This work of short fiction is about the courtship of Bob and Hannah Maverick. Tecumseh, Indiana’s most unlikely pair. #Tecumseh # romance #Valentine’s Day #roses #courtship
An Unlikely Pair
It was the fall of 1958. The Coaster’s Yackety Yak and Sheb Wooley’s The Purple People Eater blasted from the car stereos of every teenager’s car in Tecumseh. West Side Story played on the screen at the local drive-in movie theater. It was Big Bob Maverick’s senior year in high school. He earned the nickname because he was big, and the name on his birth certificate read Robert. Consequently, Bob didn’t excel in the book learning. He also wasn’t the most handsome fellow in town.
What Bob could do was throw a football around the field and shoot a basketball through a hoop better than anybody Tecumseh had ever seen. His athletic abilities were so good he was being scouted by several universities. In the state of Indiana, basketball skills can determine a young man’s future. Big Bob was getting so much attention he was becoming a local celebrity. His fame started to go to his head. People treated him with certain awe everywhere he went. Big Bob could have had any girl in his high school, but the only one who had his heart was Hannah Hicks.
Hannah was a dark-haired, skinny girl with bad eyesight. Her impaired vision made her clumsy. She was the exact opposite of Big Bob in every imaginable way. They say opposites attract. It must be true because Big Bob and Hannah Hicks were the most unlikely pair Tecumseh, Indiana had ever seen.
The romance started the day Hannah wasn’t paying attention when she came out of third period English class. Hannah’s mind was on the book report she was about to write on The Red Badge of Courage. She ran into the massive mountain named Big Bob and fell with a thud onto the hardwood floor. Her glasses flew into the air, and the books she was carrying scattered all around her. The fragile girl refused Big Bob’s hand when he offered her help to regain her footing. Bob did manage to pick Hannah’s glasses and books up off the floor.
Bob was a gentleman. When he looked in her eyes as he was helping her adjust her glasses, he noticed the golden highlights in her eye for the first time. A weird sensation washed through his insides. He wasn’t feeling lust. Big Bob was familiar with those sorts of stirrings in his groin. The high school-wide left tackle was smitten with Cupid’s arrow from the moment he gazed into Hannah Hicks’ eyes and saw the beauty hidden there.
He asked her to the senior prom a week later. Hannah turned him down without giving the invitation a second thought. She thought it was one of those bets guys made to see if they could get lucky with the ugly girl. Hannah had too much pride to be flattered by the school’s star athlete’s advances. She was sure his interest was some sort of joke with her as the punchline. Big Bob went off to play football at Purdue the following fall with a broken heart and a full-ride scholarship. Big Bob blew his knee out in the fourth quarter in the game against IU. Hannah saw the catastrophe happen from the bleachers. She left the arena with tears in her eyes, Big Bob didn’t know she was there. Her presence would have been comforting. It was the worst day of his life.
The injury put an end to his dream of an engineering degree. He knew he’d never be able to stay in school with his grades. The only clear choice open to him was to do his patriotic duty and join the army. Big Bob was too late for Korea, and he was too early for Vietnam. Being a member of the armed forces gave him the opportunity to travel the world and build things like bridges and barracks. It turned out Big Bob had a talent for operating heavy-duty machinery and working construction.
After his four-year hitch was up, it was time for Big Bob to go home. He had an idea exactly what he was going to do when he got back to Tecumseh. Big Bob was going to start his own construction company.
Then he’d find Hannah Hicks and make her his wife. The memory of the skinny dark-haired girl with the bad eyesight filled his dreams at night. He couldn’t figure out how she’d taken his heart hostage and held it for ransom. They were an unlikely pair in most people’s eyes, but he thought if she’d give him a chance they might fit together like two lost puzzle pieces that needed to be put together to form the perfect picture.
The Army gave him his walking papers. He hopped the next plane to Indianapolis. He expected his dad to be the only person to meet him at the airport in Indianapolis. To his surprise, a crowd was gathered to welcome him home. He looked for Hannah in the sea of faces. He couldn’t find her because she was hiding in the shadows. The secret torch she carried for him burned bright in her heart even after all the years he’d been gone.
Big Bob wasn’t home a day before he started a search for her. It wasn’t hard for him to find out the dark-haired beauty was waiting tables at a little restaurant named the Cup & Spoon. He made it a point to have breakfast there every morning when he was going about the business of building up his construction company. He noticed her hands would tremble when she wrote out his order.
