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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Don't Get Around Much Any More by Nancy Goldberg Levine

“Quagis, Ms. Kabel.”

Lena Kabel appreciated the Latin greeting for “what’s up?“ from her fellow teacher. “Quagis, Mr. Becker.”

“I’m suffering from withdrawal.”

Lena took her mail and turned back to Mr. Becker. “Withdrawal from what? Caffeine? Ice cream? Not enough good programs on the history channel?”

She congratulated herself on her witty repartee. She’d never been very good at it since she hadn’t dated very much in high school or college. She’d spent most of her time taking care of her parents, who both had cancer, but were now in remission.

“No.” Mr. Becker took a look outside the French doors in the office at the snow that had just started falling. “There’s only one thing that can cause a perfectly sane history teacher to have withdrawal in December. Baseball.”

Lena wrinkled her nose. “Baseball? What a boring game. And the Cincinnati Reds haven’t won pennant in twenty years.”

“But they’re our team. You’ve got to support the home team. And baseball isn’t boring. It’s all mental. It takes thought, patience…”

“If I went to the ball game, I would probably fall asleep.”

She probably wouldn’t fall asleep if she went to the game with someone who looked like Mr. Becker, but she didn’t say so. Short, neat black hair, brown eyes, and a tall, slim form all contributed to the perfect package, but she liked a little bit of a beard on a guy. And she didn’t share his love of baseball. She did share his love of coffee, though.

By lunchtime, the temperature had plummeted and the snow kept getting deeper and deeper. Although she only lived a few minutes away in Paddock Hills, she knew driving would be treacherous. They didn’t call Cincinnati the City of the Seven Hills for nothing. The principal, Ms. Smythe, finally broke through on the intercom and announced that school would be closing for the day at 12:30. Lena rushed back to her classroom and bundled up, ready to do battle with the Cincinnati streets. Her red Hyundai was already buried, and her utilitarian boots were now full of white stuff. She opened the trunk of the car, but remembered she’d left the snow shovel, and her emergency kit, at home. She hated driving in snow, and to drive unprepared was a risk she didn’t want to take. She could call her parents, but she didn’t want to bother them. She just stood there, staring at her car and wondering how she could have left the house in such a hurry that morning.

“Ms. Kabel?”

She saw Mr. Becker coming toward her. He looked kind of cute with snow all over him, but this wasn’t the time to think about the good looks of Mr. Becker. As he came closer, she noticed that he looked weather-ready. “Are you having car trouble? Do you need a lift? I have four-wheel drive.”

“Normally, I could drive home, but I didn’t bring my emergency preparedness kit and…”

“Only you would have an emergency preparedness kit.” He took her hand, and she liked his strong grip. “Come on. My mini-van’s right over here.” It was buried under snow, too, but right then it looked like heaven.

“Where do you live?” Mr. Becker asked, after he’d cleaned off his car and started it.

“I’m a city girl,” Lena said. “It’s pretty close by, in Paddock Hills.”

“I can do that,” Mr. Becker said.

“Thank you, Mr. Becker. You’re a life saver.”

“But you have to stop calling me Mr. Becker. There’s another teacher at Walnut Hills named Mr. Becker and I wouldn’t want you to get confused. I’m Elijah, but my friends call me Eli.”

“And I’m Lena, although there’s only one Ms. Kabel.”

Eli laughed, a nice, hearty laugh. He was a good driver, too, although traffic crawled along Victory Parkway, and especially on Reading Road. Lena couldn’t wait to see what her car looked like after a few days of sitting in the school parking lot. He dropped her off at her parents’ stately English Tudor home, admiring the fact that it looked like a castle. Of course, a history teacher would things like that.

“I’ll see you at school, Lena.”

“Thanks so much, Mr. Beck…I mean…Eli. I’ll see you at school.”

By the time school resumed, it was almost time for winter break and the holidays. Lena tried to use her own brand of subterfuge as she slipped the present she’d bought Eli for taking her home into his mailbox.

“What’s this?”

So much for subterfuge. Lena saw Eli unwrap the blue and white paper and open the DVDs she’d gotten him of Field of Dreams, and highlights of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1990 World Series.

“You didn’t have to do this,” Eli said.

“Yes, I did. If you hadn’t ridden me home, I probably would have had to sleep in the school.”

“Now you have to let me return the favor. I’m going to a Chanukah party at my synagogue. That is, if you celebrate…”

“I do. I’m Jewish. Don’t you want to spend time with your family, though?”

Eli shrugged his broad shoulders. “My parents usually go to Florida at this time of year. We don’t see each other much anyway.”

Lena couldn’t imagine not spending the holidays with her parents. “Then come to my family’s Chanukah party. My dad’s a big baseball fan, and my brother and sister-in-law are coming in from out of town. They just had a new baby, so I’m an aunt.”

“Okay, but we have to go on a real date sometime, too. And maybe next year, we’ll go to a Reds game?”

“Deal,” Lena said. “It won’t be so boring to go with a fan.”

“Boring? Baseball’s is not boring. There’s…”

As she listened to him extol the virtues of baseball, Lena had a feeling her times of not getting around much anymore were going to change.

About the Author: I am the author of the romance novel Tempting Jonah as well as more than fifty short stories. I worked as a substitute teacher at the school where this story takes place and worked for a newspaper and legal textbook publishing company before I started working for the government four years ago.

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