The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Reluctant Valentine

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1984-2012

Issue: February, 1984

Caleb was just coming out of the drug store on main street when who should he run into but his old friend, Henry. “Oh no,” Caleb thought, “He’s seen me for sure. I knowed I should of got an earlier start.”

“Going somewhere?” Henry said. Caleb jumped like someone had shot him and started stammering, “Me? No, nowhere in particular, just thought I’d get out of the house a while.”

Henry sniffed, “You sure do smell good for a man whose just going for a ride.” Henry walked a small circle around Caleb and replied, “You’re awful spruced up too. Sure you’re not going any place in particular?”

“Now what would make you say that?”

“What you got in that sack there?” said Henry, pointing to a big white bag Caleb was holding. Caleb pulled the sack from behind his back and Henry reached out towards it. “Taint none of your business Henry. None of your business at all!”

Henry wasn’t going to let this slide. This was the best opportunity to rib Caleb he had in years. “Let’s see now,” said Henry. He poised a finger to his forehead, a rural version of Sherlock Holmes. “You’re all spiffed up, smell good, and carrying a bag; pretty good size bag at that.” Henry wrinkled his brow in deep thought for a moment, while thumping his forehead with his finger. They both knew that he was playing cat and mouse and prolonging Caleb’s agony. Finally he spoke, “Seeing’s how today is February 14th that wouldn’t happen to be candy in that bag, would it? You wouldn’t happen to be on your way courting somebody, now would you?”

Caleb turned red as any teenager on his first date. He never could take teasing and Henry delighted in it. Henry was laughing loudly and slapping his knee.

Caleb had been seeing the widow Johnson but he had been trying to keep it a secret for this very reason. He knew if Henry caught wind of it he would never hear the end of it. Knowing Henry had figured him out; Caleb wasn’t going to stick around for even more teasing. He wanted to leave now before Henry tried to figure out just who Caleb was seeing. Caleb pulled himself up to his full height and with as much dignity as he could still muster, walked straight and got into his pickup truck. As he drove away, he could still see his old friend Henry standing there on the sidewalk laughing.

Caleb had been so flustered at running into Henry that he failed to notice that Henry was slicked up too. All he could think about was the ribbing he was going to get from now on. Caleb finished up his errands in town. Ned at the feed store wondered why Caleb was grumpier than usual when he had tried to make conversation by telling Caleb he was looking well, all dressed up like that. Hadn’t heard of anyone dying so he didn’t think Caleb was dressed up for a funeral.

With all his errands finished now, Caleb turned the old pickup truck around and headed for the old Johnson place. The widow Johnson, Annie, and her sister Lucy lived together just a few miles across the creek.

“What business is it of anybody’s if I do a little courting? It’s not like we’re engaged or anything.” Caleb parked his truck in front of the house and walked up to the door and gave it a knock. Miss Annie answered the door. “Why, come in Caleb. I was beginning to think you were going to be late for dinner. Sister Lucy’s in the parlor with her gentleman friend. Go on in while I set the table.”

Caleb walked to the parlor door and who do you think was sitting on the couch with Miss Lucy, but Henry! You’ve never seen anybody look so sheepish in your whole life. Miss Lucy spotted the bag in Caleb’s hand and said, “I see I’m not the only one who is getting ‘sweets from my sweet’.” She looked at Henry and gave his arm a squeeze. Henry swallowed hard and Caleb’s eyes never left Henry’s. Neither of them even blinked.

Miss Annie was back at the door announcing dinner was ready. Caleb and Henry were still frozen in shock. Here they were courting sisters and neither one even knew about the other.

Not knowing what else to do, both men just followed the sisters to the dining room. As they took their seats around the table, Miss Lucy said, “Isn’t this going to be a fun evening? Strange the four of us have never all gotten together before, seeing how long both of you have been calling on us.”