Part 1: The Meet Fer-Cute
She stood below a looming display of snow cleats. She had opted for the spiked design, perfect for a girl who had always been steadfast in her convictions and was determined to remain that way even in icy conditions.
The cleats she needed were at the top of the rack and there was no display hook anywhere for her to reach them. “Of course not,” she thought to herself, “This isn’t Pamida, people can’t be grabbing things all willy-nilly.” Scheels is for the refined.
“Lewis and Clark!” she swore, stamping her uncleated-foot with impatience which caught the eye of a passing employee.
“Can I help ya with anything?” he asked. He was immediately drawn to her beautiful, firm, round, sturdy boots. Their hands touched as he handed her the items she was after.
“Ope,” they whispered in unison, the color rising on both of their very pale faces.
“Gosh, you’ve barely got any hangnails,” she said. It was unlike her to be this flirtatious, but she couldn’t help but admire his intact knuckles, the unmarred nail-beds.
“Can I interest you in some Carhartt gloves?” he asked.
Part 2: Hot Dish
She immediately called her best friend after making the purchase. In the thralls of elation, she’d forgotten to start her car before heading outside and her excited breath created little clouds that lingered as she explained all about the encounter. Cupid was floating on those clouds.
“So you think he’s a decent guy, huh?”
“Oh ya. We’ve gotta date all set up. Soon as he gets his snow tires put on his truck he’s gonna call and we’ll go somewhere nice.”
Her dating record was full of more duds than a package of firecrackers accidentally left on the dock overnight during a damp 4th of July weekend. There was the Gunderson boy who hardly ever let her talk during their dinner-dates at the Ground Round and hogged all the popcorn. The kid just wouldn’t shut up about his fishing lure collection. The next guy, Jacobson, had an unhealthy obsession with his hunting trophies. She never felt like he’d ever love her unless she was mounted on the wall with eyes permanently and literally glassed over. And that Larson fella liked to spit at passers-by when they were on the Ferris Wheel at the State Fair. She’s not a real mushy person, but romance doesn’t involve guzzling cans of Grain Belt behind the Horse Barn.
But this Knudson guy seemed kinda different. It was early, but his smile made her heart sing louder than the noon siren.
Part 3: The Way the Krumkake Crumbles
She was trying to decide which pair of brown boots she should wear with her leggings when she heard him knock.
His Norwegian sweater outlined by the blue-purple sky that promised snow made for a startling view.
“Now that’s a corn-fed-boy, right there,” she thought her heart threatening to spill out of her chest like a hot-dish casserole in the backseat of a car headed down a road full of potholes.
“Lots of people still have their Christmas lights up. I brought ya a hot chocolate. Whaddya say we drive around and take a look.” He offered his arm to her, even though he knew damn well her cleats wouldn’t let her slip. They had a warranty.
Still she clung to him, enjoying the solidity of him. He felt reliable, like a landmark on the highway. A strong grain silo. Or the tree.
“I thawed it all out before I got here,” he said.
“You thought what out?” Did he already see their portrait in the church directory, a family in matching flannel and blue jeans, like she did?
“The truck. I thawed it out. Pretty chilly out here. I even turned your seat-warmer on.”
The evening was a whirlwind of red and green lights, a couple of nativity scenes scattered like bowling pins, a particularly intense debate on whether cinnamon is a sin to sprinkle on lefse, and some really solid conversation on the potential for another snow storm soon. Gosh, he really knew how to read a Doppler-radar.
After they pulled up in front of her house, she expected him to lean over, but he suddenly started fiddling with the bottle opener on his keychain.
“That was real nice. I’ll uh. See you later then.”
Her heart sunk faster than your best pair of sunglasses in a murky lake. Her stomach curdled like the last jell-o salad left at the potluck.
“Keedokee then.” she said coldly. Launching herself out of the lifted pickup and stomping up the driveway. Uff-da. What a let down. She felt so lonely all of a sudden. Like how a cricket must feel when he gets stuck in your car on a road trip and when you let him out on the side of the highway he’s suddenly miles away from his other cricket friends. Or all his cricket friends are stuck to the front grille of the car. In short, she felt darn crummy. Who else to turn to now, but Lawrence Welk? She flipped to PBS and watched the bubbles burst.
Part 4: A New 'Ope
Suddenly there was a roar of an engine. She ran to the window just to see him jump out of his truck, his John Deere hat slightly askew.
