Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Sellout (05/26/11)
- TITLE: The Scent of Character
By Linda Germain
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Duke was quite taken with the girl who lived next door; not to him, but to me. It all started when he was helping me install a carburetor on my ‘67 red Camero out behind the house where I grew up. A happy, smiling Doris floated by with a basket of cookies for my mother who was recuperating from a freak accident with a jar of pickles that exploded…but that’s another story.
Good old Doris didn’t seem to notice either one of us, but poor ignorant Duke nearly knocked himself out on the hood when the scent of Oatmeal Raison Delight wafted by. Before I could stop him he had wandered, sleep-walker-style, in our back door.
I’d heard Doris’ big sister tell her the way to a man’s heart was through his sweet tooth, and the more sugary and homemade the better. Before I could open the screen door to rescue him the tinkle of her voice told me it was too late. He was already half through with a glass of ice cold milk. Oatmeal crumbs were stuck on his chin and he was grinning like a hypnotized possum. I was too late.
All summer Duke and Doris were an obvious item. When she had to be away for two weeks with her parents up in Schenectady, he half-heartedly helped me with my beloved retro-car. Mostly he tinkered and sighed and took breaks and sighed some more. I could tell he had something serious on his honey-soaked brain.
Finally, he got up the nerve to tell me he was going to pop the question…that as soon as he got a promotion down at the factory he felt Doris would be thrilled to accept the sensible engagement ring his mother had left him and that love would see them through. I was flabbergasted.
To make some show of congratulations, I decided to treat him to the two-fer special at our local Steak and Spuds. That’s where we met up with a group of guys from work. There was a lot of chatter about some kind of downsizing rumor at the plant and speculation about who would lose what jobs or be reassigned to some other part of the country.
That’s when I spotted Ginger, the blatantly beautiful daughter of the owner of the factory. She was sitting with a bevy of girls at a birthday party or something. Ginger was the only one who looked cool and mysterious. She scanned the room like a heat seeking missile and I got a funny feeling in my stomach when she locked on to her prey…my dumb, innocent, in-love-with-Doris buddy, Duke.
Ginger’s reputation preceded her. The fact that she would lower her spoiled rich self to eat in a regular blue-collar place like this was out of character. Before the evening was over our two groups sort of oozed into one big one and we ended up at the all night bowling alley. Even uppity Ginger deigned to join us in her expensive shoes and designer clothes.
She only had eyes for foggy, groggy Duke. No doubt he was handsome to women, but he was not exactly Mr. Excitement. He didn’t smoke or drink or talk ugly or fight. He went to church and was a friend you could count on. One thing he wanted more than anything though, was a promotion so he and Doris could get hitched in style and have a little bungalow and some kids and a dog. That was his dream.
Unless we’re prepared with answers before the questions are asked we never know what we’ll do in the face of temptation. When we meet an irresistible delicious smelling force something always has to give.
You may think you know how this story ends. Which door did he choose? Ginger with the millions and keys to the whole factory kingdom or Doris with the oatmeal cookies and big blue eyes and loving heart of gold?
Last week I saw Duke at the train station. He was standing in the rain, hugging a woman, and crying…with great feeling.
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