Mel Williamson’s Holiday Surprise

The idea had come to Williamson so clearly, so well formed, and with such perfect attention to launch detail that it could not possibly fail.

He was in love. Love struck. Smitten. Knee deep in love. Floating on a river of love.

He had first seen Cindy at Sylvia Johnson’s pre-December pre-Christmas party. Sylvia had invited all of her friends at the library and all of her husband’s down at the town Water Department, Office of Cross Connections and Backflows, to her annual holiday gathering.

Williamson was one of the latter and Cindy was one of the former.

When he saw her standing by the fireplace rearranging the glitter pinecones and Hummel Santa candy dishes on the mantelpiece, his heart warmed, his throat tightened, and his fingers twitched. There were no words that could describe the feeling. But then he was not a man of many words. He was a man of action. A planner.

Give him a job and he would draw artful computer-assisted diagrams of the project from start to finish, time-on-task charts, percentage effort estimates, full-time equivalents, and cost-benefit analyses which he would email and then Xerox, collate, staple in the upper left hand corner, and hand out to all at staff meetings.

He did not speak with her that evening. Nor did he see or call her for over a week, though he did look up her number and carried it in his wallet along with his good luck two-dollar bill and a picture of his parents holding him on the day they brought him home from the hospital twenty-seven years ago.

He was well-immersed in the logistical planning phase, launch still weeks away, when he saw a sign. Literally. The one for the used book sale at the library.

And there she was, organizing the books in the mystery section. Books on that table always needed the most attention. People, well-meaning people, mostly, could not seem to resist picking up say a Patricia Cornwell and putting it down among the Baldacci’s. And then she would be compelled to return them to their strict alphabetical position on the table.

She was, at the time Williamson saw her, working on restoring order among the Clarks: Clark, Carol Higgins, before Clark, Mary Higgins, before Clark, Douglass. The task was never-ending it seemed. The stress was palpable. Her co-worker, a lovely woman named Frances Fleeson, told her she ought to go sit down for a few minutes with a drink of water.

It was then that Williamson set the plan in motion. He approached her from behind as she leaned over to fill a cup of water from the bubbler in the hall.

“Hey!” he said, poking her in the ribs. “Nice books!”

She flinched and spilled the cup of water on the floor and over her brown ballet flats right there in the hall.

“Oh, Jeez,” he said, “Let me get that.” She begged him not to. He insisted and he hauled out the mop and pail on rollers from the closet and swabbed up the mess, placing two orange cones down to clearly demarcate the area of the spill.

“Please,” she told him. “This is not at all necessary.” “Oh, yes,” he said.

She stepped back and let him finish, nodding and smiling thin embarrassed lips at the book buyers with laden totes as they squeezed by her.

“Hi,” he said, his head down, while hard at work, “We met at the Johnson’s.”

“Oh,” she said quietly, I don’t…” “Williamson,” he said. “You were standing by the fireplace and I waved to you from over by the drinks table.”

“Oh,” she said.

“You like the Pats?”

“The Pats?”

“Patriots? Tom Brady? Football?”

“Oh, yes, the Pats. Well, I don’t really follow…”

“No problem. You got to go to a game. I got season tickets. I’ll take you. You’ll love it.”

He invited her to the last home game of the season, and being the pleasant considerate young woman she was, and since he was a friend of the Johnson’s, she agreed.

Williamson’s plan for the big day was this: He’d pick her up at her mother’s house. They’d drive to the stadium early so they could tailgate with his friends and get to their seats with plenty of time to watch the pre-game festivities. And then, during one of those breaks in the action when the TV cameras scan the crowd, he would have the PA announcer say, “May I have your attention please” and the drone camera would zoom in on him and Cindy at their seats and their images, in living color would be projected on the giant screen, all eyes on them, he would turn to Cindy and take the little red box out of his Pats jacket, get down on one knee among the peanut shells and hot dog wrappers and pop the question.

There was no way a plan as perfect as this could fail.

2 thoughts on “Mel Williamson’s Holiday Surprise”

  1. Oh, Williamson, I mean, jeez, what could possibly go wrong….

    Again, Joe, here is your humor and remarkable ability to create believable, knowable characters .


  2. As any chess player knows — its not how many moves you can see ahead its how many you can see ahead accurately — looks like Mel would be a lousy chess player.


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