A Romance for Ground Hog Day

Just how many romantic stories have you read that center around Ground Hog Day? Just one movie, really.

PHil Ground Hog
NBC News

Here, in its entirety, is my Ground Hog Day romance:

Never Judge a Book

“White shit.”

My father’s voice came back to me as I tried to maneuver through the blizzard. He hated snow and having grown up in northeastern Pennsylvania, I did, too. Of course the exception to that rule had been snow days off from school.

But now I was a grown-up reporter for her hometown daily paper on her first out-of-town assignment. There were no such things as “snow days” when you’re working for a living. That was also Pop’s philosophy. He’d trudge through two foot drifts to open his hardware store.

I peered through the falling snow that was out pacing my windshield wipers. I was going about fifteen miles an hour and could tell I had a semi on my butt (another Pop-ism). I saw the green exit sign ahead of me and decided to get off Route 80 and try to find a motel for the night. By morning the snow plows would have done something to this mess.

It was a mess, one that hadn’t been predicted for western Pennsylvania. Actually the storm had dumped more than a foot on the Midwest and was supposed to have been heading for the Great Lakes region. Believing that forecast I’d headed out in my rental car for Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Yep, it was January 31 and my assignment was to interview the most famous ground hog in the country: Punxsutawney Phil.

Since I was the low man on the newspaper totem pole, I was given the story. No one else wanted to drive across the state for a two column story on the front page that would mostly be pictures and probably no byline. But I couldn’t turn it down. For some reason this year they decided not to use wire stories but to send one of their own. I wanted to show the managing editor what I could do. And I had an ulterior motive. I was hoping to grab an interview with Damon Franklin…The Damon Franklin, the latest in the short list of bestselling authors under thirty.

I could make my name with just one interview, if it was an interview of the reclusive writer of five three-million-copies-sold books. Franklin actually lived in the town of Punxsutawney.  If I could pull off the interview coup of the year…heck, maybe even the decade…

With thoughts of interviewing a famous author playing through my head I tried to make the exit.  Suddenly the road felt like it wasn’t there, probably because it wasn’t. I was skidding on the shoulder and within moments I was nose-first in a snow bank.

I turned the engine off and sat there, thinking, “This is a fine mess. I’m going to need a tow-truck.” While I was trying to dig out my cell phone and AAA card, hoping that I’d renewed the membership, I heard a tap on the driver’s side window. I looked up to see a bearded face with a deer-stalker hat on top of long curling hair.

“You okay?” I could hear the man saying through the glass.

I nodded, not wanting to open the door or roll down the window to a stranger. I glanced in my rearview mirror and realized that the semi was parked behind me. This must be the driver, I thought while I heard Pop’s voice saying, “Cross-country truck drivers have been thought to be serial killers, Mandy, so stay away from truck stops on this trip.”

I made the “okay” sign, smiled and nodded again, hoping the trucker would get the hint. But he still stood next to the car, then turned and pointed down the exit. I heard him say through the glass and the howling wind, “Motel down there…call tow…will help if you…”

That’s when I finally rolled the window down  a crack. “Thanks for the offer. I have Triple-A. I’ll make it down there…” I also pointed to the shadow of the motel in the distance. It was the kind you only see on two-lane roads…a large house with cabins in the back.

He nodded and went back to his rig. I got out of the car into the almost knee-deep snow and went to the back to pull out my laptop case and my overnight bag. By the time I’d managed to open the back door and drag out the bags, I was exhausted and I still had to trudge down the exit and out onto the road toward the motel. I silently blessed my heavy boots and the coat that made me look as if I weighed two hundred pounds. Comfort trumped fashion in a Pennsylvanian blizzard. I could see the light of the motel in a distance off the exit. It was going to be a freezing, exhausting hike, especially with overnight bag and computer case.

“Here let me take that,” a voice said as the truck driver came from behind me, taking hold of my small suitcase.

“Th—thanks,” I said, hoping that he wasn’t an axe-murderer. Pop would be very mad if I got killed after he’d warned me. “Are you stuck, too?” I asked through chattering teeth.

“Nope. I heard that there is a jack-knifed semi and a load of stuck cars up ahead about two miles. I ain’t going nowhere.”

I winced at the “ain’t”.

“Dave,” he said. For a minute I was confused. It had to be the numbing cold that was turning my feet and my legs to wooden stumps making my brain dull, too.

I finally got it and said, “Mandy.”

