Monday, June 20, 2016

Up In The Air (Fiction, David Russell, about 3,730 words)

Hello Grafted In Readers,

I am pasting a recently drafted story of mine. Its title, "Up In The Air."

I welcome comments and observations you may have about the story itself. It ends happily ever after for the couple, but with plenty of work to do within the family.
Up In The Air
David Russell

3735 Words

I drove Scott to the airport to go see his parents. I met them last Thanksgiving when going home with him. There were some tense moments during that Thanksgiving weekend. I have fallen in love with him, and would consider marriage if he pops the question. It's early March and winter is finally releasing its grip.
Meantime, Scott's desire is to thaw the freeze that they exhibit toward ReyAnn and himself. Though now known, only two weeks previous, the marriage conversation with ReyAnn's Mom included her blessing and welcome to the family.

Scott called me Saturday evening. He sounded sad as he recalled the conversation with his parents.
"Mom, Dad, I love ReyAnn and have plans to marry her."
"You could do better then her. Find a sports world star instead of some country girl from Minnesota," Mom said.
"She is not just a country girl. She is my fiance and has her vocational ducks in a row."
"Just how does this country bumpkin affect your life?" Dad asked.
"I have a renewed interest in life and work. Love isn't blind," Scott said.
"It's your decision Scott, and it's your life," Mom said. The tension in the house was as chilling as this cold March day. Mom may have been releasing her ground out of frustration.
Previous Summer
The morning sunshine started to remove the fog and dampness as I went to work at the Body and Bath store in the Duluth mall. The morning mall walkers were completing their trek as day shift would soon start. In a couple hours the corridors would be buzzing with conversations and many stores catering to shoppers.

Shortly after the start of day shift, I noticed my casually-dressed supervisor, Gayle, approach me.
“Did you get those linens on the display,”
“What linens?”
“The overnight delivery; I posted a bright-colored sticky note on it before you arrived this morning.”
Staring at Gayle, I replied, “I didn't see it.”
She returned my stare stating,
“ReyAnn, tend to it please!”

Overall, life was pretty good. I like college life at Lake Superior. Like many 20-somethings, I'd like romance, and a job with good pay and minimal nagging.

Later that morning a co-worker named Andrea engaged in small talk with me.
“Rey,hi! Doris, Rita and I are going to the Storyhill concert in the park after work, want to join us?"
“Sounds good! I'm having the morning from hell with Gayle."
“Most people really don't get along with Gayle.”
“What time is the concert,”
“At 7, band shell, Canal Park,” Andrea said.

About noontime Gayle again approached ReyAnn.
“Those linens are still on the table. When the hell are you going to replace them?”
“I'll do it now, excuse me!" Right away - I retrieved the box and shelved the linens on the display. A burst of energy was felt from the encounter. Letting Gayle have it might feel darn good.

I got to the park around 6:30 and looked for my three friends. Storyhill were doing sound checks, and the crowd were getting anxious for the concert to begin.
Finding my group of friends who had blankets and snacks spread out by a tall oak tree.
“Doesn't that sky look cloudy?" Rita questioned.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our summer park concert series. We have for your listening pleasure, StoryHill and ask you give them a very dynamic Duluth welcome,” stated the show’s Master of Ceremonies.
The band performed crowd favorites for a good hour, took a short break. Their second set featured new material, and was about a half hour long.

“Notice those three guys over there that keep looking in our direction. They look like body builders you'd see on ESPN,” I said.
“I've seen one of them on SSI<" Doris said.
"Social Security Income?" Rita inquired.
“No goofball, but Sport Service Information," Andrea answered.
“He looks younger,” Rita added.
“Ah rita, come off it.

