Practically a Proposal

Practically a Proposal

Practically a Proposal

by Paul Hunter

Not much for romancing Charlie still
put on red suspenders and red socks
slicked his hair back then fluffed
whatall up front he had left into a wave
even hung his good hat on a peg
to drop by after supper come to find
Evaleen alone on her porch swing
figured to take this main chance
to parcel out his thoughts that
had become such a burden
like a load of green firewood
you need to quit driving around
stack some place out of the weather
near where you’re fixing to burn

so he set down in the rocker opposite
admired her print dress and earrings
studied her folding her hands then
opened with the offering you know
I can’t cook a thing but brown gravy
which made her reckon how that goes
good with anything but canned peaches
which he gave just a hint of a chuckle to
rare back throw her in gear and get started

allowing as how he’d had his eye
on the old Jinks place which he knew
for a fact twice a day she drove past
that had never been much to look at
though the house had a decent tin roof
plus the barn side facing the road
still whispered Chew Mail Pouch
through peeled paint and morning glories
now all so overgrown they hid
what everybody knew how old man Jinks
couldn’t raise ticks on a coon hound
had a religious aversion to soap and water
so no telling what kind of an eyesore
heaven he might have gone to

but left on its own so long his place
might just be tired laying around
set to start in growing if the ground
could be reminded how that’s done
not in too all-fired of a hurry but
spread manure first and turn under
since he’d heard the asking price
was already down in the toilet
might almost make a farm once more
besides the Lord knows I am willing
right as rain to make a go which
was practically a proposal so

they lit a porch light and got down to cases
started lining things out on a paper sack
which he unfolded from a hip pocket
with a tooth-marked pencil stub
for exactly this occasion working out

where to plant grapes for an arbor
to sit under Sunday afternoons plus
if she’d like a cherry tree maybe peach
and a rhubarb patch for some pies
a swing in the yard to one side
a birdbath some roses the reddest
sort of red to hurt your eye
and by the kitchen door
a dogwood some lilac forsythia

as heads together side by side they went
dreaming how it all might come to be
never mind the money what it meant
you needed to start out on the right foot
till on paper they had the place planted
every leafy living dogeared possibility
then he asked her what by way of
amusements and necessities indoors
she said a nickel parlor stove
a potato mandolin maybe a radio a decent
four-poster bed a goose-down comforter

till there seemed nothing left at last
but the obvious that Charlie
swallowed hard leaned in to ask
how many sprouts to this row do you figure
waggling his big thumb so there’d be
no mistake between them back and forth
and without blinking she answered
two girls and two boys the Lord willing
hands full for the both of us

to which he said fine and dandy
then for the first time she laughed
that when he joined in just kept coming
like a summer rain pattering over
their paper dreams all outspread
that he’d wanted so bad to get straight
on that crumpled brown paper
he folded back up that she said
they should put up forever and always
in back of their marriage license
in a gilt frame under glass

then they got up and walked a little ways
off in the starry dark through the pasture
till the dew settled and stopped them
like a silly coal-black puppy underfoot
just craving someone to play with
that tangled them up in its leash
made them sway and stumble
grab and hold onto each other
slobbering all over their good shoes