Dear Arlie – bean

Dear Arlie is a fictional tale about five friends in their early 20’s, set in 1911. While fictional in nature, snippets about these real women have been taken from actual postcard correspondences between Pauline Washburn and Arlie Shinkle.

In Tuesday Tales, we write to a weekly word prompt. Once a month we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘bean.’

Return to TUESDAY TALES here, to read other fun tidbits of upcoming works.

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Typically at the community picnics at Old Settler’s Park Arlie was like the belle of the ball, traipsing back and forth amongst the different groups of families and friends. On this Fourth of July gathering though, she was more sedate than usual. She sat primly on the family’s woven blanket, legs tucked underneath her in a ladylike manner as she listened attentively to George. In between his ramblings, he’d stop to stuff his mouth with a huge bite of the fried chicken he was so anxious to get.

In these quiet pauses, Arlie’s mind would wander. What surprise does he have for me?

“Baked beans?” George’s words caught her unawares and she jerked to attention, almost knocking the pan of golden brown nuggets out of his hands.

“Oh, no…sorry. You caught me woolgathering.”

“About anything exciting?”

“No…not anything in particular…not really,” Arlie stammered. She didn’t want to admit that her thoughts were racing through her brain, trying to put together little bits of puzzle pieces in an attempt to figure out what his surprise was.

The family finished eating and passed their plates to Mother, who gathered the dirty dishes and utensils and placed them in the picnic hamper, along with the leftover food. Everyone lay back relaxing with full bellies and the summer sun beating down upon them.

William and Eddie wandered by and stopped to visit. “Hey, George…want to join us in a game of horseshoes?”

George turned to Arlie with a question in his eyes. “Do you mind?”

“Of course not. You go on. I’ll stay here in the shade and rest.”

After the men ambled off, Arlie’s mother looked her square in the eye. “Are you alright, dear?”

“Yes, Mother. I’m fine.”

“You’re so quiet today. You’re not being a little gadfly between all your friends.”

Arlie sighed and tried not to be disrespectful towards her mother. “Remember…Millie’s in Michigan. And Pauline’s moved. Only Alla’s here today. I haven’t seen where the Richardson’s are sitting, and it’s too muggy to go walking about in search of her.”

“Just asking, dear, to make sure nothing’s amiss.”

“Really, Mother. I’m fine and dandy.” Arlie paused and stroked her chin. “Besides, George has a surprise for later tonight and I’m trying to figure out what it is.”

Arlie tipped her head up in time to see her father trying to suppress a grin. “What? Father? Do you know anything about what George is planning?”

Arlie’s father coughed and wiped his hand across his mouth as if trying to wipe his expression away. “No…no…not a clue. Don’t know a thing about what the young fella has up his sleeve.”

Shaking her head in disgust, Arlie laid back on the blanket and closed her eyes. This is going to be the longest day in history.

But, after a short cat nap, and George returning all red and flushed to wake her, the day passed by quicker than she’d imagined. Neighbors stopped by to chat with one another. The mayor and his wife circulated among the crowd, passing out small flags to anyone who didn’t already have one. When everyone was getting hungry again, they dug out the pans of food and cleaned up the rest of it. And before she knew it, the evening sky was dimming, and the crowd was beginning to stir and get restless.

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George spoke to Arlie’s father. “Sir, may I whisk your daughter away to watch the fireworks from a special spot?”

Arlie’s father winked as he answered. “Naturally, son. Long as it’s not too secluded and private.”

George blushed and stood. “No, sir! It’s nothing like that. It’s a spot I discovered last year. At the edge of the park. And you can see the fireworks quite clearly. Not a tree nor a bush to hid them.” He glanced up at the towering oaks they were sheltered by as if to make a point. He held out a hand to help Arlie stand.

Arlie took his hand and felt her heart flutter at his touch. She felt flush at the thought of being alone with him at the edge of the park, just the two of them with no family and friends.

When they arrived at the location George led them to, he turned and apologized. “I’m sorry. I neglected to bring a throw to sit upon. I suppose we’ll have to stand and watch.” He glanced over to a rock overcropping at the top of a small ravine. “Unless you want to sit over on that boulder? Although it’s not much of a chair for a princess.”

“Oh, George, you know me. I’m not that prim and proper.” She waved her hand in the air as if brushing the thought away. “But you can scout it out and make sure there’s no snakes.”

Grabbing a small limb laying underneath a hickory tree behind them, George did his manly duty and pushed and prodded at all the nooks and crannies. Declaring the area free of vermin, he proceeded to grandly lay his white handkerchief out on the flattest part of the rock for Arlie to sit on. There the two sat, shoulder to shoulder, as the bangs started and the night air was filled with sparkling flashes of red, white, and blue.

They sat in awe, the flares in the night sky being much tamer than the sparks that were igniting in their bodies. As the grand finale lit up the valley in an explosion of light and color, George turned to Arlie and caressed her cheeks with his palms. “My sweet, sweet Arlie…would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

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