Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Request

P.J. Kaiser

Leonard’s car tires crunched in the gravel driveway. He got out of the car, climbed the porch stairs and knocked. Viv’s blue eyes appeared at the window cutout. She flipped on the porch light, opened the door and took him by the hand into the living room where her father sat reading a magazine. Viv winked at Leonard and slipped out of the room. Leonard and Mr. Baldwin exchanged pleasantries, then Leonard got to the point.

“Well, sir -” Leonard nervously laced his fingers together and squeezed. “I’d like to ask your permission to marry your daughter.”

Mr. Baldwin set his jaw off to one side. “Oh, is that so?”

Leonard nodded. “Yes, sir. We’ve been dating for a year now and I’ve got a good job down at the plant -”

“Look, Leonard. I like you and your family. But I’ve got reservations about you marrying my daughter.”

So his suspicions were true. Viv had said it would be easy, but Leonard wasn’t so sure. “What sort of reservations, sir?”

Mr. Baldwin leaned back in his chair. “Well, it seems to me you have trouble with follow-thru, son. You were on the varsity football team in high school and quit halfway through the season. You got a good job at the bank after graduation and left there after only four months. How do I know that a year from now you won’t change your mind about Viv?”

With each accusation, Leonard held his head a bit lower. “Sir, with all due respect. I had to quit the football team because I had a stress fracture in my shin. I left the bank because they didn’t fulfill their commitment to move me into a teller position after three months even though I was doing a good job for them. I am very trustworthy and I will take good care of Viv. I love her more than the moon and the stars.”

Mr. Baldwin shook his head. “Leonard, I just need some time to think about this. I don’t think I can give you my blessing right now.”

With the back of his hand, Leonard wiped at a tear running from the corner of his eye. He struggled to keep his voice steady. “Sir, with all due respect. I’m not leaving until you give us your blessing.”

Mr. Baldwin rose from his chair. “Well, I am certainly not going to physically throw you out of our home, but I think it would be prudent for you to go now.”

Leonard looked up at Mr. Baldwin and pushed himself up off of the couch. “OK, Mr. Baldwin. I’ll wait on the front porch until you change your mind.” He took a few steps towards the door.

“Don’t be silly, Leonard. It’s cold outside. No, you head on home and we’ll talk again in a few days.”

Leonard turned towards Mr. Baldwin and shook his head. “No, sir. I came to get your blessing on my marriage to your daughter and I’m here to prove to you that my intentions are honest.” Leonard strode out the door and settled himself into the adirondack chair on the porch.

Propping his feet up on the footstool, he listened to the autumn night sounds: leaves crunching under the feet of passing animals and the occasional car going by. In the darkness, his mind’s eye saw the small ravine behind the house and the next ridge blanketed in trees and bushes. Leonard and Viv had spent many hours sitting on that porch during their courtship and had hiked many miles through the woods behind the Baldwin house.

Leonard pulled his coat closer and wrapped his arms around himself to keep the warmth in. He just started to drop off to sleep when he heard the door open and Viv slipped out. She wore her coat over a long robe and set a small tray on the table next to Leonard’s chair.

Leonard smiled as he saw steam rising from a bowl and a mug.

“Are you really staying out here all night, Leonard? You’ll freeze.”

“No, Viv. I’ll be just fine. I’ve got my heavy coat. And now it looks like I have some delicious soup and tea as well.”

She grinned at him. “Papa doesn’t know I’ve come out. I just wanted to give you some food and this…” Viv leaned down and kissed him. Her lips warmed Leonard to the tips of his toes. He reached out to pull her to him, but she pulled away. “I’m sorry. I’ve got to go in.” Just before she slipped through the door, she mouthed, “I love you.” And then she disappeared.

He savored the soup and tea and drifted off to sleep before he became chilled again. He awoke several times at the sound of a passing animal and each time had more difficulty getting back to sleep as the cold seeped into his bones. One time he awoke and moved his hand to scratch the side of his face only to discover that a warm woolen blanket covered him. He smiled, pulled the blanket closer and dropped off to sleep.

