Sunday, September 8, 2013

An excerpt from Salty Pepper by Kathy McHarge


One good thing about Going Fishing was that they offered advice on what to do when you went off-line for a real body-to-body, analogue encounter.  The first date, they suggested, should take place over coffee or lunch and then a follow-up date, if there was one, over dinner.

They even arranged the first date. Lorraine from the service called to tell me to meet Henry at 12:30 at the Spoon, a local favourite. It would be perfect. The food was simple home cooking and the service fast, so if the date proved to be a bust, I could escape quickly.

I arrived a little early, got a booth and waited for Henry to arrive. Lorraine had told me he'd be wearing a yellow shirt in case I couldn't recognize him from his online photo. Online photos weren’t always current, she said. No kidding! My own online photo was at least ten years old. I’d been tempted to post a photo from my university days.

I scanned the crowd. Nothing but white, blue and brown shirts on the men. Then behind a large woman in black paying the cashier at the front emerged a yellow shirt, but it belonged to Hank Robinson from the hardware store down the street. I kept on the lookout when Hank came over to my table.

"I thought it was you."

"Hi Hank. I guess you're wondering about that furnace filter I got last week. Yes, it was the right size. Thanks for your help. I wrote the number down and have it in my purse now, so I won't forget next time."

"Good to hear. Mind if I sit down?"

"I don't mean to be rude, but I'm waiting for someone."

"I know you are. I got a call..."

"Oh no. Hank are you here to tell me he cancelled?"

"Who?"

"Never mind." I was flustered; this casing the joint was getting to me. Why would Hank know anything anyway? He worked at Robinson's Hardware down the street, not here. "Could you shove over a bit? I can't see the door. I'm looking for a fellow in a yellow dress shirt."

"I'm wearing a yellow shirt."

"I see that, Hank." Was this man a simpleton or was he just fishing for compliments? I'd take the bite, and then maybe he'd finally get the hint and vamoose. "Nice golf shirt, but if you could just take that behind of yours and move to the right, so I can see everyone who comes in."

"You're looking lovely today, Maggie. That blue really brings out your eyes."

"Well, it's supposed to bring out my hair."

Hank sat down.

"What the hell, Hank! I told you I was waiting for someone. I don't want you sitting here when he arrives, okay?" I spoke firmly, trying to end the conversation. What was wrong with this fellow? Is there a sale on hardware he thinks I should know about?

"He has arrived."

"Damn it. Where? Were you blocking him, Hank?"

"No. It's me. I'm Henry from Going Fishing."

I raised my eyebrows. "Was that a current picture you posted?"

"It was an older one. The only one of me I could find."

"Well, I'll be. Hank, why did you let me go on like that? Why didn't you tell me?"

"I was trying. But, Maggie, you don't make it easy."

Kathy McHarge describes herself as a linguaphile. Before becoming a high school English teacher, she earned degrees in literature and journalism. For twenty-five years, she has been trying to motivate adolescents to read and write. It is only recently that she turned her hand to composing her own short stories and essays after becoming a student again and taking a course in creative writing with Brian. 

When she is not marking for school, reading for pleasure and being a mother to her three amazing children who are almost-grown, Kathy is walking her wily adopted dog. They all live in Hamilton, Ontario.


See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Bolton, Caledon, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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