Never Judge a Book – Part Five
It was evening.
I’d heated up the leftover stew for supper. Dave had found a bottle of Pennsylvania wine and had opened it. He’d also gotten the generator going so we had some lights but we’d decided to heat using the fireplace. We couldn’t find more gas for the generator and didn’t know when the main electric would be back on. While he puttered outside, I’d written a first-person blizzard story. I figured what we’d gone through might be interesting to the people in the eastern, warmer, drier part of the state. I would email it to the paper when I had internet again. If my editor took it, fine. If he didn’t, at least I’d sent a story.
We were using a portable radio to get the news and any weather reports. Power was out over much of this part of the state. The pile-up on Route 80 had been partially cleared leaving most of the cars stranded on the side of the road. News reports said crews from utility companies all over the east were converging on western Pennsylvania to help repair downed lines, electric and telephone. The blizzard was now battering the lower eastern Canadian providences but Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney was to be sunny with a high in the upper 20s.
We sat in the large chairs next to the fireplace, the light from the fire dancing around the room, and sipped the sweet, red wine while we listened to the reports.
Em had called my cell phone from the hospital. Charlie was in ICU and doing well considering he’d had a cardiac catheterization and a stent put into a coronary artery. At least that’s what Dave had told me. Dave, who seemed to understand everything.
I held up my wine glass to the firelight. “Just how do you know so much about all things medical?”
He was staring into the fire and shrugged. “You know how that writer you like so much did ‘research’ as a construction worker? Well, maybe I did the same thing.”
I shook my head. Maybe the wine was getting to me. “Construction work?”
“No. Research as something I really wasn’t. Maybe I did something like that. You know, research.”
“Research for what?” I asked taking another sip of the wine. I usually liked my wine a bit drier but this one was growing on me. Maybe Dave was growing on me because I really wanted to know.
“Did that writer only do the construction job as research?” he asked.
This conversation wasn’t making any sense. “No, he did different jobs for each one of his–” I suddenly sat up straight, put the wine glass down on the table and looked over at Dave. “Damon Franklin spent several months with an EMT unit in this area. That was for his first book.”
I stared at the beard, the long curling hair, the bulkiness under the flannel shirt.
Could it be that I was staring at–?
But maybe, just maybe, Damon Franklin was doing research as a–a truck driver?
Maybe that was the reason for my strange attraction to this man. He really wasn’t Dave; he was Damon.
No more wine. I stood up and grabbed one of the sleeping bags Em had piled up near the fireplace.
“What’s wrong?” Dave asked as I shook out the bag.
“Nothing. Do you want to sleep on the sofa?” I asked.
“You’re acting like there’s something wrong…”
Couldn’t he just leave it alone? He was Dave the Truck Driver. Not Damon Franklin the Author. No matter how much wine I drank.
Okay, I thought, since he asked. “It’s just that I’ve come all this way for nothing. No story about the pile-up on 80. No interview with Damon Franklin. I feel like a failure.”
Dave shook his head. “It was the weather—beyond your control.”
I slumped down on a chair. “Thanks but this was to be my first assignment on the road. I can’t even get to the damn groundhog tomorrow.”
And then my cell phone bleeped at me. “Mandy?” It was Em.
“Is Charlie okay?” I asked, surprised to hear from her again.
“Yes, dear, he’s doing fine. I wanted to warn you and Dave that our son will be coming in tonight. He’s driving up from Baltimore since the roads have been cleared. I didn’t want you to think he was an intruder.”
“That’s great, Em. I’m glad he’ll be here for you two.”
“With him there, you and Dave can get back to your lives. Have you been able to get your car out?”
“Not yet. I’ll work on that tomorrow. Tell Charlie we’re thinking about him.”
I said good-bye and then told Dave that we would soon be relieved of motel baby-sitting duties.
He rubbed his beard. “That gives me an idea,” he said.
The next morning found me sitting with Dave in the cab of his semi, drinking coffee and eating chocolate-covered donuts. “What else would you have for Groundhog Day?” Dave had said.
We were in a parking lot off Rt. 36 in Punxsutawney, as the crowd of Phil watchers walked away from Gobbler’s Knob. The sun had been out and Phil had seen his shadow, telling the president of the groundhog watchers (and a thousand others—the crowd was smaller than other years because of the blizzard), that spring would be late.
Dave watched while I typed the story and attached a picture of Phil, the famous rodent. I was using the donut shops’ internet, so I hit send and it was off to my managing editor. I even had quotes from a couple of long-time residents and Phil-believers.
“Done and done well,” I said. Then I looked over at Dave. “This was a great idea. Thanks again.”
He touched my hand. “No problem.” His hand stayed on mine for a couple of beats—heartbeats—until I pulled away to grab another donut.
“But I do want something in return,” he said not looking at me.
“With you? Like a date?” I was embarrassed by how I sounded. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to sound like that.”
Dave was quiet for a moment. “I know I’m not your type, Amanda.”
“Dave,” I began but he waved me to be quiet.
“I’m a truck driver. I’ve had a bit of education—enough to appreciate Shakespeare,” he smiled. “But I know what I like. I know when someone special comes into my life. And you’re special. I’d like to get to know you better.”
My heart stopped. At least that’s the way it felt. This handsome man with the great smile was asking me out. Damon Franklin and the interview were forgotten—long forgotten.
“Okay. It’s a date,” I said. “I’d like to get to know you better, too.”
Dave grinned as he put the semi in gear. “Now to get back to the motel and get that car of yours out of the snow bank. Or you’ll be stuck here longer.”
“I don’t think that would be such a bad thing,” I said.
And I believed it.