In the early morning hours, he awoke to the discovery that the porch faced due east. The first rays of dawn shone into his squinting eyes. The sun sat behind the next hill directly behind the largest tree on the hillside. The light filtered through the trees and bushes into the ravine and cast ethereal gray shadows on the ground in the morning mist. Leonard knew that this was the light of tomorrow. Of his new life with Viv.

He enjoyed this spectacular light show until the sun rose above the tree and filled the valley with bright light. The birds woke and chirped their own songs to meet the day. Leonard, distracted by the spectacle playing out before him, didn’t hear the door open. Mr. Baldwin stepped out and sank into the chair next to Leonard.

Leonard turned and said, “Good morning, sir.”

“Good morning, Leonard. I’m surprised to see you still here. Were you cold last night?”

“No, sir. Not very. I had good thoughts to keep me warm.” Leonard smiled.

“You seem very optimistic, Leonard. Maybe too optimistic given that you asked me last night for my daughter’s hand in marriage and I said ‘no.’”

Leonard’s smile faded. “Yes, I suppose that’s so.” He turned his gaze back towards the view. “The sunrise from this porch is amazing. Have you seen how the light seems to drift down into the ravine like a river? It’s really an incredible sight.”

Mr. Baldwin nodded slowly and looked out over the valley. “Yes, I have seen it. I frequently come out here before the sunrise to enjoy it.”

“It’s quite a show.” Both men fixed their gaze on the trees on the next ridge as the silence settled between them.

Some minutes later, Mr. Baldwin broke the stillness. “Leonard, I’ve changed my mind. I give you my blessing. I admire your optimism and I know that you’ll take good care of my Viv.”

Leonard nodded and grinned a confident smile. “Thank you, sir.”

BIO:  P.J. is a former information technology professional turned stay-at-home mom/aspiring writer. She and her husband have two young children and live in Hoboken, New Jersey.  http://inspiredbyreallife.com/

(Want to part of the Aug & Sept Pic 1 k? Click here!)


Tony Noland said...

Terrific scene, and I admire the guy's dedication.

Marisa Birns said...

Well, Leonard certainly showed Mr. Baldwin that he does not have any trouble with follow-thru when it comes to his heart.

Congratulations on your story's selection!

PJ said...

Thanks, Tony & Marisa, for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and I appreciate the comments :-)

Karen from Mentor said...

Sweet capture of a story of desire/determination PJ. I liked the dad and the potential son in law bonding as the sun came up. It added a lot to the scene.

PJ said...

Karen - thanks so much for stopping by and having a read! The sunrise scene was of course the first thing i pictured based on the pic, then i had to backtrack to figure out how Leonard came to be in that situation ;-) Thx for your comment.

ganymeder said...

What a wonderful story!

One slight nitpick...
>Mr. Baldwin set his jaw off to one side.<

For a second, I thought maybe it was a fantasy piece and he was a skeleton or something. Perhaps slightly different wording?

This was a great story. I love that the guy waited all night and the father relented. The sunrise together was a sort of prelude of things to come, I hope! Wonderfully optimistic piece. Thanks for sharing it. :)

PJ said...

Ganymeder - Thanks so much for your comment - you're right - that sentence can be misinterpreted - thanks for pointing it out! I'm glad you enjoyed the story :-)

PJ said...

Ganymeder - Thanks so much for that comment - yes, i can see where that line sounds a bit odd ;-) I'm so glad that you enjoyed the story! :-)

Cynthia Schuerr said...

A lovely story, P. J.! The bonding scene is awesome. Nature has a way of bringing people together. I'm so happy for Leonard and Viv!

Marie Elena said...

Lovely story! At first, I wondered where this story could possibly go, in keeping with the photo prompt. Very creative and heart-warming piece, fitting perfectly with the the photo.

Claudsy said...


You told a wonderful story with lots of heart. Sometimes a photo/picture takes us to places we wouldn't otherwise explore.

I'm glad you explored this picture. You certainly found a story most would never have seen. Good job.