“Get their attention and we'll get a cold beer after at Peanut Barrel,” Doris suggested.
After some back-and-forth eye contact, the three men slowly made their way to where the girls were seated. Scott approached the group as the other two stood nearby.
“Hi ladies. I'm Scott, and this is Bob and Ted. Rita invited them to sit down, and light conversation ensued.
During the waning moments of the concert, the skies darkened and sprinkles began falling.
"we’re going to the Peanut Barrel afterward. Want to join us there?" I asked.
“Sure, - we’ll meet you there,” Bob said. Andrea excused herself to go home. She was a single parent and had her 8-year-old son to look after.
I noticed several of the concert goers pressed on to the Peanut Barrel. Six or eight people crowded into the restroom I used to attempt a towel off after the short soaker.
The Peanut Barrel was two city blocks away from the park. Atmosphere comfortable accommodating young professional socialites. Bar-food and various cold beer and wine were available menu items.

I recall sitting across from Scott, Rita from Ted, and Doris from Bob. Conversation was light and the room bustled with chatter, bartending, and contemporary roc as background music served up made for pleasant ambiance. Pictures of sport players adorned the walls; a big screen TV featured a Twins baseball game.
“Gosh Darn!!!! did you see that damn ball just about go over the fence, Doris blurted. “That outfielder saved the lead for the Twins.”
Ted asked, “Doris, you like baseball?”
"If it’s on then I’ll watch it."

I decided then and there to start to know Scott. I found his demeanor pleasant and his physique quite attractive.
“Scott, what's with the SSI T-shirt?"
“I cover the University sports."
“My brother has a hockey scholarship to play here starting next year,” Doris said. I wanted Doris to butt out.
“Oh," Scott said.
“May be looking after little brother.”
Again, I got his attention and asked,
“Have you lived around here long?”
“Long enough. About four years. Originally, from Muskegon, Michigan," Looking at ReyAnn to invite more talk he asked,
“How are you managing summer?”
“Working a shit job at the mall.”
“Can't be all that bad can it?” Both exchanged glances and smiles as they talked.
“I have a supervisor who is a classic witch. Never satisfied.”
“Sounds like it’s time for a clean break.”
“Got any recommendations?” Reaching across my fingers brushed his forearm.
“You don't want to act in haste, repent in leisure. Do a variation on that ReyAnn,” Scott said. He liked the instant touch and meant his comment to be supportive.
"I'm tired of doing the some variation. I'd like to punch out her lights," I said making a punch gesture when speaking.
A half hour later, we settled our tab and prepared to leave. Scott asked me to have lunch the next day. I said,
"How about if we meet up outside Subway in the mall?"
"Sounds good, around noon okay?"
"yes, see you then." I felt elated.

During staff meeting the next morning, I tried Scott's idea to do a variation on my angst and frustration with Gayle.
“I don’t like being singled out. Someone put the towels back on the table, in the box, after I had shelved them. Gayle chewed my butt out for it. Since none of us like being humiliated, I’ll be watching for the person who crosses me."
I can throw my weight around some even though I'm an attractive, 5 feet 8 tall, athletic-appearing 22-year-old red head. All morning I thought of Scott, especially his baby blue eyes, thick curly hair, casual dress and body build. Noontime arrived, we have 45 minutes for lunch.

Scott had a short walk from the SSI Network, spotting ReyAnn as they both approached the Subway from opposite directions, giving her a sideways hug as they greeted.
“Haven’t we met somewhere?”
“I think that’s someone else’s line,” and both laughed at the exchange. Taking her hand they headed inside and placed their order.
“Scott, How does a Muskegon guy end up in Duluth?”
“Well, after graduating from Michigan State in Communications, I got out in the real world, got a job, started to pay loans, and find a girl, settle down and start a family. They exchanged smiles. "Guess the family started is with other peers or professionals.”
“ReyAnn, what's your claim to fame?”
“From St. Cloud. Have two parents, and a dog named Zoey.”
“We're onlys!”
“”Only thing I don’t share is my sleep-in time on the weekend,” ReyAnn said. Scott flashed her a smile.
The small talk continued while enjoying our soup and sandwich.
“This is sure a pleasantry worth repeating,” Scott said. I nodded in agreement, and added,
“Tonight I’m planning to chill. Have had a few late nights."
“Know what you mean. I am going over to the IM Building for a swim. Need to work out some stuff.”
“Heard some good things about that new movie opening this weekend, about the inner city basketball team. Would you be interested?”
“I think a late Saturday or Sunday show would be best for me. Where's it playing?”
“The Duluth Cinema on Harbor Drive,”
“Call me at work Saturday, there all day,” ReyAnn said reaching for and handing him her business card.

