Sherry bounced the beam from
her small flashlight across water-soaked cardboard boxes, and
passed it over her old exercise bike. “There’s got to be a
good five inches of water down here.” She pulled her hair
back from her sticky forehead. “What a time for the power to
knock out the sump-pump.”
Her rubber boots sloshed
through the water as she surveyed the flooded basement.
Overhead a distant clap of thunder peeled and rolled through
the air. The beating rain on the windows slackened.
“How am I ever to tackle
this on my own?”
Her mind wandered. Every
morning for the last fifteen years she had prayed for a
husband. Each night in bed she wondered why God hadn’t
granted her request. Sometimes doubts overwhelmed her and she
questioned whether her prayers made it as far as the bedroom
ceiling. She desired love, the tender touch, and the emotion
that came with marriage. Now she was more practical. With a
hopeless sigh she calculated how long it would it take to
clean up the mess. Doing this alone stinks. I don’t have
a clue where to start?
She wadded over to the
sump-pump and jabbed at the float. Without power, though, she
knew she was helpless.
“Hello! Hello! Anyone
Sherry started at the male
voice, and dropped the flashlight. Bummer! She
immediately plunged her hand down into the black murky water,
but the light was out. It must be one of the neighbors.
Earlier she had seen a number of them outside surveying the
flooded street and the fallen branches. Someone
probably noticed her open side door.
"Down here." She patted her
hand dry on the back of her pants.
A shadow blocked the dim
light from the doorway. “Power’s out. Don’t you have a
light down there?”
“I dropped it.” She
stared into the darkness. It’s just as well. I’ve spent
the last fifteen years dressed to the nines every time I step
out the door, just in case I meet Mr. Right. Here I am in
Dad’s old army jacket with my hair—
A bright beam of light
blinded her. “Good thing I brought my spotlight.”
Sherry squinted at the
halogen light and stepped back. “Wow.”
“Hi. I’m Gregg
Matthews.” He took the basement steps two at a time, and
stopped on the bottom step as his boots hit water. “I’m
your neighbor from two doors down. Things look pretty ghastly
down here.” His eyes remained riveted on her, until Sherry
was convinced that she was the “thing” that looked
“I guess they do. I’m
Sherry.” Her voice ignited animation in him. He turned and
ran up the stairway.
“Well,” Sherry spoke to
the empty house as she slowly made her way up. “If that’s
the way he wants to be.
She crossed the kitchen to
the mudroom, and flipped up the shade, letting in the
afternoon light before turning to the mirror. I look worse
than I thought. Her curly red hair formed damp ringlets
that clung to her face and neck. The ratty army jacket hung
from her shoulders and eclipsed her figure. At least olive
green makes my eyes stand out.
She heard a noise and
suddenly he was there in the mirror behind her. His reflection
looked down over her head. He was well built, with a firm
chin. His ash blond hair curled up above his collar, and
around his ears. The red, white and blue embroidered patch on
his denim shirt said “Matthew’s Plumbing and Heating,”
and underneath it “John 3:16.” His walnut brown eyes
locked with hers, then she saw the orange extension cord
coiled over his shoulder.
“You again,” she
His eyes twinkled at her.
“I brought my generator over and left it in your garage.
I’ll run down and plug your sump-pump in, and turn on some
She trudged after him with
her heart in her throat. Of all the days to meet the new
As the water level dropped
she hoisted a soggy box and started up the basement steps.
Her arms felt the cardboard
bottom give way. “Oh! Oh! Gregg, quick.”
His boots squished as he
rushed to her and reached out to block the cascade of naked
dolls, and miniature shoes. “I’m afraid it’s too late.
There isn’t anything left of the bottom of the box.” He
grabbed the plastic pink convertible that balanced
precariously through the gaping hole and started piling dolls
inside. Sherry felt her ears turn warm and she wondered if it
She led the way into the
kitchen. “Just drop them in the sink. I’ll need to wash
them off later.” Balling up the wet cardboard she crammed it
into the trash compactor, then looked up. There was something
quaint about a six-foot tall man holding a bright pink car
stuffed with Barbie™
dolls. Tears jumped to her eyes, she didn’t know if she was
going to laugh or cry. Here was the kind, gentle man she had
always dreamed of, but what must he think of her, the bumbling
neighbor girl from down the street? “I know you must have a
lot going on today, what with the storm. Thanks for your help.
If you don’t mind I’ll return the extension cord this
“It’s not a bother.
I’ll just help you finish up here. My afternoon is pretty
clear.” He plopped the car into the sink and eyed her dirty
hands. “I have some leather gloves you can use.”
Sherry sighed. Can’t
you just go away and come back tomorrow morning, when I’m
Three hours later Gregg
placed fans on the clean wet floor, as Sherry surveyed their
work and washed out the mop. “I really appreciate your help.
This was a bigger job than I thought it would be.”
“I thought it was fun.
What do you say about running up to Morton’s Steak House and
“Dinner! It would take me
a good hour to get ready to go.” Sherry rinsed off her hands
and grabbed a paper towel.
Gregg gave her a puzzled
look. “What’s wrong with what you’re wearing?”
Sherry’s mouth gapped and
she stared at him. Was he was blind or just joking? Seeing the
sincere question in his eyes she motioned to herself. “Look
at me. My hair. My clothes. My make-up. My hands.”
Gregg crossed the floor and
reached for the hand that hung limply against Sherry’s side.
He bent her fingers around his own as he gently brought them
to his lips and slowly placed a tender kiss on her damp
knuckles. “I’ve admired those hands from my windows for
the last two months. I watch you sit on your porch and read
your Bible. Sometimes I’ve thought about following you to
church. You’re always doing something you know, cleaning,
gardening, always put together as a plumber’s fitting. But I
like you now best of all.”
She was startled at the look
of longing in his face.
“I’ve admired those
lips, too.” he added softly.
She felt his minty breath on
her face, and was speechless.
He smiled and squeezed her
hand a little tighter. “Now, are you ready to go?”
©Janice LaQuiere 2004