“It’s not a fancy motel but it’s clean. I’ve stayed at it a couple of times on a long haul. And there’s a small coffee shop inside the lobby so we won’t starve.”

I wasn’t in the mood for conversation but the information made me realize how hungry and tired I was. “Good,” I said. “I hope they have rooms.”

And I hope it’s not the Bates Motel, I thought.

 

I dropped my briefcase on the floor of the large lobby. Dave placed my overnight bag beside it. “I think it used to be a lodge of some kind,” he said as I stared at the huge fireplace. If it had been a lodge that was years ago. Even though the fire was inviting, I could tell that the rug was worn and the walls hadn’t been painted for many years. But it was warm and there was a roof and hopefully there was food.

An older woman behind a mahogany desk smiled up at us. “Honeymoon cabin?” she said.

I could feel my face get hot with embarrassment. “Uh…no,” I stammered.

“No, two rooms…er, cabins,” Dave said.

“We have two rooms in the lodge itself,” she said. “That might be more comfortable for you.”

Dave looked at me and I nodded. I was ready to lie down in front of the fireplace like a cat.

I realized that he had carried my overnight bag while also carrying what looked like saddlebags. “Thanks for carrying my bag,” I said. I nodded to the saddlebags. “Those look heavy.”

“Just some books I’m readin’,” he said while filling out the paper for checking in.

Ohhhh-kay. The trucker was a reader.

“And a change of jockeys,” he added as he turned around smiling. I felt myself blush again.

What the hell, I thought. Get it together, Amanda. He’s a truck driver. He may be a cute truck driver. But he’s still a truck driver. Girl, you need someone like…well, like Damon Franklin.

I went up to the counter and filled out the registration, handing the woman my credit card. She swiped it and gave it back to me. My stomach grumbled and I hoped I was the only one that heard it.

Obviously not because the desk clerk nodded to the small coffee shop next to the fireplace. “My husband’s over there. He can rustle you up something to eat while you unpack in your rooms.”

Wife at the desk and husband cooking. Nice change, I thought as I walked over to another mahogany counter. This must have been a bar and someone had turned it into a short-order kitchen.

The older man had a round, pleasant face and bright blue eyes. “I’ve got a big pot of stew simmering right now,” he said as we walked over. “When Em and I bought this place…what is it, Em…forty years ago now? When we bought this place, this was a down in the luck nightclub or what they call around here, a honky-tonk. We built the cabins in the back. That was the thing then. I decided food was more important than booze. And well…then the big restaurants moved in when the exit was built…Now we don’t get much call for eats.”

“Charlie, they don’t want to hear our life story. They’re cold and hungry.”

“Yeah, Emmie. I know. I know,” he said to his wife with a grin. Then he turned to us. “Just was listening to the weather. They’re finally predicting this here blizzard.” Then he laughed. “They say it could go on for at least one more day since it’s stalled over Lake Erie. Maybe getting close to three feet of it.”

“Great,” I moaned.

“Ah, don’t worry,” Charlie said still smiling. “We’ve survived lots of storms. We got wood for heat and cooking food. Heck, we can even put the refrigerator stuff out in the snow if the electric goes out. But we also have a gas generator. So we’ll survive.”

I tried to look on the bright side. I could be stuck in a cold car, running the engine to keep warm and possibly dying of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Suddenly my cell phone sounded. Noticing the name of my managing editor on the screen, I turned away from Dave and Charlie to answer it.

“Thank God!” His voice boomed over the phone when he heard my voice. “You’re okay.”

“Yes, I’m okay. The snow was getting too deep so I pulled off on an exit…”

He didn’t let me finish. He was already on to the reason for his call, a news story. “Forget the damn groundhog. There’s a major car pileup on Route 80. And the traffic back-up is at least twenty miles.  Is there any way you can get there? No one knows how many cars are involved in the crash or crashes.”

That must have been the pileup that had made Dave get off on my exit. “My car’s in a snow bank. It’s not moving anywhere until I get a tow truck…”

My editor swore. “And all the tows will be at the pileup when the plows clear the road.”

“The weather report’s not good. This may continue through tomorrow. It’s getting dark. There’s nothing I can do now. I’ll try to think of something in the morning and give you a call.”

He said that would be fine, to email a story if I could and to stay safe. I sighed, knowing the story came first.

I put my phone away and Em walked over. She gave a key to Dave and one to me.

