I am a simple man. I work hard, rest little. All in all I don't ask for much. Modest lodgings, clothes for my back, and food for my belly is all it takes to keep me happy. Not that I'd complain if I upgraded my rusty trailer for something a little more chic, or traded in my patched dungarees for a nice pair of Calvin Klein's. But all in all, after twenty-five years on this place we call Earth, life was good. I had myself a girl; a very pretty gal by the name of Clarisse. Nobody likes a bragger, but I daresay she was pretty keen on me.
And then there were my friends. First there's Andy Zyflosky, a guy I've known since, well, forever. I can't say we always got along as kids-I have a couple scars to attest that-but that's all behind us now. He's my nearest neighbor and closest friend, a real fine guy. Real handy with tools, too, and fixes my Tin Lizzie whenever she decides to take a day off.
If Andy and I didn't get along as kids, me and Drew Cunningham didn't get along as adults. Quite frankly I don't know why I liked the guy. He was loud, coarse (coarser than a guy is expected to be), and inebriated more often than not. His only good merit, I think, was that (when sober) he's the finest huntsman you'll ever see.
Those are the two that I hung around the most. The others you'll no doubt meet as the story progresses. Yes, there's a story to be found amidst my ramblings. I don't know if you could call it a story, per se. There's no hero, no villain, and no fairy-tale ending. But in life, things don't always follow a convenient little cookie-cutter pattern. Things happen, life happens, and you never know what day will be the day that your world is changed forever.
The prettiest girl in all the world was sweet on me, and I had no idea what to do about it. I wasn't trained to be either a chivalrous knight or a smooth scoundrel, so when it came to courting ladies I wasn't the most experienced. Why Clarisse liked me in the first place, I'll never know. Maybe it's just sheer dumb luck on my part, as there were plenty more eligible gentleman in the vicinity.
I never cared much for stories that go on and on and on about how people look. After all, we're taught that outer appearances don't matter one whit. Still, as I am a rather biased fellow, I can't help but wanting to talk a little about my girl. Clarisse was a rather small thing, real short and slim-like. Poetic folks described her hair as spun gold, but I don't know about that. I just knew that it was long and shiny and very pretty. Now, I've never heard of a guy who hasn't had millions of things to say about his gal's eyes, but to be honest Clarisse's weren't that outstanding. A nice brown shade, to be sure, but they weren't limpid pools of darkness or whatever those flowy books like to say.
Clarisse still lived with her parents, and the front porch of their small house served to be the place where we did most of our courting. Her ma would serve us iced tea and occasionally a plate of fresh-baked cookies, while her pa would stand around glaring at me like I was some kind of felon. Dwight McCormick was an overly-protective man, from what I understood, and it surprised me that he didn't have a rifle on hand when I was around his daughter.
On this particular summer afternoon I found myself sitting in the broken-wicker chair that was usually offered to me when I visited. I can't help but wonder if this was Dwight's doing, as the broken weave prodded my posterior most uncomfortably. Bravely trying to ignore the discomfort, I turned my attention to Clarisse. She was wearing an orange sundress that made her look a bit sallow, but she looked very nice all the same.
"It's your birthday next week, isn't it?" I hoped my question didn't sound too abrupt, but as I said earlier, I was never too skilled with turning everything I said into something meriting a standing ovation.
"Yes, it is," she answered in that shy way of hers. She was watching me over the rim of her glass, and it made me uncomfortable. "But you don't have to get me anything."
I leaned forward, taking her delicate hand in my somewhat larger one. "Of course I'll get you something." I've been told that girls will pretend they don't want anything, only to be wishing for the exact opposite. Why they can't just give us a shopping list and say, "Go at it," I'll never know.
She looked duly bashful and didn't answer. That's one of the things I liked so much about her: she wasn't one of those people who felt it necessary to be babbling on every second of the day. It was nice being with her whether we were talking or not.
Unfortunately we weren't able to enjoy the moment, for at that moment a raucous rumbling sound filled the air. The noise grew louder until at length the cause of the disturbance came into view: Drew Cunningham's '54 jalopy. It was a miracle that the poor vehicle was still running, though by the sound of things it was only a matter of time before it landed itself in the scrap yard.
The jalopy pulled up alongside the lawn, the front right tire coming to rest on the grass. Drew rolled down his window and crawled out-both doors were unable to open due to various collisions. I noted that he was able to walk in a fairly straight line as he came to meet us. He must have ran out of drinking money earlier than usual this month.
"Hi Clarisse," he said with that sleazy smile of his, then turning to me, "…And Cyrus." He knew that Clarisse was my girl, but he didn't let that stop him from trying to be around her at every available moment. Not that I blame him for being smitten-any man in his right mind would be head-over-heels in love with her. But I couldn't help but feeling a bit possessive of my girl when Drew was around.
He shoved his hands in his pockets. "You two don't sound very excited to see me…betcha I'm interrupting something, huh? Don't worry, I can leave and ya'll can go back to your snogging."
Clarisse laughed, and I must say it sounded a bit forced. "No no, nothing like that. Please," she said, color touching her cheeks, "Please stay." With a generous sweep of her hand she motioned towards a chair-my chair, I noted with annoyance. Where was I supposed to sit?
I didn't like how my romantic afternoon was being spoiled. Not at all. "Drew!" I said a bit too abruptly, causing the three of us to jump slightly. "Drew, Andy was telling me about how he needs some help at his place. I think his water heater broke or something."
"That's a shame," he said. From the look he was giving me, I think he knew what I was up to. "After I leave I'll head over to his place straightaway." Here he looked at Clarisse, giving her a special smile. "You see, babe, I'm the best you'll ever meet when it comes to fixing things. Cars, appliances, water heaters-you name it, I'm your man."
I don't know if he sought to recommend himself by this little speech; what I do know is it had quite the opposite effect. Clarisse was easily offended by men, and his calling her "babe" did not serve to elevate her opinion of him. As for his claims of being a great handyman, she knew as well as I did that they were false. So all in all, I had nothing to be worrying about.