Here is another Valentine's Day short story.
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– Cheryl Strayed
Title - Ulysses
Author - James Joyce
Description - James Joyces astonishing masterpiece, Ulysses, tells of the diverse events which befall Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus in Dublin on 16 June 1904, during which Blooms voluptuous wife, Molly, commits adultery. Initially deemed obscene in England and the USA, this richly-allusive novel, revolutionary in its Modernistic experimentalism, was hailed as a work of genius by W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway. Scandalously frank, wittily erudite, mercurially eloquent, resourcefully comic and generously humane, Ulysses offers the reader a life-changing experience.
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The Question - Short Story
As Lisa head home from work, Brian checked the time. She would be there in five minutes. Brian went through the night’s checklist, which was more of a reminder than any list. He has the ring. That is what matters. Like delivery to a speech, a proposal needs a ring. Everything else is not relevant if he doesn’t have that. He also needs to make sure that they go to the right place, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem.
“There is no way she says no, right?” He thought to himself. “There is no way. I didn’t cheat on her.” He affirmed himself. “I am a good guy. I am not the president with all the power of a king or Hercules with the strength of a god, but I am a good guy. I am not Shakespeare or anything. Words are hard. I don’t have money like Gates cause God knows that I am not the best with that, but I am a good guy. Like any man, I have my faults, but that is not enough for her to say no, right? I am not really in the best shape I can be in. What if I am not the best lover she has had?” He shook his head. “No. No. I have shown her what she needs for this to work; I am not an idiot and am competent enough to provide for us and the family we are going to start, and I love her for all that she is. I’ll stand by her in the cold rain to prevent her from getting wet. I’ll help her in bed when she is feeling sick. I’ll try (and fail) to make her a good dinner. I am a good guy. Is my heart not enough? I thought that would be enough. There’s just… there is no way she says no, right?”
Lisa arrived home from her teaching job that consists of instructing students on history lessons. Over and over again, she has to remind the students that just because history repeats itself doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn it. She walked inside and found her man sitting on the sofa watching a recap of the sports news for the day.
Today was a long day for the teacher, and she was not in the mood to go out. She had to send two kids to the principal’s office for misbehaving. (She swears these kids keep getting snottier each year) And she had a full half-hour conversation with a parent defending their kid over the failed grades the kid has received from her. Like she is the one taking the test. She did that already. And she passed all her tests and with flying colors if she were to brag. She doesn’t want to hear from a parent that their kid really is smart and assertive, and she isn’t working hard enough as a teacher to help the kid. She hears that too often and hates it every time. Kids make enough excuses the way it is; they don’t need to have parents make them too. It is also that time of the year for World War 2 to come up in classroom discussion, which means that she gets the honor of talking about optimistic things like Hitler’s insanity or the Holocaust. Can’t she just talk more about the Italian Renaissance? She tells the other teachers that the curriculum is too modern in that respect. The Italian Renaissance had Da Vinci, who is much easier to talk about than Hitler. Da Vinci didn’t kill anyone and wasn’t a madman bent on world domination and responsible for the greatest crime of human history. Oh, and then when she is done telling her students of Hitler, she has to bring up the second craziest man of the century, Stalin, who was also a madman bent on world domination and is responsible for the second greatest crime in human history. Teaching World War 2 is really draining on a teacher.
“What do you think of going to Mama’s Pizzeria? We haven’t been there in a while.” He asked as he half-heartening watched the news.
“Eh. It is kind of a dump. I would much rather have Chinese food.” “She put her jacket on the sofa and sat next to Brian. “I don’t really want to go out tonight.”
That suggestion, although valid, in that the pizzeria is not clean and the pizzeria is mediocre, isn’t the take that Brian needed right now. He needed the run-down place to be the answer for tonight. He would prefer to have Chinese food too, but he didn’t arrange with the owner there to have a special dessert for them made. They need to go out to get pizza tonight.
“Yeah, but we haven’t had pizza in so long.”
“We had it over the weekend.” It was only Tuesday.
“How about you get to choose where we go next time we eat, but for now, I get to choose.”
Brian now had to make an excuse up for going to the pizzeria.
“What type of rules are that? Why don’t I get the first choice then?”
At this point in the exchange between the young couple, the possibility that the whole thing would go wrong was very likely. Lisa would never have any chance of getting asked the question.
“For old time’s sake, let’s go to get some pizza at the restaurant, and then that is it for it. Fair? Plus, you are tired, so do you really want to have to decide on where we go?”