“Thanks,” I said. “I think I’ll go upstairs and soak in a hot tub.”

“Me, too,” Dave said. “A different tub, ‘though,” he quickly added.

I could hear the old man’s stifled chuckle as I hoisted my computer bag strap over one shoulder and picked up my overnight bag. I headed to the wide stairway. I definitely needed a long, hot soak. And to do some research. I needed to know how far I was from Punxsutawney and Damon Franklin.

I hadn’t forgotten my real reason for the trek through the snow.

 

 

An hour later I was relaxed, dressed in clean clothes and sitting at one of the small tables in the coffee shop. Damon Franklin’s latest book, Killing Time, was propped up for reading while I spooned Charlie’s wonderful stew into my empty gullet. I’d made a call to Pop to tell him I was okay and got my usual list of Pop-isms. “Don’t you dare leave that place until the roads are clear and the paper better pay for everything” was the last one before he told me to stay safe.

No wonder I wanted to escape into Franklin’s book. I was so immersed in the story and the stew that I didn’t notice Dave standing by the table until I heard him say, “Murder mystery?”

I looked up and he nodded to the book as he sat down across from me. I wasn’t sure that I wanted his company but I said, “No, Damon Franklin’s new one.”

He got a who-the-hell-is-that look on his face.

This guy has saddlebags full of books and he doesn’t know Franklin?

“Damon Franklin’s become famous over the last five years—millions of books sold.”

“Really?” Dave said.

I nodded.

“What does he write?”

Well, that was a good question. Was it commercial fiction because he wrote best sellers or was it literary fiction? Was he making his own genre?

“I guess you could call it literary…”

Dave made a face. “Pretentious. He probably went to Harvard and writes about us ‘little people’.”

“Well, actually he did go to Harvard.” I wanted to get back to my supper. The stew was getting cold. But by then Charlie had brought a bowl for Dave along with a fresh basket of rolls.

I had a dinner companion I didn’t want. I’d wanted to finish Franklin’s book so I could write down some questions about it—just in case I ever met the man. Before I could say anything more to Dave who was digging into the strew like he hadn’t eaten for weeks, I heard the wind howl outside and hard specks of icy snow batter the large window next to the fireplace. Meeting Damon Franklin and getting that interview was looking less and less likely. It might be days before I could even get a tow truck.

I was missing the damn story on the damn groundhog.

I probably wouldn’t be able to get to the traffic back-up on 80. So I’d be missing that story.

And I would never, ever, ever meet Damon Franklin.

Disappointment must have shown on my face because Dave looked up from his bowl of stew and said, “What? Do you have a thing for Haaaa-vaaad guys?”

I smiled in spite of myself. He was cute, a bit burly-looking with that full beard, unruly curls and dark brown eyes. But he was a truck driver. Not my type.

I closed the book and Franklin’s picture stared up at me. A clean-shaven face, short dark hair, dressed in a shirt and sports coat, the opposite of the man in front of me.

“I just think he’s a great writer…”

“I like Louis L’Amour…”

I searched my brain. “Westerns.” I finally was able to get out.

“Yeah. He wrote a lot of books. And James Rollins and Clive Cussler.”

Dave was naming writers of action-thrillers. Okay, at least he was reading.

“And sometimes I even read a bit of Shakespeare…”

“Really?”

“Well, don’t look so surprised. Just ‘cause I drive a truck…”

“I’m sorry.” I think I must have blushed. I could feel the heat across my face. “You just don’t hear Clive Cussler and Shakespeare mentioned in the same conversation.”

Dave smiled. “I can understand that. Have you read Titus Andronicus?”

I had to admit I hadn’t.

“Probably Will’s first tragedy and his bloodiest,” he said.

“I don’t remember hearing much about it. I know we didn’t read it in school. Is it bloodier than Hamlet?”

Dave laughed. “Much. It’s so bloody that it was almost banned from being produced in the 1800s. Can you imagine…Shakespeare being banned?” He took a big spoonful of stew and waved it around. “And it has a bit of cannibalism in it…”

There was another howl of wind and I shivered.

Dave stopped twirling the spoon around long enough to look out the window.

“I doubt if we’re going anywhere for a couple of days. If our internet connection holds up, I’ll see if I can download the Anthony Hopkins movie. He played Titus and Jessica Lange was his nemesis.”

Did the truck driver just use the word “nemesis’?

