Man with a Rose
by Maureen Rogers

All year you’ve avoided that piece of equipment on your desk. To think you believed the microwave would be your last trip into modernization. Three grown children scrimped and saved for this 75th birthday gift. You can’t stoop to lies when they ask about it at Thanksgiving - you’re going to have to turn it on.

You push the button and wait for the glow. Lindsay’s already programmed everything. “It’s no big deal, Grandma, click this gliding gizmo. The arrow moves around the screen, see?”

My God! A smiling, handholding couple appears like they’ve just stepped from a geriatric vitamin commercial. A silly little tune starts up and words float by -

This wouldn’t have happened it you’d kept your mouth shut. If you hadn’t wept and told them how you missed Bill when you got sick and they gathered around your bed at Lakeview General. They were more scared than you that you might die. But it wasn’t your time. That was your first sign.

The tinny, music-box tune keeps running and these hand holders stare out at you. Your mind drifts back to 1942. You’re at the glass door entrance to the Hudson’s Bay, looking up Granville Street for a glimpse of your blind date. “His name is Bill. He’ll be waiting under the Burke Jewelers clock,” your sister said. “You’ll know him by the red rose in his lapel.”

Something red catches your eye on the screen and draws you in for a closer look. You’re stunned. The man has a rose in his lapel!  So there you go again, with the signs. Some days they seem to follow you everywhere. They’ll be calling it senility soon enough and shipping you off to a nursing home if you’re not careful.

But you’re stuck on this image of the man with a rose. Your curiosity pushes you to “enter” and the couple dissolves into colored boxes with words and sentences.

Memories of Bill slip through again. In raincoat and fedora, he waits under the clock. From a block away you can’t tell if he’s dateable. So you join the sidewalk crowd and ride the wave past him. There’s a lot to see from the corner of your eye. Not too handsome. Boyish. Eager. A sign perhaps? Something special.

Forty-eight years of special.

The screen flashes black and startles you. But you remember Lindsay’s words. “It’s just sleeping, Grandma. Touch the gizmo and it comes right back. It’s 21st century magic!”

The music changes to something old and schmaltzy. The screen’s laid out in rows of little boxes. You’ll give it a try - they’ll want to know.  Pretend it’s lunch and place your order from the menu - male, over seventy, average height and weight, green eyes.

Tom, Dick and Harry line up and smile. One wants to sail you to Hawaii. Another sells insurance and raises llamas. A third has traveled the world and wants to settle down.

There’s no signs here. You’ll have to tell them the truth.

You’re a doddering old fool who’d rather circle the block and come back every day to the man with the rose in his lapel.

Twenty-first century magic has its limits.

Maureen says:  I've been writing for about 5 years, mostly poetry and short stories. I have been published on-line at Writecraft and have won several contests including Byline Magazine, Rhapsody (a defunct webzine) and two years in a row I've won first and second place for my poetry and non-fiction at the Writer’s On the Sound Conference in Edmonds, Washington. Contact Maureen.

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