“I…” Lisa didn’t know what to say since her man hadn’t defended pizza ever this much in his life. He was always the guy to mock the Italians and their foods, and now he is saying that he wants to go for nostalgia. It was the first place they went out on a date, but that was so long ago that Brian must have forgotten. He is stupid like that. He didn’t even remember Lisa’s birthday last year. “Fine. We’ll go get some pizza at that shithole.”
The instructor of history wasn’t off with her assessment of the pizzeria. Its wines were not that great and somehow didn’t age gracefully. They didn’t make grandpa slices. There were only four tables in the place. The restaurant’s big help to Brian was to make an extra cannoli for each of them for dessert. In other places, this gesture has happened without any significant date or celebration in mind.
“So how was work? Any of those rascals cause a problem?” Brian already heard stories of the students acting up for Lisa told him of it after her lunch.
“I had to talk to a stupid-ass parent for a half-hour, trying to tell them that in order for their kid to do better, the kid needs to assert himself. The parent then put it back on me and said that I should be doing more for the kid. Because I am the reason that he is failing, you know that kid isn’t even that smart. He is dumb, but the parents think he is so smart. I can’t sometimes. I am not going to change or anything. Let’s just go.”
“Don’t let it bother. You can’t fix stupid.”
“I know. Sometimes I wish I could.”
They got in the car and headed for the restaurant that neither really wanted to go to.
“How was your day?” She asked.
“My shoulder is coming together. The doctor said that I will be out of work for a few weeks, which I haven’t told anyone at work yet.”
“You take the time you need to get better.”
“Yeah. That is what I am doing.”
Brian hurt his shoulder at work while he was picking up some boxes in the warehouse. As he picked up another box that weighed well over 50 pounds, his shoulder, which had been irritating him a little bit before, gave out on him, and he dropped the box. He is lucky that the box did not fall on his feet. He went to the doctor earlier in the day to get it checked.
The young couple walked up to the counter of the pizza place. Brian was especially nervous, wondering if the old guy forgot about their deal.
“Hi. We would like a table for two.” He asked, trying not to act like he didn’t talk to the guy a few days ago.
“Ah… yes. For you and the pretty lady.”
The old Italian owner walked over to a table, wiped it down for them. In a rather unusual move, he asked the couple if they wanted anything to drink before ordering. He even spoke of the wines that they have, something he hasn’t done for a customer in years.
As much as the pizzeria was older than him, he took pride in the small moment he was contributing to this young couple’s future. It reminded him of better days that the restaurant had when they took up the storefront next door also. They had the finest wines then, and their pizza was the best in town. Everyone loved it. That was a different era in the pizzeria’s life, though. That was before either of these young kids before him were even born. Despite his slow movements, the old Italian owner spoke with renewed confidence as if the place was the best in town.
This quite surprised the couple, even Brian, for the man gave him a straightforward attitude when they spoke a few days ago. After the meeting that Brian told him his plan, Brian sat in his car for a second and thought that the guy may not help him since he was not that enthusiastic or caring when told of the situation. Luckily that was not the case.
After discussing the new wines that they have and then a personal take on them that mentioned the white is better, he recommended a few items off the menu. He even suggested clams as an appetizer, something that was a big hit back in the day. After all this, he saw that the couple was not ready to order. “I will give you a moment to go over the menu. In the meantime, I will bring out some bread for you.” He winked at Brian, doing what he can to help him, as Lisa, the pretty young lady, viewed the menu.
Before getting caught knowing of the plan, Brian asked Lisa if she wanted wine for the meanwhile to get started. The young lovers both agreed to red wine and the old Italian owner told them that he will bring them both a bottle, for it goes fast. He is slower than he used to be, he has all white hair, and the food isn’t as good, but he still knows how to treat a customer right.
Neither of the young couple spoke as they stared at their menu.
Before any words could be spoken, two bottles of red wine were brought to the table for them.
“Why do all parents think that their kids are so great? They aren’t. They really aren’t.” Lisa was still annoyed over her argument from earlier in the day.
“It’s over. Let it go. Complaining won’t make you feel any better.”
Lisa started to drink her wine. “I guess so.”
“You know what you want to get?”
“Not really. It is nice that they brought us wine so quickly.” She commented, scanning through the menu, which had so much Italian on it that she regretted not taking it in school.
“Hey, honey. I got one question to ask you before we order the meal.”
“Yeah. If you want to split an appetizer, I guess we can do that.”
Brian got down on one knee and pulled out the ring he kept in his pocket.
“Will you marry me?”
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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