My girlfriend and I wake up in each other’s arms shivering. Once I am fully awake and realize we are at my parents’ house in the country, I step out of bed, retrieve my rechargeable flashlight and walk to the thermostat.
I switch my flashlight on, to which the bulb burns out instantly.
So I activate the light switch for the hall light and read the thermostat.
Quickly I realize the furnace isn’t working.
“Come back to bed and keep me warm,” My girlfriend tells me.
“I’m coming right now,” I reply.
We hold each other until the hunger pangs get the better of us.
Slowly we walk to the kitchen.
My mom is putting pancakes and bacon on the table.
We eat in an awkward and tense silence.
I decide to break the silence and say, “I think the furnace is broken.”
“No, it just needs more oil. Why don’t you make yourself useful and go to the hardware store and pick some up?”
I look at my watch, which indicates 7:56 AM, and ask her, “Does it still open at eight in the morning?”
“Then we’re going right now. I have to get a new bulb for my flashlight anyway.”
“Charge the oil to your dad’s account,” My mom says in a cut and dry tone.
My girlfriend and I get our coats, then we walk to my old Toyota.
I unlock the doors, then open the passenger door for her. Afterwards, I get in on the driver’s side and start my engine.
We drive into town and arrive at the hardware store just as it is opening.
There is a long line, so I browse around.
My girlfriend’s phone rings, so she walks into a corner and takes the call. I hear her talking to her dad.
I continue to browse around and my girlfriend get’s off the phone and walks around the store with me.
Finally, a clerk serves us. He was a classmate of mine in high school.
“Long time no see. What can I get for you?”
“As many First Alert Ready-Lite bulbs as possible and some heating oil.”
“First Alert Ready-Lite, that’s something you don’t hear of anymore.”
“Well, it came with the house I bought in the city.”
“Wasn’t there a terrorist attack there last night?”
“There sure was. We were ordered to evacuate and here we are.”
“That’s a drag. I enjoyed living in the city when I played football at the university on scholarship, but then I was injured and my career was over. Now I work for my dad’s hardware company and try to be the best salesman I can be.”
“It’s a shame how something that happens in an instant can alter a person’s life.”
“Well, I guess it’s for the best. At least you can return to the city when the evacuation is lifted.”
“Yes but to a God-awful job.”
“Where do you work?”
“The Downtown Grocer.”
“Oh yes, I’ve seen their commercials on TV.”
“Don’t let the commercials fool you, they are dirty people. I hate working for them. I’d really like to be a writer.”
“You always did. Some of my teammates knew how their girlfriends were impressed by your writings and were very jealous, so they began to spread false rumors about you.”
“Yes, I am well aware of that. Can we not re-live it? You should have the oil, which I’ll be charging to my dad’s account. Do you have the bulbs or not? If you do, I’ll be paying cash.”
The clerk checks the computer, then says, “I have five packs of bulbs left in stock.”
“I’ll take all five.”
“Could I interest you in a Mini Maglite LED flashlight instead? It runs for five hours on 2 AAA batteries and gives off 111 lumens. Your Ready Lite’s battery only lasts about an hour and there might not be any electricity available at your house to charge it up again.”
“Man it sure sounds tempting, but I don’t have enough cash for both the First Alert bulbs and the Mini Maglite.”
“Charge it to your parents’ account.”
“They’d be livid if I did.”
My girlfriend then says, “I’ll pay for that flashlight with my grocery money.”
“Baby, you don’t have to do that.”
She puts her finger to my lips and says, “But I want to, because I can tell you’d really it. You can pay me back for it the same way you plan to pay me back for the gas money-all night long! Don’t think I haven’t been keeping track!”
I blush, then she kisses me, lovingly.
“All right baby, you know my payment is good,” I tell her.
Several people in the store whisper to each other, then point and stare at us.
I look at the clerk and say, “Charge the oil to my parents’ account. I’ll pay cash for the bulbs and…”
“I’ll pay for that flashlight with my debit card,” My girlfriend interjects.
“Thank you, baby!” I tell her then wrap my arms around her waist and kiss her head.
The people in the store begin to whisper again.
After our items are paid for, we leave the store.
I open the passenger door for her and she kisses me as she steps in.
Then I get in the driver side and I am about to start my car when my phone rings.
It’s my parent’s house phone number, so I take the call.
“Hello,” I answer.
My mom is on the other end and she angrily asks me, “You want to tell me why you and your girlfriend were acting lewd in the hardware store?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t play dumb. Several people called me and said how she bought you a flashlight and she expects you to pay her back all night long. They all know what that means and it’s disgusting and embarrassing.”
“Who called exactly?”
“That is none of your business because if I tell you, you will mouth off to them and embarrass me more.”
“No, people need to mind their own business, that’s one of the reasons why I got out of the godforsaken country and moved to the city.”
“And I curse the day you moved there too because it ruined your life.”
“But it was a blessing to me!”
“Then why was there a terrorist attack in your city?”
“Because it was a strategic target.”
“No, it was God punishing all of you city dwellers for your wicked ways.”
“Whatever you say.”
“Lose that attitude son and come home with the oil, it’s freezing in this house.”
“All right I am coming.”
We hang up.
I start my car then put it in gear as my girlfriend asks me, “What’s the matter?”
Soberly, I begin to explain, “Now I am not mad at you at all. However, when you are in a small town you need to watch what you say and do in public because everyone is always watching and they are all busybodies.”
“What do you mean?”
“Several people overheard us talking about the flashlight you bought me and how I plan to pay it back. They called my mom and now she is even more angry with us.”
“Oh, my God, what have I done?”
“Don’t beat yourself up, baby. It’s not your fault, you’ve probably never been to a small town, so you just didn’t know that the people would be watching much less how they’d react.”
“I feel terrible, but I’m glad you’re not mad at me.”
“I’m not mad at all. In fact, your awesome combination of kindness and naughtiness turns me on so much that I plan to pay you back all night long and with interest compounded nightly included and tips.”
“I love you so much!”
“And I love you just as much! Now, what did your dad call you for?”
“He was just making sure we were all right because of the terrorist attack and that he’s glad I was with you instead of my mom.”
“That’s a relief. I know you’re eighteen now, but I still want to stay on his good side.”
“Just love me like you do now and I think he’ll have no problems with you.”
With that, we pull up in my parents’ driveway and are confronted by my momma.