By F.J. Wilson
Every afternoon at four o’clock, Harmon left his job and walked the two miles down the country road to Jewel’s house. There he would take off his hat, greet her mama and daddy, accept the cold bottle of coca cola Jewel handed him, sit on the porch swing and pass the afternoon away in a well rehearsed courtship.
“We sure need rain.” Mr. Flurry said and rocked in the old porch rocker.
“Yep.” Harmon answered nodding his head and pushed with the heel of his shoe to move the swing.
“I put up fourteen jars of squash and ten jars of corn today.” Mrs. Flurry said.
“Good, good. Yours are the best in this county I reckon; mighty fine for a winter’s supper.” Harmon complimented and took another sip of his coca cola.
“I was thinking about giving myself a perm.” Jewel said and looked to see his reaction.
Harmon nodded his head and looked out over the freshly mown yard across the street.
“I see the Vanders have a new gate.” He announced to the three on the porch.
“Yep. Bout time.” Mr. Flurry answered.
At five o’clock on the dot, Harmon would thank the Flurry’s for the coca cola, pat Jewel on the shoulder and walk back down the old country road.
At five-thirty, Jewel would put supper on the table and the three Flurry’s would sit to eat. At six-thirty Jewel would sit on the porch with a love story from her “True Romance” magazine and dream of Harmon asking for her hand in marriage after saving her from marauding Turks or villainous cowboys. At eight o’clock, she’d get into her nightgown and join her daddy in the sitting room to watch TV until the Star Spangled Banner awakened them at the end of the viewing day. Rolling her hair in sponge rollers she’d think of Harmon and wonder what he was doing at the very same moment. Sleep came easy in those days and morning came soon.
Harmon would reach his house, feed the dogs and make himself a little supper. He’d read the newspaper, watch a little TV and go to bed. Life was easy and promising. He had been looking through the Sear’s catalogue for new furniture, but he thought it only fair that Jewel have a hand in choosing it. He planned to propose on her birthday.
Harmon decided to marry Jewel when he was twelve years old. He walked her home from school the four years of high school carrying her books and kissed her once after a school dance. Later he wrote her detailed accounts of the weather and his studies from the Jr. College he attended out of state, and he gave her his college ring to wear on graduation day at which time he kissed her again. The last four years he had made the same walk every day except Sundays. On Sundays he would come for dinner after church and leave before nap time around two o’clock.
On a bright sunny Thursday Harmon made the usual walk down the old country road, opened the white picket gate, walked up the brick walk to the Flurry’s porch and greeted Mr. and Mrs. Flurry. Jewel opened the old fridge and panicked to realize they were out of coca cola’s. This had never happened and it was mighty embarrassing for her and her family. She quickly poured a glass of sweet iced tea and walked to the porch. She handed Harmon the iced tea and sat on her usual side of the swing. Harmon took the tea and said nothing. He wasn’t fond of iced tea and he was quite sure Jewel knew this. He drank a few sips of the strange beverage, kept an eye on his watch and at four thirty he said his good-byes and left.
Now change comes to every life and sometimes it’s easy and natural and sometimes it is devastating. To country folk change is only acceptable and natural when it has to do with weather or crops. Daily habits are set in stone and when changed can cause a major upset. Jewel handing him the iced tea was so foreign to Harmon he had to think on it. What did it mean? What was she trying to say to him? She had been a little distant lately, was this her way of getting rid of him? He was in a quandary and he didn’t like it one bit.
Jewel wondered why Harmon left so soon. Was it something she said? She went back over the visit and relived every word, every gesture and could find no reason for his early departure. It couldn’t be the iced tea that was an embarrassment on her part and shouldn’t affect him in any way. His leaving early threw the whole house off as there was thirty minutes with nothing to do. The Flurry’s spent it on the porch rocking, drinking iced tea and swinging the old swing.
“We out of coca colas?” Mr. Flurry asked.
“Yes, I’ll pick some up tomorrow.” Jewel said.
At five o’clock Jewel went in to fix supper and almost burned the biscuits worrying why Harmon left so soon.
Harmon didn’t go back to the porch Friday, nor Saturday and after church on Sunday went to the little diner down the road for Sunday dinner and wondered why Jewel had turned his life so upside down. His brother told him to ask her what was going on, but that would never happen. Harmon had friends who were dumped by girlfriends and went crawling back begging. That just wasn’t in Harmon’s nature. If she didn’t want him around anymore, then by damn, he would find himself another girl friend, but not yet. He needed time to clear his head and mend his heart.
Jewel was beside herself. Had Harmon found another girl? Was he going on with his life without her? She was four years older than most girls when they got married, years wasted she’d never get back. How could he do this to her? She thought she should ask him, but her mama almost fainted and her daddy was appalled that she would even consider running after a boy who was clearly running away. So life went on in the country. Crops were planted, nurtured and harvested. Babies were born, weddings were held, and each afternoon, Jewel sat on the porch drinking a cold bottle of coca cola watching down the road for a gentleman caller who never came.
Harmon found a young woman and got married. Jewel found a few men who would come calling, but none were Harmon and when his wife got pregnant she finally put him in a little box in her heart and began to look for another man to love. She would see Harmon in town once in a while and they would smile and greet each other warmly. Over the years, she got over him and learned to be happy.
Harmon was miserable. His wife never stopped talking and demanded attention from him he never knew how to give, but as he told his brother, he’d made his bed and that was that.
On a bright summer morning, Harmon walked into the grocery store and ran into Jewel buying a carton of coca colas. He tipped his hat and stood behind her at the cashier’s. To appease the awkward quiet, she said.
“Just buying some coca colas, wouldn’t want to run out like I did the last time you visited.”
“Oh shit.” Harmon moaned under his breath.