Scott was finding his reserved side to be letting go. He imagined sharing the same lane at the IM pool, or playfully splashing each other, doing laps or sharing a kiss on the shallow end. Scott wanted her to touch him again. He felt much of the time like a 26-year-old man going through the motions of life. ReyAnn was standing on the periphery, and something in him wanted her to move in closer.
“Thanks for the lunch – Scott. Let's talk Saturday,” I said reaching around and rubbing his back briefly with my right hand and then we had a brief electrifying kiss and embrace.

Nearly two months passed and we were spending most weekends together at Scott's place. The fall term was underway. We attended the season opener of the UMD home game for the hockey team.
During the second period, still scoreless, I got a puzzled look on my face.
“Rey, what’s up?”
“Mom just sent me a text." Reaching over I grasped Scott's forearm.
“She says dad was rushed to the hospital due to a heart attack,” Tears began to fall.
“Are they home in Saint Cloud?”
“Oh Shit! I have to go there ASAP." Putting his arm around me Scott said,
“Let’s finish the game. Then we can make plans that will get you there ASAP.”
They were sharing a scoreless game and vulnerability.
"I gotta text from the boss telling me to host tomorrow morning's sport show."
"You can't go with me?"
"Sorry babe. Message says George Gronk fired. Reasons known only to administration."
Once the game concluded, the plan decided would put ReyAnn on the next train going to Saint Cloud, and they would meet up in a couple days thereafter. Fortunately the train schedule was convenient as it left Duluth one hour after the game concluded. The distance to St. Cloud was about 140 miles, so ReyAnn would arrive home in about two hours.

A half hour after arrival, ReyAnn and her mother went to the hospital. Her dad was in the ICU, stable but serious condition.

“Honey, I’ll make it through this. You and your Mom are my biggest supportive fans and of course family,”
“Dad, I love you, tears streaming down my face. "Dad, I don’t want to lose you.”
“If I have anything to say about it, you won’t. By the way, how is Scott?”
“He’s fine. Wanted to come but had work.”
“Are you sure you want to continue a relationship with him? Don't TV and radio types move around a lot or burn out.”
“Dad, don’t go there. He is a nice caring man, just give him a chance!”
“I only want what makes you happy and is best for you, Rey.” He reached over the side-rail taking her hand in his for a moment. ReyAnn's phone rang.
"ReyAnn, this is Scott's mom. Scott asked us to call. How are you?" ReyAnn took a momentary pause.
"Hi Mrs. Hardin. Dad is stable, and hope he stays that way," she said.
"We're thinking of you and your family."
"Scott will inform you of changes. Thanks for calling."
It felt strange to speak with the woman who had little to no interest in me. I think she's ill-tempered.

The new day arrived, sun shining through the picture window in Dad's room. Hours dragged. Nurses, doctors and lab techs made occasional appearances to check monitors and vitals. Mom and I kept vigil at dad’s bedside, with intermittent trips to the cafeteria or outdoors for some momentary solitude. Scott called a couple times, and Dad would converse on occasion. He slept much of that night.

