longest relationship he’d had was maybe three months with a married guy. The man was as open and accommodating emotionally as he could be, considering the situation, but Terry longed for more.

So when the opportunity came to take this job and move, he piled on all the handyman jobs he could to build a quite modest nest egg, and jumped. A fresh start was just what he needed. Maybe.

It was certainly a chance our friend Terry took, striking out on his own at age 46 with his circumstances, wasn’t it?

He’d found a small efficiency apartment at the end of the first day on his new job. It was over the garage of a little old lady who frequented the grocery. Karen, the lady at the deli in the store (who looks like “Flo” the waitress from an old TV show) set it up. She’d mentioned Terry their new hire was looking for a place, and introduced them. Terry promptly agreed to the furnished place when seeing it after the end of his first shift. The bonus of potential handyman jobs from the little old lady would help the grim financial situation. At least he’d not have the expense of a temporary-stay motel while looking for a place.

His car died three weeks into the job; with his credit in the crapper after his divorce, and no cash, he’d bought the little red truck at a “buy here, pay here” used car lot. Mechanically it was ok, even with its 150,000 miles, but visually rough. The interior was in acceptable shape, with only a couple of old cigarette burns in the carpet and a small tear in the seat upholstery. The radio was filled with static, and the driver’s door wouldn’t lock, but it’d been a good-enough daily driver.

After a couple of months on the job, he’d settled into a routine that’d left him quietly desperate. His only friend was Karen at the Deli. She’d flirted heavily, and had gotten nowhere with it. One day, she’d flat out asked him if he were gay, and he was too tired to deny it. From that point on, Karen had tried to hook him up, with no success. She’d introduced him to a couple of other guys at the store she “had questions about”—Michael, a chunky redneck former oilfield worker now a butcher in the meat market with a shy smile and a firm handshake; Greg, the frozen food manager who’d advanced to his highest level there, a beanpole of a guy, but friendly enough. There were a couple of men from her church, too, but there’d not been a solid connection with them. Even so, Karen was always on the lookout.

Terry was lonely. With only the job and home as destinations, he’d made the decision to drive the 35 miles to the nearest gay bar. Another chance he’d taken—and it was a disaster. Surrounded by mid-20’s and early-30’s guys, no one gave any attention to the middle-aged-just-recently-out-everyman-average-looking guy. When he did try to make conversation with the man next to him at the bar, the guy could barely complete a sentence because his face was buried in his smart phone texting other guys on Grindr. He left alone, disheartened.

So you see, when the first gift arrived after the start of the new year, it was viewed skeptically, but nonetheless welcomed. The note left under his windshield wiper he found when his shift ended. With its carefully printed body but an illegibly scrawled name, the note simply said, “I think you’re good-looking”.

It was a compliment, certainly. Another note a week later said, “You’re a good man”. Same printed message, same unreadable name.

“The guy knows me, obviously. And it’s flattering. I’m nothing special. I just wish he’d man up and introduce himself. But it’s kinda creepy, too.” Terry discussed it with Karen over a late-lunch deli sandwich in the break room as workers drifted in and out. Both agreed it was a man’s handwriting. She’d kidded him about it, but reassured him it was innocent flirtation.

The following week, discovered during Terry’s lunch break, was another note—this one inside on the truck seat. “I want to ask you out, but don’t have the balls yet. I will soon, I hope.”

With this last note, Terry’s concern increased. “This is seriously out there, Karen.” Karen said nothing during his comments. Again, a man’s handwriting, but no signature.

Terry went to the store manager, and asked to review the security tapes of the parking lot. Because his truck was a little beat-up looking—ok, a lot beat-up looking—he’d been parking it behind the building in the far back corner of the lot, away from the other employees. Unfortunately he’d managed to park in the one spot not covered by the cameras.

A week and a half went by, with no contact. Then the Beany Baby pup on the dash. Enough was enough.

Terry took another chance

That night, he printed his own note, stuffed it into an envelope, and taped it to the steering wheel hub the next morning before going in to work. “Stop this game! I’m ready to meet when you are. Meet me in front of the store February 14 at noon. If you can’t find the balls to meet me by then, don’t contact me again.” And with that, he signed his name, and printed his prepaid cell phone number under it.