“Sure. I may as well get some education if I’m stuck here.” I was proud of myself for not adding with a truck driver. For a brief moment I wondered if I was a snob.

Dave reached for my book and looked at the author’s picture on the back. “Wussy-looking dude,” he said plopping the book back down.

I straightened my posture a bit. I could feel my dander rising but I settled it back down and made my voice even. “Actually he worked on a construction crew for six months to do research…”

“Really? Research?” Dave looked surprised.

I picked up the book. “The main character is a construction foreman who loses his job during the economic downturn.” I started to warm to my subject matter. “He has to move in with his father who hasn’t told his son he has terminal cancer.”

“Sounds like a real upbeat story,” Dave said with a smirk.

Okay, my dander was back up. “Actually it is upbeat…”

Dave grinned. “Do you know you say ‘actually’ a lot?”

“Forget it,” I said. I had to realize I was talking to a truck driver. Okay, he was a truck driver who’d read Shakespeare and knew a lot about Titus Andronicus, but…

He must have seen the look on my face. “Mandy, I’m sorry. My sisters accuse me of teasing too much—not knowing when to stop. Forgive me?”

I nodded and picked up the book. “I want to finish this—just in case I get a chance to ever interview the author.”

“Where does the guy live?” Dave asked.

I stood up, Franklin’s book clutched to me like a talisman. “In Punxsutawney,” I said.

“Really? Is that why you took this God-awful trip in this God-awful weather?” He was staring at me.

“I really did have an assignment…”

“The groundhog?”

“The groundhog,” I answered as I turned to leave, trying to ignore Dave’s smirk.

But like Pop’s good girl I finally remembered my manners. “Have a good night,” I said to Dave and then repeated it to Charlie and Em.

I wanted to be alone in my room with Damon Franklin, not in the lobby with Dave the Truck Driver.

 

 

The next morning I awoke in a cold room. The electricity was out, probably because of down wires from down tree limbs. That meant no TV, no internet, no nothing unless Charlie got the generator going. I checked my phone sitting on the bedside table. Luckily it had been plugged in long enough to recharge. I quickly turned it off. It was going to be a day, or maybe two, of conserving energy. But at least I could call out if necessary and maybe check emails.

There was a soft tap at the door. “Coming,” I said as I pulled a blanket around my shoulders. I’d worn socks to bed but the cold still seeped up from the floor to my feet. I opened the door to Em standing in the hallway. “The electricity’s off for now. Charlie and I thought since you two are our only guests, it might be best if you just bunk downstairs in front of the fireplace today. We have sleeping bags you can use tonight.”

I looked at the frost on the inside of the bedroom window and decided it was a super idea.

“What about you and Charlie?” I asked.

“We have a little apartment with our own fireplace. It’s nice and cozy. Come down for breakfast when you get your stuff together. Charlie’s firing up the generator. If it works, we may have a bit of electricity. I’ve got muffins and coffee on the counter.”

Yes, there was coffee and muffins on the counter. The muffins were store-bought but I didn’t care. I hoped Charlie and Em were conserving food. It was still snowing and I wondered how long it would be until it covered the two story lodge. I looked out the large, iced up window next to the fireplace and saw that it would have been impossible to get in or out of the small cabins in the back. The snow had drifted more than half-way up the cabin doors.

I took a cup of coffee, a muffin and my notebook to one of the winged-back chairs next to the fireplace. I needed to jot down some notes about Killing Time.  I was still hoping for an interview with the elusive Damon Franklin. If not this trip, then maybe another time.

I settled into the comfy chair. The fire’s warmth was inviting and the smell of the burning logs comforting. This could be a pleasant adventure, I thought.

“Gooooood morning, Amanda!” The booming voice came from the top of the stairs. In a few moments Dave was downstairs pouring a cup of coffee and devouring a muffin. The pleasant adventure I’d imagined suddenly disappeared. “Good morning,” I muttered looking down at my notebook.

“So…no electricity until ole Charlie gets the generator going, huh?” he said through a mouth full of muffin. He was dressed in a thick flannel shirt, lined jeans with deep cuffs and heavy boots. He carried a denim jacket and the deer-stalker hat. He looked like a deranged lumberjack.

He stood by my chair looking down at the notebook on my lap. “Working?” he said through another mouthful of muffin.

“Trying to,” I said, not looking up.

“Okay, then. I think I’ll go see if I can help Charlie. He looks too old to be out in this mess.”

