The morning after the dance, I didn’t know what to expect. Had the ice finally broken now that he'd asked me to dance? Would he flirt openly? Would he say outright that he liked me? Would he go back to his polite distance? I couldn't meet his eye at the breakfast table for fear of blushing and revealing too much of my heart to him, but I needn't have worried because he'd buried himself in the newspaper.
"It's gonna be another cold one," he uttered.
"Yeah, no kidding," I thought darkly, feeling utterly ignored, but thankfully I managed to mutter an, "Oh really? Well, what do farmers do when it's cold?"
"How do you know what to cut?"
"Well, first..." he started, looking delighted to have a willing ear, "Well, you kind of..." he paused after some wide hand gestures, "Well, you want to make sure you..." a pregnant pause -- "Well, it's kind of easier to show than to explain."
"Can I come?" I offered.
"You really want to? It's pretty cold out there."
"Of course!" I said, jumping at the chance to get private lessons in any subject.
He grabbed two sets of gloves, goggles, headphones, and his keys and out to the orchard we drove.
There are long rows of trees in this cherry orchard, and the ones we were going to prune were right in the middle through a jungle of underbrush, low branches and already-pruned limbs. I couldn't possibly show him how out of shape I was, but the blasted cold are showed every breath as a puff of smoke so I starved for oxygen and stifled my gasps as we treked through the forest. At last we arrived and I panted into my coat, feigning a cough. He'd been carrying the gear and a 10 lb. pole saw but barely showed any signs of breathing.
"Alright, so now you can see... you want sun to reach the inside, not too many high limbs, not too many leader branches..." he explained and I nodded, as though it were basic arithematic.
"Here, why don't you just watch me do a few?"
He sliced into the limbs as though they were butter. He swiftly and deftly carved the tree into a work of art. Then another, and another. I couldn't discern any rhyme nor reason to the limbs he'd slated for removal, but it seemed second nature to him.
"Here, you try."
First I donned his headphones, which promptly fell of my head. Then I put on his men's extra large gloves, which fit like oven mitts. I saved the ugly goggles for last, knowing full well I'd look like a fly with those giant things on. Thus attired, I was handed the 8' long pole saw.
If you've never seen one, it is what it sounds like, a chainsaw on a long pole -- the most unbalanced, unwieldy and dangerous implement ever invented. I nearly fell over from its weight.
My task: to weave through a maze of hot electrical wires above my head with a sword on the end of a 20' jousting stick to butter a Ritz cracker, while wearing oven mitts and an astronaut helmet. Or at least that's what it felt like.
This was my chance to impress him, though, so I revved up the chainsaw and started hacking away. The first few cuts were pure magic -- I'd selected all of the right branches to prune and had weaved through the limbs (next year's profits) to adeptly hew them off. Then I got a cramp in my right elbow. OOOOOUCH! I was frozen in place with the heavy clunky power tool over my head and got the chain stuck in a limb. The cramp passed and I unwedged the chain.
Furiously upset with myself, I took off those awful oversized
My arms were aching under the weight of the saw, my ears were ringing from its loud buzz, and my face was burning with hot shame. This was NOT going as planned.
I funneled my frustration into calculated precision and bungled my way through a few more limbs before declaring the job, "DONE."
When I stepped back to survey the
"I'm so sorry. It looks awful!"
"Ah, don't worry, it'll grow back next year."
His patience, good naturedness, strength and gentleness almost overwhelmed me. All I could think was, "Oh my gosh, you're PERFECT. Will you marry me!?"
Thankfully, all I meekly uttered was, "Will you do the next one?"
After watching him muscle through several more trees, we went back to the house for lunch.
Mention was made of a sledding trip for the next day with Miriam, her sister Katherine, and two of their nieces. A day away from Mr. Amazing would be just the thing; a little breather from the romantic tension (or lack thereof).
The next morning, I'd already packed when Miriam lowered the bombshell: "Oh, I'm not going, I don't feel well. My brother is going to drive you all instead. It'll be fun!"
I wanted to strangle and kiss her at the same time. I felt like the whole family had conspired to set us up. But oh, how good of them to do so!
"Ready?" he said, keys and a sack lunch in hand.
To be continued...