Around 5:30 the next morning, Dad took a sudden turn for the worse. Blood pressure and other vitals showed deterioration. Another attack occurred, but this one would be fatal. ReyAnn missed Scott being with her; from Scott's side, he felt trapped by professional demands and the inadequacy of sending texts or calls when he could. Also, he had only met ReyAnn’s parents in passing when they came to visit her just before Fall term. The feelings and situation were truly awkward for him. He loved ReyAnn, her youthful side, approach to life and her career and personal goals.

At 5:47 a.m., the machines beeped announcing ReyAnn’s father did not make it. Grief was immediate for both women. The attending doctor, a middle-aged African-American, expressed his condolences to both Mom and ReyAnn.
“Honey, I am glad the three of us were able to be together on your Dad’s last day.”
“I am too, mom.” Both hugged and cried freely for several minutes feeling intense loss. Dad would be cremated as planned after organ donation was addressed.

The memorial service was two days later. Scott arrived the evening before. He apologized profusely to both ReyAnn and her mother.
"I wanted to be here all along but couldn't get away from work. I'll help in any way possible," he said as he gave ReyAnn and her Mom separate hugs.
"Thanks, glad you're here," said Reyann's Mom.
At Thanksgiving, ReyAnn went home with me to meet my parents. One particular conversation occurred Saturday removing any doubt of what the other thought. I felt stuck in the middle like peanut butter between two pieces of bread.
Scott's dad began,
"ReyAnn, Scott tells us you plan to be an accountant. Moving back to St. Cloud?"
"No. I'd like to stay in or live somewhere like Duluth."
"I think Scott could be on ESPN in a few years, New York, lights, camera action. You and Scott are great friends, but he has career and much more ahead of him."

Face turning red ReyAnn replied,
"Your son and I are becoming more than friends; we l o v e one another!" ReyAnn excused herself and retired to the guestroom where she cried. We ate a mostly silent dinner. ReyAnn and I went to see my old stomping grounds and returned to Duluth the next morning.
Over Presidents' Day Weekend in mid February, we went to visit her mother in St. Cloud. I helped her process her Dad's belongings to give away. During time alone with ReyAnn's Mom, I asked for ReyAnn's hand in marriage.
"I love your daughter. Would you give us your blessing to be married here?"
"Yes Scott. We embraced... "Do you have a date in mind?"
"I was thinking the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend."
"Have you asked her?"
"I plan to the first weekend in April. I have to cover the opening game between the Twins and Athletics in Oakland."
"By phone or how?" My plan was to propose while airbound."
"Oh, how romantic, how sweet!" Taking both my hands in her she added,
"Yes, you are a fine young man. You have my daughter's interest uppermost?"
"Yes, I do. She is a splendid woman!"

A day later, Scott called his parents to tell them of the wedding plan. Their response was unified and neutral, not discouraging, not encouraging.
"Of course, Scott, we will attend," his mom said.

In early April, baseball season began, and the Twins had a weekend series against Oakland. Scott would be covering the games for a subsidiary of Sports Services Information.
“Rey, I want you to come along. Opening day is a pretty exciting occasion in baseball!"
“When do we need to go?”
“Thursday morning. I need Friday to get stats and information on the teams,” he said.

On Thursday morning shortly after 4 o’clock, they were aboard the plane in Minneapolis, settled in and enjoyed the comfort of the cabin and the scenery outside the window. The sky was clear and appeared starry through take-off.

