Uneven slate sidewalks, dating back a hundred twenty years or more, rippled along the streets of Green Valley as they gave way to roots of burgeoning elms. Eb knew every crack and crevasse along their path. As a boy he loved the challenge of riding his Schwinn down this very walkway.
“Watch you step,” he warned as he and Rachel turned the corner; each toting a basket full of freshly folded laundry. “Hard to see at night,” he added.
Auntie Mame’s perfect flowers safely grew behind the protection of a short picket fence; or so she thought. A ground hog startled Rachel as it darted from a night shadows, stomping one of Auntie’s prize petunias along the way.
The blue glow of Amos Green’s TV illuminated his picture window. Eb glanced at the retired miner sitting there watching professional wrestlers toss each other across the screen. A bug-eyed boston terrier perked her head from Amos’ lap as Eb and Rachel passed by. Amos flipped his stogie and sipped what Eb supposed was glass of beer.
They walked on.
“Well, this is it,” Rachel announced as they approached her modest home. It was, in fact, the smallest house in Green Valley. Eb politely followed her up the wood steps and onto the porch.
In the dark, she rummaged through her purse in search of the key. Found it. And, with a nervous twitch managed to unlock the door. A swift kick opened it wide. Rachel turned to take the basket from Eb.
“Thanks.” Her eyes sparkled.
“Any time,” he answered. He wasn’t sure what to say.
“Any time?” Rachel teased. She backed into her house, and began to close the door.
“Well you know. Within reason.”
“Say when,” she retorted, then stared at Eb.
He smiled, nodded his head and wondered how to say good night.
“Good night.” He kinda waved and took a clumsy step backwards.
Rachel forced a smile. “Any time,” she repeated, trying to sound polite.
Eb nodded again. “Oh! Uh, hey, whattaya doin’ tomorrow?”
“Band practice,” she answered. “Sorry.”
“Band practice?” Eb’s mind rushed back fourteen years; the last time he asked Rachel for a date. She couldn’t make it. Band practice.
“Just kidding. Tomorrow night would be fine. Just say when.”
“Seven.” Eb was surprised at the anxious tone of his own voice.
“Five,” Rachel answered.
“Six?” Eb compromised through a toothy smile.
“Okay, see you at six.” Again, she wiggled her fingers as a goodbye gesture and closed the door.
Eb skipped the first two steps to leap onto the walkway. He hadn’t felt like this since he was a teenager. There was a spring in his stride and he made his way back down Oak Street toward home.
“So, when ya’ll getting’ hitched?”
Eb looked up to see Amos Green standing at the edge of his porch; an unkept tuff of gray hair and beer belly wrapped in a holey undershirt. The Boston Terrier watched from the window.
“What?!” Eb was almost shouting. He was a bit indignant.
“Nice girl, that Rachel.” Amos called as Eb walked on.
“And you do make the sweetest couple!”
This time Eb stopped dead in his tracks. Auntie Mame was leaning out her second story window.
“Auntie,” Eb cried. “We just met.”
“Yes, dear, I know.”
Eb hated being called “dear.” But what could he say. Auntie was over eighty years old.
“Good night, Auntie!” He stomped on toward home.
Sheriff Henderson’s patrol car slowed as he drew along side Eb.
“Evenin’ Eb. Got an announcement to make?” The sheriff held up the microphone of his police radio.
“Night, Sheriff.” He stomped on. The sheriff smiled and drove away.
Eb wrestled the front door open and crashed on his sofa. “Nosey people,” he complained.
The phone rang. “Yeah, this is Eb.”
“Congratulations!” the voice on the phone was Bob, Eb’s best friend. Eb said nothing. He just sat there thinking. Bob lived on the other side of town. How did he know…
Then Eb remembered. It’s Friday. Everyone in Green Valley owns a police scanner and every Friday evening at nine o’clock sharp Sheriff Henderson broadcasts the news; unless Deputy Blake is on duty. She usually talks about her favorite recipes. The Sheriff had been following Eb and Rachel, reporting their every move to all of Green Valley.
Eb shook his head, smiled and said, “Later, Bob,” then hung up the phone. Then he went to bed.