It was always a good morning if he could get her to look him in the eye and smile. She was so bashful he couldn’t get her to engage in conversation with him. It was impossible to ask her out on a date when he couldn’t get her to say a word beyond asking him for his order. Hannah’s severe case of shyness was putting a sharp kink in his love life. They would give what ailed her a fancy name nowadays like social phobia or panic disorder. Big Bob was starting to think the reason she didn’t talk to him was that she couldn’t stand to be around him. He was about to give up his quest until the night of the flat tire.
The incident happened on a snowy Valentine’s night in 1965. Hannah was on her way home after working the late shift over at the Cup & Spoon. She slid into the curb when she rounded the corner of Grant Street onto Elm. Her front tire blew when it connected with the curb. Hannah didn’t have the first clue about how to change a flat. This was before the age of cell phones. The closest phone booth was four blocks away. The temperature had dipped below zero.
A strong north wind blew the seven inches of snow dumped from the sky around. Hannah was sure she was going to freeze to death until she saw Big Bob’s truck turn the corner. He pulled to the curb behind her and stepped from his vehicle. “Do you need help changing that tire?” He asked. All Hannah could manage was to nod her head up and down in agreement. “Go set in my truck before you freeze to death. I’ll take care of this.”
Giant tears of gratitude rolled down Hannah’s face as she watched Big Bob go about his business. It didn’t take him long to have her car up on a jack. He struggled with her lug nuts because his fingers were so numb they felt like icicles hanging from his hands. When he was finished, he motioned her to join him in front of her car. She bundled her coat around her and climbed out of his truck. The north wind bit her in the face as she dismounted.
“You’re going to have to replace your spare in the morning. It’s not good to drive around on one of those in this kind of weather,” Big Bob said yelling above the howling wind. Hannah managed to ask what she owed him. “Just a kiss,” Big Bob said gathering her into his arms. His lips were warm and gentle like a cup of hot chocolate. To his amazement, Hannah kissed him back with all the pent-up passion she’d been carrying around with her since high school.
Big Bob and Hannah were married in the spring. The entire city of Tecumseh still agreed the couple was an unlikely pair. The old farts over at the liar’s table at the Cup & Spoon claimed it wouldn’t last. In Luther Pigg’s opinion, Big Bob needed a woman with more passion than the mousey Hannah Hicks possessed.
Bill Bartley agreed. He predicted they’d divorce by the fall. The ladies in the quilting circle over at abundant life thought Big Bob’s wild ways would hurt the marriage. He’d make poor Hannah’s life a living Hell. They proved all the naysayers wrong. Hannah came out of her shell after Big Bob made her his wife. It turned out she was a woman with a plethora of talents.
The first thing Hannah did after Big Bob asked her to marry him was to pay a visit to an optometrist. When she walked down the aisle on her wedding day, the beautiful eyes Big Bob first noticed the morning she ran into him outside her third period English class sparkled from behind a pair of contact lenses. Her newly discovered beauty wasn’t her only attribute which made Big Bob a blessed man. She could throw a party that everyone in town wanted to attend. Her mind had a high capacity for numbers, it was a skill that helped Big Bob become a rich man. Her heart was expansive and generous.
Courage encased her heart like a bulletproof vest that protected her from the gossip which flowed in her direction. There is one thing a small town can’t abide, and that is a success. The unlikely pair became one of Tecumseh’s leading power couples until Hannah lost her battle with cancer in their forty-fifth year of marriage.
The ladies at The Hen House did the flowers for Hannah’s funeral. It turned out they were all wrong. Sadness filled the shop as soon as the women heard of her death. Hannah maverick was one of their best customers. The ladies loved to do the flowers for her lavish parties and the gala she threw once a year. Naomi thought the classy lady held a valuable form of quiet strength. Hannah gave her some powerful advice which helped her through a tense scene at one of Maverick’s 4th of July barbecues.
Elba Mae appreciated the way the woman never put on airs when she came into the shop. Colleen agreed. She said it was sad Big Bob wouldn’t show up at the shop on the first day of February in the coming year. Bob strolled through the door of The Hen House and order a dozen flowers sent to his address every day until the 14th. It was a snowy Valentine’s Day when they lowered her casket into the ground. Her death broke Big Bob’s heart. When you are on a grand adventure with the love of your life, you never want to see it come to an end.
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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