Well, I had to admit that was a good idea and a nice one.

“Be careful,” I said. Now just where had that come from?

“Yes, ma’am,” he said plopping the hat over his dark curls. I watched him walk outside. Actually (and I do say ‘actually’ a lot), I watched his butt in his tight jeans walk outside. I found myself smiling. Then I shook my head and went back to my notes. But not for long.

Suddenly I felt a rush of cold air. Dave was holding the front door open and yelling. “Mandy, come here, quick.”

I could tell by his face that something was very wrong.

“Do you have your phone?” he asked.

“Y…yes…”

“Call 911. See if they can get someone here somehow. Charlie’s arresting.”

Even without  a medical background I knew what that meant.

Em must have heard the commotion and came from the back of the lodge. “What’s wrong?” she asked her voice shaking.

I was already pressing my phone on, blessing the fact I’d conserved the charge. “Charlie. Possible heart attack,” I said. Before I could get it all out, Em was running to the front door.

“Damn fool man. I told him not to do anything. I told him to wait. I told him…”

I followed her, dialing 9-1-1 as I went. “It’s going to be alright, Em. Dave’s with him.” I think I was saying it as much for me as for her.

By the time someone from 911 came on the line I was outside by the generator shed. The snow seemed to be letting up. Charlie was on the ground on a shoveled-out area and Dave was kneeling over him, pressing on his chest. I explained the problem into the phone. The operator asked, “Is anyone doing CPR?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Good. Tell him to keep it up. I’ll try to get someone out there. I may have a snowplow available nearby. Stay on the line.”

“Yes,” I said to the emergency operator. And then to Dave, “She said to keep up the CPR.”

Dave’s hands were together in ball pounding rhythmically on Charlie’s chest. He just nodded.

I thought something was missing. “Don’t you have to…like…blow into his mouth?”

“No,” Dave said, getting a bit short of breath himself. “New guidelines…just chest percussion. And to the beat of the song, ‘Staying Alive’ by the BeeGees.”

I had to smile at that. Good idea. Everyone knew that song. Just pound someone’s chest to a good beat.

I looked up at Em, standing over the two men, her face pale and drawn. She was wringing her hands and her lips were moving. I hoped she was praying. I was silently praying for a snowplow with an emergency medical team. I moved over to her and put my arm around her shoulders. “He’s going to be okay,” I said. “Dave knows what he’s doing.” I really believed that, too.

She nodded. But I could feel her shaking. “We’ve been together for almost fifty years,” she said. “I can’t lose him. Fool man. I told him to use the snowblower.”

“Em, let me walk out the road to wave in the snowplow. Okay?”

She nodded and I trudged out to the edge of the shoveled sidewalk. Was that what had caused Charlie’s sudden attack…shoveling? Shoveling for guests that wouldn’t be coming?

From where I stood I could see down the exit and onto the highway. I might have been seeing things but it looked as if traffic was moving. Was the pile-up cleared out? Had the plows gotten through during the night? Was there a chance to get Charlie to the hospital?

I heard it before I saw it. From around a large pile of snow came the snowplow, blade down, clearing the exit, the road and then the motel driveway. Behind the plow was an EMT unit…its red lights flashing.

I felt as if I were watching a movie as the EMTs relieved Dave, started intravenous fluids and oxygen on Charlie and placed little pads on his chest.

Dave was now standing beside me. “They’re running an EKG that’s probably going right to the emergency room doctor,” he said to me and Em. There was a crackle of a radio, voices saying strange names…medications the EMT gave Charlie…orders from the unseen doctor.

It seemed like hours but it was only a few minutes until one of the EMTs said, “He’s stable and we can transport.” One of the men turned to Dave. “Good job,” he said. Dave just nodded.

In a few more minutes Charlie was on the stretcher and inside the unit. Em was hesitating to get in with him. “The motel…” she said. I ran inside and jotted my cell phone number down for Em. Then I told her to let us know how Charlie was doing.

“Don’t worry about the motel,” Dave said. “Mandy and I can handle it. Can’t we, Man? You go with Charlie.”

I nodded wondering what I’d gotten myself into. But how much would I have to do? It was just me and Dave.

And as I watched the emergency unit drive away with Charlie and Em, I realized it was just me and Dave.

 

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….?

Nah.

But maybe, just maybe, Damon Franklin was doing research as 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.

“Yeee-yes?”

“Dinner?”

“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.

 

 

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