My divorce had been final for over a year before I even thought about dating, but truthfully, I was so turned off and disgusted with men, that I wanted nothing to do with any of them. Even from the time I was first separated, they swarmed around like vultures in search of fresh meat. I’d given them all a firm “not interested in dating” reply, but still some persisted. Like Ernie. We worked together and our twelve-year-old daughters had become fast friends when he moved to Minnesota a year ago.
I liked Ernie. He was a nice enough guy. I just wasn’t interested in dating him or anyone else for that matter. Things got a bit complicated when our daughters planned to attend a sleepover on Halloween night. Ernie decided that he and I should go out for dinner. “Not a date—just dinner,” he insisted. After several conversations, I finally agreed, “But this is not a date—no dressing up—no fancy dinner.”
True to his words, he showed up in jeans and we went to a casual restaurant. We had a lot of fun talking about our daughters and our own teenage years, but our conversations were continually interrupted by costumed people of all ages. Like two grown men, dressed in pajamas with the feet in them and the trap door half-unbuttoned giving us a half-moon of sorts. They carried beers and pacifiers.
There were a couple of devils, a Count Dracula, and a bunny—not the rabbit kind, the playboy kind. There also was a constant parade of children in very cute costumes, and several men dressed in dresses wearing high heels and sporting mustaches and full beards. Needless to say, we laughed a lot at what people were willing to wear in public.
When we left the restaurant, true to my usual clumsy self, I turned my ankle as I stepped off the curb. “It’s okay, I didn’t plan on doing any dancing tonight anyway.”
“Are you sure you don’t need to go to the doctor?”
“No, I’m sure it will be fine with a little rest.”
Ernie seemed to take the long way home from Monticello. He drove through the small town of Rogers and stopped there for gas. Continuing on to Osseo, he suddenly said, “Darn it. I think I might have a flat tire.” The road was narrow with no place to pull over. He rolled passed an apartment building and pulled in the next drive. I looked up to see the entrance to St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery. “Oh great,” he said, “just what we need on Halloween night—a flat.”
“Hmm,” I replied, “just what we need on Halloween night—a cemetery.” We looked at each other and laughed.
He pulled out a flashlight and got out to check the tire. “It’s not good. I’ll have to change it. You sit tight. It really shouldn’t take long.”
I got out of the car, aware of my aching ankle, and watched as he pulled out the jack and spare tire. “Oh dear, this isn’t good. The tire’s flat. I’ll have to walk to a gas station.”
“I don’t think I can walk that far. My ankle is hurting.”
He gave me a worried look.
“It’s okay. I’ll be fine here.” I pointed to the cemetery. “The residents here are harmless.”
He smiled at me and then tilted his head. “Okay, but keep the doors locked. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
I settled in and watched him until he disappeared into the fog. I chuckled as I thought about the evening, the silly costumes we’d seen, and now a flat tire. I leaned my head against the car window. I wonder how the girls are doing tonight.
Suddenly I heard a noise and looked up to see a guy peering in the window at me. I gasped and jerked back. I hadn’t seen him and another fellow coming up behind the car. They looked to be teenagers, maybe thirteen or fourteen, wearing jeans, and dark hooded jackets. I cranked down the window an inch or so.
Wonder what these two are up to? Probably no good.
“Hey. What’s up?” The taller one said.
“We’ve got a flat tire. I’m waiting for my friend to come back and fix it.”
The two boys looked at each other. “You got a cigarette?”
“Okay.” They turned and started to walk toward the cemetery.
They’re up to no good. I thought of the cemetery where my grandparents were buried. Last year some kids tipped over headstones, destroying some of the old ones, and making a heck of a mess. I rolled down the window and turned on the car headlights. “Hey, I don’t know what you two are up to.”
They stopped and turned around toward me.
“If you’re thinking of tipping headstones, you better not. I’ll call the cops.”
One of them shrugged, and then they turned and walked toward the apartment building instead.
Relieved, I shut off the lights and sat quietly for a few minutes. Still no sign of Ernie, and the night turned colder as the fog settled deeper. It was a little creepy.
Where is he anyway? Shouldn’t he be back by now?
A few more minutes passed, and then a pickup truck came by—horn honking—with four or five guys hanging onto the roll bar in the bed of the truck. They yelled at the top of their lungs, and as they passed by someone threw a beer bottle. It hit the ground shattering next to Ernie’s car. “Hey, you jerks,” I yelled, but they were gone in a flash.
A few minutes later a tow truck pulled up with yellow lights flashing, and Ernie and the driver got out. I met them at the back of the car. “Be careful, there’s glass everywhere. Some kids in a pickup threw a beer bottle.”
“Are you okay?” Ernie asked.
“I got a broom in the truck,” the driver said. “I use it to clean up at accident scenes.” He swept up the glass and then proceeded to change the tire. A few minutes later, Ernie paid the driver and he drove away.
Ernie shook his head. “What a night. Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m fine—really.” We got back in the car and I told him about the boys going into the cemetery.
“Good thing they walked away.”
He started the car and turned on the lights, then stared straight ahead. “What the heck?”
There was something strange moving in front of us. It looked like a dog with a lampshade on its head. I’d never seen anything like it before. “Look at that.”
“Oh, good grief.”
We both laughed as we watched the yellow lab stagger around with the up-side-down lampshade. Later I learned it was an Elizabethan collar used on a dog after surgery to prevent it from licking or biting stitches.
“He must be a party-dog with that lampshade on his head,” said Ernie.
We laughed all the way back to my house, and with that my first non-date evening ended—a night full of silly experiences and lots of laughter. Ernie and I did go out on a real date about two months later, but we both decided we were better off as friends. Nonetheless, I will never forget all the fun and laughter we shared on that strange Halloween night.
* * * * * * * * * * This is based on a true story by author: Carol Palmer Nugent. Carol is a member of Word Weavers of Northern Arizona, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Gopher Prairie Writers group. She spends winters in Arizona, and summer and fall in Minnesota with her husband and two dogs. She enjoys gardening, reading, writing, and learning something new each day. She has published short stories in 2016 in The Good Old Days and Ruby for Women Magazines, a true story in A Woman of Worth anthology in July, and two stories in Christmas Collection II for 2016. In addition, Carol received an honorable mention in the 2016 -85th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. Carol is currently working on a fiction story about her Grandfather, Carlisle Palmer, growing up in the Palmer House Hotels.