The Proposal: A Short Story by Tom Johnson
Four years ago today, a handsome scoundrel asked me to be his wife. It was a proposal that only a man such as my husband would dare attempt, and only the woman so in love with this man and his mischievous ways would have said yes to. It's a captivating story and what better way to tell it than through the words of the very man who did the proposing? I've shared this account before, but it's been some time since then. If you think that I'm dramatic or overly-exaggerating, you haven't seen anything yet. You may want to find some food or drink to sustain you through the following paragraphs...
And if you're deeply curious as to the character of our relationship, the story of Beatrice and Benedick from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing sums it up: Watch This #sassyforlife
Anyways, on to the story:
It's not all that interesting of a story, but here's how it happened:
t was a glorious day in the small town of Shorewood, Wisconsin. The birds were echoing memories of a summer soon to be gone, the trees were dancing in the calm lake breeze, and the sky sang forth in bright splendor and serenity to all who would take a moment to listen.
Happiest of all creatures was I, for I knew the delight was soon to be brought to the one that I hold so dear. I joined her that morning, as is our weekly custom, to celebrate the forgiveness and redemption that is granted by the grace of God at Luther Memorial Chapel, a congregation that had welcomed us with their hearts and hearths on many a bright Sunday morning before.
After we had received forgiveness, the Holy Sacrament, and been invigorated by the preaching of the Law and Gospel, we set forth to find ourselves a place where we could enjoy each other’s company whilst satisfying our ravenous appetites. We found this feat quick to accomplish, for in the land of Shorewood are many a happy café all which tantalize the senses by whispering with their sweet aromas and tempting with goods hung in gaily-lit stoops.
We come upon a small establishment which bore a sign telling a tale of rooftop tables, a quiet garden, and peaceful separation from the busy streets. My mind's eye was filled with the tranquil scene that we would discover there and I nearly leaped with pleasure as I thought of the scene which was about to set forth in such a place. We at once hailed the cheery staff and inquired as to the seating arrangements. The knowledge soon came to us that food service would not be ready for at least another half of an hour. This news was disheartening at first and I prepared myself to leave, hat in hand, but Joy, possessing a cooler head and a calm demeanor, faced out tribulation and coaxed out the knowledge that we could stroll the rooftop garden and look upon the shining skyline of the city while we waited for one of the staff to attend to us. This news was gladly received and we headed to the aforementioned garden to await our steward.
Before I go any further, I must first speak to a plan that had been set in motion days before the events which I am describing:
I, behaving as a rapscallion, have always put on airs that I was not interested in marriage to anyone at any time and as such, led Joy to believe that she would die an old maid. Before you lay judgment upon me, know this: It was all a ruse to make her all the more shocked when the eventuality of proposal came and I had indeed thought about such an occasion many a time before.
Realizing that my clever deception was assured of success, I then decided to further dismay the lady by proposing to her with a ring that I had purchased from K-mart. This ring, a sad and fragile object, was bought with the knowledge that it was exactly what my fair Joy had determined to be the least appealing cut of stone, nay even repulsive to her countenance. She had informed me on many occasions, using her extensive cunning and suggestion, of her absolute detest for a certain style and shape of rings and precious stones. I knew at those times that the ferocity and frequency of her mentioning could only be a slight indication of her hatred for its design and therefore was thoroughly informed as to what she did not want to bear as a token of companionship till the end of her days.
However, in those rants about the ugliness of certain rings, I did also glean a good many details as to the shape and size of the ring that she longed to adorn her slender finger. With this knowledge played close to my chest, I went and purchased two rings; one containing artificial stones which would bring her unbelievable anguish, the other, to give an elation that I could not comprehend until the deed was done and still wonder at to this day.
Now you know, and we can go back to my tale
On the rooftop there was indeed a happy garden and a small path to walk about. After walking the course of it and admiring the many different plants and adornments, we decided to take a seat at one of the empty tables that sat adjoining the garden and resolved to enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company until such a time as we could order food.
After gazing into each other’s eyes for what seemed like a dozen ages of the earth and yet a flash in time, fleeting as the evening sun, my thoughts were taken from the rooftop. I began to focus, with an intensity that could be rivaled only by the beauty of the one whom I adored, on the precious ring that I had left in my car, thinking that doing so would afford me a more opportune moment later in the day. My thoughts raced around the deepest recesses of my existence and fell upon one seemingly incontrovertible assessment; waiting one more aching moment to present her with the ring would only delay our shared elation. I could not come to any reason to explain my hesitance to leave the ring’s presentation to circumstance so instead I decided to take action.