“Rey, Rey, Rey, are you awake?”
Silence continued for a few minutes. The flight had gone on for slightly over an hour. They were perhaps flying over Kansas.
“Rey, I want to ask you,” and then the plane took a big turn to the left and a slight lunge. It felt as if the plane were going into a dive.
The flight captain advised,
“Passengers, we are in turbulence. Please remain seated. Put up any treys and fasten your seatbelts. Just before the sentence ended, the plane lunged forward falling several feet. Scott felt his life in the balance. ReyAnn wakened by the commotion held Scott’s hand quite tightly.
“Oh my! What is this?”
“I don't really know, plane troubles."
“You are sooo special to me!"
"This is too weird," I said.
Several passengers screamed; some children were heard crying. Just then the plane took another lunge. This time to the right with the nose nearly vertical. The momentary bouncing felt like it had gone on for several minutes.
“Oh Scott, know I'm glad we had the past several months together. You saved me from duking it out with Gayle.”
“Rey, I don’t have to keep up an image when we’re together. You are getting to know the genuine Scott.”
The plane stabilized a few minutes then made a sharp turn to the right, but this time reversed, with the descent feeling as if the plane were on its side at a 60 degree angle. A shaking sensation was felt for several moments, and passengers collectively showed their panic. Scott and ReyAnn held hands but were making out as this might be the last time they would express love to one another. Some cried loudly, others kept saying, Oh God. Others could be observed trying to send text messages to those significant to them. The passengers lives were in the balance.

Eventually, the plane began to stabilize. It was gradual.
“We will not be proceeding to Oakland, but are preparing to land in Oklahoma City,” the flight captain said.

As the plane began it's descent, Scott turned to me with a wide smile across his face.
"ReyAnn, will you marry me?"
"Marry you?" I was surprised.
"Yes Scott, any idea when or where?"
"Well, Saturday of Memorial Day, your home, St. Cloud."
"You sure have your nerve! You get me up in the air, nearly killed and ... "Yes, let's do it!"
Feeling up in the air though in a terminal, we unfastened our seatbelts after landing.

Once on the ground in Oklahoma City, Scott took care of professional matters, and after checking into the Holiday Inn, we called my Mom first, then Scott's parents on Skype to share the happy news not only of our engagement, but of lives being spared byProvidence. We took a later flight to Oakland, and Scott covered the Saturday and Sunday games for the Network; We spent some leisure time touring San Francisco.

I awoke Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend to sunshine beaming through my bedroom window. At 10 o'clock family and friends gathered at my childhood home for the ceremony. The reception was held at the local VFW Hall. We had a catered dinner, and hired a group to perform light classics for background entertainment. The couple would leave for their honeymoon in North Carolina on Monday.

One of my favorite moments is the toast my Mom publicly presented at our reception.
"I welcome Scott to our family. He is a fine young man, and has the ability to keep ReyAnn in check and in good care. Her Dad wants ReyAnn to be happy and have the best. I'm nearly certain, his wishes are being met in this marriage. We toast Scott and ReyAnn, to their beginning and continuation."

After lunch on Sunday with Scott's parents, I got things off my chest with Scott's Mom. It was nearly a physical dual. Some might call it conflict resolution. I remember her saying,
“ReyAnn, does an accountant have a future with a communications media type? I hardly think so,”
“Well, it’s hardly your decision. Scott and I met, we fell in love, your husband and my mom seem okay with our marriage, what is your problem?”
“My problem is disrespectful, ascerbic boisterous types like you. You're a rural country girl and dress to sloppy for my Scott."
“One more accusation out of you and I will change that smile permanently,” I said..
“Ladies, calm down. There is little need to ramp up the antimosity,” Scott’s Dad stated as he came inside hearing the show-down. Within moments, both women retreated but exchanged few words until that evening when ReyAnn and Scott departed.
“Mom, ReyAnn is a fine woman. Give her a chance at least for me,” Scott said.
“We'll see. You needed an athletic woman not a number cruncher.”
“Mom, I think that’s my decision,” he said sternly. Only time would tell if a thaw might occur.
The couple left the next morning to fly out of Minneapolis to Raleigh, North Carolina, where they would rent a car and drive to the seaside resort near Wilmington, for a week of fun, love, and bonding. After landing in Raleigh, they spoke with Scott's father over the phone. He said,
"I think we all have to adjust. Let’s work toward becoming family."
"It's going to take time Dad. Mom has some major thawing to do," Scott replied.
"Enjoy yourselves, and send us some pictures from Wilmington," Dad stated


David Russell

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