Quite a bit of courage, wouldn’t you say?

The note was gone when Terry came out at day’s end.

At workday’s end the next day, a yellow rose was on his seat. The note said, “I can’t wait!”

“It’s on,” Terry thought.

The week was busy, but not so busy that Sunday’s high noon meeting ever left his mind. He told Karen what was going on, who was horrified. “You have notified store security, right?”

“No. I’ll handle this.”

Sunday arrived, a cloudless chilly day. Terry showered, shaved, and mentally ran through scenario options. (He’d always done his best thinking while shaving.) After dressing then pulling on a jacket over his sweater, he headed out, determined to confront whatever was ahead.

He arrived moments before noon, parked relatively near the store’s door in the busy parking lot, and waited.

His phone rang. Karen. “Look, I’ve a confession to make. I’d set you up with a guy I know from church. He was the one who’d left the first two notes, he’d thought it’d be cute to flirt like that. But he’d found someone else, and stopped after the first two notes. I don’t know who’s been leaving you the notes, but, seriously—get out of there!” The panic in her voice was clear.

“No. This ends. Today. I’m taking a chance. And what kind of friend are you to put me through this?” Terry hung up.

As he ended the call, he noticed Michael, the meat-market guy in front of his truck, dressed in shirt and tie, waiving. Getting out of the truck, Terry asked, “What are you doing here? You’re all dressed up; just get out of church or something?”

“Nope.” And with a couple of steps forward, Michael was in front of him, only the door of the little truck between them. He quickly moved a hand from behind his back to present Terry with a red rose. “I’m here for … you.”

Over coffee at a nearby Starbucks, Michael explained. “I’d been in a relationship with a guy for seven years. One of those artsy, intellectual types who writes stuff that only word Nazis appreciate. Never sold a damn thing; I’m not even certain he tried as long as I covered the bills. I never felt like I was good enough—hell, I’d worked in oil fields in the last twenty years since high school until the price of oil cratered last year. We were obviously of different religions; he worshiped money, and when the job ended and I had none, he split. He’d convinced me I was a mental inferior, a lousy fuck, and a poor trailer-trash-looking guy. But then I met you. You were always so nice. Seemed like a good guy. And doesn’t hurt that you’re easy on the eyes, too. I really didn’t mean to play games, and when I overheard Karen in the breakroom talking with another coworker about her friend leaving you notes … well, I had to do something. I couldn’t let you get away. I’m sorry.”

Michael looked at the floor, red-faced, awaiting Terry’s response.

“Although I’d wished you’d stepped up to the plate and just said something, it’s all worked out ok. Let’s go somewhere, watch a ball game, have a few beers, and get to know each other.” Then Terry stood and hugged a surprised—and grinning—Michael.

And so goes the story of Terry and now Michael, learning about each other, maybe building something good for the long haul. The story’s not done yet, though; they’re still dating. So we’ll see what happens.

Terry took his Valentine’s Day chance.

Now, let’s talk about your chances ….

Copyright © 2016 Robert Rex; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



  • Site Administrator

An interesting story. I didn't initially think the point of view approach would work, but it did, and the last sentence of the story brought it right back home. Well done!

 

And the romantic in me loves the happy ending :D

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A nice Valentin story with a happy ending :)
I liked the opening at the end, maybe one day we'll see more of those two ;)

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It took time for everyone to figure out who they wanted. Always enjoy a story that has a happy ending. As for my chances ... none of your business. Lol.

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I'm a sucker for everyday-man stories and this one was a touching one. Great job and a couple of interesting characters to boot.

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This is a different perspective on telling a story--it's almost like having "dateline" or "20/20" tell the tale. Our lead character has had it tough, but took a chance that worked. And the ending is a "happy for now" which leaves the future open for follow up.
Glad this tale got told--a solid story here!

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I like a good story about bravery, and too often in real life it seems guys are not brave about going after the one they really like. I've been there. I think most men have, and so you've done really here to bring that all to the fore.

 

Now, as for Karen – the so-called 'friend' – lol, I'm not so sure about her ;)

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Everyone dream about a secret admirer in their life. It was a different feeling when there is one and continuously surprising you. I liked the that story gone, but in reality it may vary.

