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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ray's Awakening

Ray was in deep thought when he had to come to a halt on the road to Wilson one Tuesday. He had to stop to let German POW’s cross the highway. Ray watched each man as they passed by. A guard motioned for him to go on, and soon Ray was in deep thought, more like daydreaming. He was thinking of Miss. Dunne, which he found himself doing most of his time. He laughed to himself as he thought about last week when he was plowing the south field to get it ready for the winter wheat. He was thinking so hard about Miss. Dunne that he plowed one row longer than all the others. Ray was not sure what to do about these feelings he was having for Miss Dunne.
As Ray pulled up to the Mercantile, he thought to himself, "Who am I kidding? She’s at least ten years younger and she’s from Denver."
Ray had gotten the items he needed from the mercantile to stock his kitchen and he headed over to the school house to pick up Ruth. Ray didn’t mind picking up Ruth from school on Tuesday, especially now. He may get a distant glimpse of Miss. Dunne. This brought a smile to Ray’s face. "Am I a grown man or a teenager?" Ray tried to reason with himself.
Ray pulled up to the school and as always, Ruth was not anywhere to be seen. Ray did something he had never done before. He opened the beet box door and got out. "I’ll just have to go see about Ruth." But what he really hoped for was a chance to see Miss Dunne, from a far distance, of course. Ray’s face blushed like a lovesick school boy. "What am I doing?" Ray thought as he opened up the front door to the school.
Ray found his way to the library. It had been along time since he been inside the library. Ray opened the library door, and moved right inside, to the side. He had not seen Miss Dunne in the hallway, as he had hoped. Ray closed his eyes and rested his head on the wall and let out a slow breath as he thought about Miss Dunne.
"Hello, Mr. Singleton. How are you?" he heard a tender voice ask. He opened his eyes to find Miss. Dunne before him.
"Fine......(clearing throat). ….. thank you." Ray had been caught off guard.
"We've been missing you at potluck lunch at church." Miss. Dunne said so confidently.
Ray did all he could…..he just smiled slightly and nodded his head. He cleared his throat..."I've got a lot of things to do around the farm to get ready for plantin’."
They smiled at one another. Ray wished he could think of another response, but he could not. It was like he was frozen. Hard for him to breath, hard for him to think, hard for him to speak. If someone asked him his name, he would be unable to give it. Ray could feel the blushing of his cheeks. He just hoped that he didn’t sweat as he always did when he was nervous.
Ruth walked up. And immediately apologized for losing track of time. Ray nodded.
"Good bye, Miss Dunne. See you tomorrow." Ruth said quietly.
"Bye, Ruth. Study your notes for the test tomorrow." Miss Dunne said without any thought.
"Good afternoon, Miss Dunne." Ray was able to muster up.
"Will we see you at Sunday's potluck?" Miss Dunne asked politely.
Nodding his head yes, Ray replied as best he could, "Yes, ma'am."
He and Ruth headed out the library door.
On the ride home, Ruth rattled on about her day at school. Ruth didn’t need any responses…just someone to listen. And that’s what Ray usually did. But today he was thinking of something himself. He thought about all that had transpired in the library.
Was Miss. Dunne just being nice? Had she really missed him at the Sunday potlucks? Did she care if he was going to be there this Sunday?
By the time Ray got to Hank and Martha’s he had decided that Miss. Dunne was just being nice. She was a city girl and she knew how to make conversation. She was a teacher as well. She knew how find something nice to say.
Ruth led the way into the house. Ray ate with Martha’s family every Tuesday. Ray enjoyed eating with the Stewarts each Tuesday. It was one less meal he ate alone.
But Ray found himself lonely that night even at the Stewart’s dinner table. He looked at the empty chair beside him and for once he didn’t think of Danny first. He thought of Miss Dunne.
Ray hoped that these feelings he had would soon go away. He had no time to waste on such useless thoughts.
But they didn’t go away. They only got worse. Ray thought about Miss. Dunne when he woke up in the morning, when he was out on the farm, when he ate dinner, when he listened to the radio, when he worked on his farm books, when he read his Bible, when he closed his eyes at night.
Ray went to potluck the next Sunday as he said he would. Martha asked Miss Dunne to sit with them. Going through the food line, Ray caught a few stolen glimpses of Miss. Dunne. A few times Miss Dunne caught his glimpses. She smiled at him. Ray could feel his cheeks blush. At the table, Miss Dunne sat next to the ladies and Ray sat next to the men. The whole meal, Ray had wished he had enough courage to sit next to Miss Dunne. He could think of nothing but her his entire meal. The men talked of crops and weather. Ray said nothing. And the men didn’t seem to notice.
Ray tried to look at Miss Dunne out of the corner of his eye. But Ray had to face reality. Miss Dunne is a fine and talented woman. One who would not find the company of a beet farmer magical, but ordinary. Ray knew that Miss Dunne was far from ordinary.
Ray noticed how quickly Miss Dunne left the potluck. She said bye to him, but she never looked him in the eye. She thanked Martha for asking her to sit. And she quickly left the luncheon.
The next Sunday, Ray stayed for potluck. This Sunday, Hank sat down next to the lady folks. He mumbled to Ray, that it was something that Martha had asked him to do. Hank always liked to please Martha.
Ray was nervous. He had already decided that Miss Dunne was too good for him. He could never give her anything that she didn’t already have or want. He sat at the table and didn’t make much conversation with anyone. He felt foolish for allowing himself to think of Miss. Dunne in any way but an aquaintence.
Ray thought of Miss Dunne all of the time-morning, noon and night. It didn’t matter. Ray’s heart throbbed for Miss Dunne. Mostly because he knew she would never be with him on the farm. The place he found most comfortable and himself.
One afternoon, Ray was working in the barn and he heard a car pulling up the rode out in front of his house. Ray walked out to see who it was; he had not been expecting anyone. He didn’t recognize the car at first. But the closer it came it was obvious who it was, Miss Dunne in her fancy convertible.
Ray immediately began to blush. What did she want? Ray’s mouth became dry. He could hardly swallow. "Don’t act like a dork!" He thought as she pulled to a stop.

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