Rushing outside, she was slightly irked that his truck had packed down the snow in her driveway and it’d be a bitch to shovel in the morning. In fact, it’d probably mean a snow-blow job. But none of that mattered now.
“I just got nervous.” he muttered, “You’re like a rhubarb wine at the Pride of Dakota show, kinda sweet, but a little mysterious, and I’m just a plain old Coors Lite guy.”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” she said. He had a twinkle in his eye, like the mural of Teddy Roosevelt in her school’s lunchroom. Gosh. Stop thinking about Teddy Roosevelt right now. Every. Time.
He leaned over and kissed her and she felt a shock of electricity course through her body. No. Wait. That was actual static electricity. It was very dry outside.
He felt her jolt back. “Oh, sorry, I had some Dot’s Pretzels back there while I was thinkin’ things over. I’m sorry. Shoulda had a mint.”
“I’d actually like nothing better than some pretzels right now,” she said. “I have some juneberry wine too, if you’re feeling adventurous, that is.”
A friend posted the above screenshot on my Facebook wall, knowing I'd find it humourous (I don't know Madison, but you should follow her on Twitter). I added a few of my own comments, as seen on the right. Somehow the post with my additions went "viral" (some say as far as South Dakota) and I was asked by several people to write a full "North Dakota romance". I complied.
-your mom yelling at your dad for not hitting the “record” button quick enough on the VCR to catch your “HEY TOM, HOW’S THE WEATHER?” snippet from the school fun night
-making a whirlpool at the International Inn at a birthday party via convincing everyone to run in a circle between the “island” and the shallow end of the pool – and knowing there used to be a palm tree on the island at one point
-getting Fruit Gushers stuck in your teeth on the way to free gymnastics classes at the Auditorium
-helping Randy Beard compose a song for one of The Pillars of Character. What rhymes with Trustworthiness?
-feeling jealous of the birthday girl who got the new Mary-Kate and Ashley movie at her birthday party at Easter Seals, but getting retribution when her paddle board came up and hit her on the chin while she was swimming
-renting every single one of the five Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers VHS tapes available at Premiere Video
-being able to remember that the shelves that used to contain the kid’s section at Premiere Video are now the designated “Adult” room
-having Premiere Video somewhere on your work resume
-you have one cupboard that is still stacked with an infinity of Bonanza’s plastic cups and matching red lids
-knowing where to avoid the geese at Oak Park when you race through on your knock-off Razor scooter
-watching them make your pizza through the giant window at Happy Joe’s Pizza. When it was at Dakota Square. You know, the original location!
-your mom getting mad when you’re late for a birthday party at Roosevelt Park because you can’t find your rubber band/waterproof slide pass you’re supposed to share with your sister. The birthday girl will receive at least two packs of gel pens and a BOP It! if she’s lucky
-having a dance recital at the Dome
-teaching non-native Minotions the dangers of the cave where the tricycle-riding-alien emerged at Planet Pizza. A kid died in there once, you know.
-claiming your space at the Library puppet show with the biggest carpet square
-dreading looking at all the art projects at the North Dakota State Fair and feeling entirely smug when you find one of yours and it has a ribbon. Then inspecting all the winning banana bread displays to see if any of them have started to mold
-hoping you had a chance to win Limbo or Four Corners at the Skatium. Alas, it was never to be.
-Finishing your food at Ryan’s and being slightly creeped out by the clown plate
-having cracked at least one sled/rib by hitting an overly icy patch while sledding on the Magic City hill
-getting scolded by a parent for hitting the “Services Needed in Layaway” button at the K-mart counter in constant, quick succession. The sooner the final payment is made, the sooner you get your light-up tennis shoes
-making an appointment at Trinity and when they ask for your doctor’s name you still want to say Dr. Blehm because that’s the last time you knew your doctor’s name
-NORTH HILL HARDEES USED TO HAVE THE BEST DAMN BALL PIT IN TOWN
-listening to Hanson’s MMMBop while keeping time with your Skip-It. And if you happen to knock your sister in the ankles with the counting end, that’s her fault for not giving you enough space on the driveway
-getting a birthday party invite for North Hill Bowl. It’s not a pool party, but at least there will be pitchers of soda and the birthday room will be more spacious than the birthday nook at the Skatium. And nobody had better get the lime green ball before you.
-riding the miniature train through Roosevelt Park and seeing a cute boy in Zubaz pants. Choo choo bitches.
-the Zoo used to hand out these brown paper bags full of carrot slices and other leftovers to feed the animals; how many stale Graham crackers could you convince your little sister to eat until your parents notice?