 

Everyone loves a story when there is an happy ending. So do I.

 

Nice story... :)

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A great Valentines day story, simply told. We had all the information we needed to root for Terry, and eventually, Michael... well done... cheers... Gary....

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A very cute story, SA. :)

 

Terry had been through a lot, and evidently so had Michael, with that looser moocher. I hope things continue to work out between them.

 

I also really enjoyed reading it like a 'true story' with a narrator. :)

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Very good story, and well told. Both guys had a hard time of it, but sometimes good things do happen when you put yourself out there and take a chance. I hope they have their HEA..
Lovely story..Thank you

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On 02/05/2016 12:05 PM, Graeme said:

An interesting story. I didn't initially think the point of view approach would work, but it did, and the last sentence of the story brought it right back home. Well done!

 

And the romantic in me loves the happy ending :D

Thanks for the kind words! I was admittedly experimenting with the writing style on this one--almost wanting it to be a narrative like you'd find on "20/20" or "Dateline", and although initially offputting, I'm glad it worked!

I appreciate your reading and review!

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On 02/05/2016 03:18 PM, clochette said:

A nice Valentin story with a happy ending :)

I liked the opening at the end, maybe one day we'll see more of those two ;)

Thanks, Clochette, for reading this!

Actually, although the story is VERY short (only 500 or so words over the minimum requirement), I've developed a fondness for these guys, too. Maybe we will see 'em later; who knows?

Again, thanks for reading!

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On 02/05/2016 07:03 PM, comicfan said:

It took time for everyone to figure out who they wanted. Always enjoy a story that has a happy ending. As for my chances ... none of your business. Lol.

Sometimes the best stories DO take time; I've never done a short story, so this was a real challenge for me to stretch my wings.

Thanks for the kind words--and feel free to tell us about your chances; GA does kinda feel like group therapy, right?

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On 02/06/2016 07:16 AM, Puppilull said:

Taking a chance... That takes guts, but can be very rewarding!

Thanks for reading, Puppilull!

What's the old line--no risk, no reward? Think that's far more true in affairs of the heart.

Again, I appreciate your input!

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On 02/06/2016 08:36 AM, Cole Matthews said:

I'm a sucker for everyday-man stories and this one was a touching one. Great job and a couple of interesting characters to boot.

Thanks for reading, Cole. As I mentioned in a couple of comments below, this story was a challenge for me to try a different writing style as well as sticking to a short story format--and I kept this VERY short! It's gratifying to think you liked the characters I'd developed in so few words.

Again, thanks for reading!

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On 02/06/2016 10:25 AM, Valkyrie said:

I'm glad things worked out for them. Nice story :)

Thank you for the kind words--and it's not happy ever after, but sometimes, happy for now works, too!

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On 02/07/2016 09:55 AM, AC Benus said:

I like a good story about bravery, and too often in real life it seems guys are not brave about going after the one they really like. I've been there. I think most men have, and so you've done really here to bring that all to the fore.

 

Now, as for Karen – the so-called 'friend' – lol, I'm not so sure about her ;)

LOL, AC....Karen did turn out to be a fair weather friend; but in the end bravery was rewarded (as I think we all hope life will do!).

Thanks for reading!

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On 02/08/2016 02:57 AM, Suvitar said:

Looks like both Terry and Michael might have finally met someone special :wub: Good luck to them!

It's funny, but to be such a short story, I'm really liking these characters--they may hafta appear later!

Thanks for the comments!

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On 02/08/2016 06:01 AM, Emi GS said:

Everyone dream about a secret admirer in their life. It was a different feeling when there is one and continuously surprising you. I liked the that story gone, but in reality it may vary.

 

Everyone loves a story when there is an happy ending. So do I.

 

Nice story... :)

Thanks Eminent! And I think you're right--it's the continuous surprises that both delight and keep us a little off-balance, but hopefully open to more.

I appreciate your reading and your comments!

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On 02/08/2016 04:13 PM, jfalkon said:

Great story! It was fun to read and I love the way you turn the focus to the reader in the end.

Glad you liked this short tale! I think we all need reminders to take chances from time to time.

Thanks for the comments!

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