Summoning up the courage to tell a small deception to my beloved, I asked to excuse myself, weaving a tall tale of a weak bladder and strong coffee. Luckily for me, the tale fell upon unsuspecting ears, my heart pounding a drum loud enough to rouse the elephants of Hannibal’s army to face the fray, and thus I escaped with true motives hidden.
After making my shaky exit I ran through the avenues of the city, my feet churning beneath me with the vigor and fortitude of destiny. I knew that if e’er I walked those streets again, I would walk them not as a solitary being on the face of this world, but as one to whom another is forever fated to walk arm in arm with.
I came upon my humble vehicle and nearly tore the door off in apprehension. Freeing the token from the hiding place among the seats would have given a less determined man pause, but I extracted it from its former obscurity with the skill of a practiced surgeon and turned towards the homeward journey with a fire in my eyes. The return journey seemed to pass in the flash of an instant, the world blurring past my perceptions, veiled as it was in the focus on my end goal. I raced down the path, my heart ebbing and flowing with the very spirit of the city on whose arterial boulevard I now shared pulse with.
The stairs to the rooftop offered no protest, for they saw I was in no mood to give way to exhaustion of a steep ascent. Upon reflection, I would wager that even Everest in all its might would have yielded to my whims, for I was a man with purpose.
I arrived on the rooftop, immediately putting on a demure persona. Though the very depths of my soul screamed out in rapture at the sight of the girl, I knew that I could contain my emotions until the opportune moment. I must! The buildup to this moment was only felt by one party on that rooftop and I bore the truth that soon it's culmination would be shared a thousand fold in her face. But first, I must play the fool.
I must admit, I felt as though I was as transparent as a clear night sky is between the heavens and the earth, but to my delight, she gave no indication that they was something amiss in my behavior. After a moment or two, Joy excused herself to use the facilities which I had used as cover for my absence, and I had to be quick of wit when she asked me for their location. I gave a vague description of where they were, hoping that my information would not lead her too far away from the intended destination.
Once she had left, I removed the box (which still contained the fake ring) from my pocket and placed it under a large napkin on the table to wait for her return. Passing seconds tricked slowly by, each one held by my mind before given permission to depart, and I began to wonder if the direction I had given had led her so far astray that she was now wandering in a labyrinth of halls cursing the heavens in my name.
But lo! The fair lady was there with me! Her delicate rose-petaled hand e’en now hovered next to the hidden token she would carry on her finger until the end of her days. I was suddenly struck by depth of the deed I had put into motion. I was to be united to this woman… but not until she did deem it to be so.
Would she accept?!?
A denial would be my undoing!!
Ahhhhh, me! I was rocked to the core and frozen in place. How to ask? What to say? How could I have laid out the plans so quickly, that I neglected to decide what my next move would be? Had I more time to prepare, and been a more clever man, I would have had doves prepared to descend, a band of loot and lyre set to strike up at a word, and the very depths of the earth to shout out with me in song!
But I sat…..
I realized that the deed needed to done. Come. What. May. It must be done.
Not with a band, not with doves, not with any sounds but the gentle whisper of the breeze on the happy trees. She would see it, and her reaction would be all the symphony that I would need.
I removed the napkin.
Wide eyes met mine
I saw the tremble of her hand. The quiver of a lip. The Gasp! Oh Sweet Symphony! She was elated! She was happy! The light of a thousand suns shone on her face!
She opened the box…
Wide eyes met mine
I once again saw the tremble of her hand. The quiver of a lip. She…. was…. horrified… The ring that she loathed now sat in front of her eyes. Her mind that was a split second before blank now came flooding in with emotions.
What a scoundrel I am, ‘tis so. Heaven forgive me for putting my sweet Joy through that moment, but ohhhhh was it a thing to see! I witnessed the birth and destruction of Rome, the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, the rising of the sun and it’s setting in that instant.
But did I stop there? How could I?
I reached into my being and asked coyly,
“Do you love it?”
Some questions have a more complete answer given by the pregnant pause in preface, than by any responded thesis of a thousand pages. This was one of those questions and one of those pauses.
...She breathed out a shakily emphatic,
A lie! But a sweeter one was never spoken! Did I need any more proof that this woman loved me? If she had thrown herself in front of a bullet for me the statement would have meant as much. She loved me! I knew it well before, but she was willing to suffer through her greatest fear in order not to part ways with me!
I could not make her wait longer. I had put her through enough anguish!
I liberated the ring from it's captive prison and asked,
“Well then, what am I going to do with this one?”
This time she leaped out of the chair! She rushed over to me, love pouring out of every part of her being!
She said yes!
Anyways, that’s how it happened.