My old pal Mingo was a man of ideas.
Despite his somewhat shaky track record, Mingo remained an optimist.
It was this optimism that caused him to plan the ultimate night of romance.
Mingo met Kelli in December, and the fact they were still seeing one another in February was a minor victory in itself.
They had survived Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and things still seemed to be going OK.
The first hint that things might be about to take a turn for the worse came one afternoon when I was in our pal Bunny Bundrick’s basement shooting pool.
Mingo came bounding down the stairs and exclaimed “This is going to be the best Valentine’s Day ever!”
Bunny and I exchanged glances.
“Why do you say that?” Bunny inquired cautiously.
“I’ve got a plan for the ultimate night of romance that’s going to blow Kelli’s socks off,” Mingo explained, going to the ice box to retrieve a refreshing adult beverage.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Bunny replied slowly. “You haven’t known each other that long.”
“That’s why this is such a good chance to show her how romantic I am,” Mingo said.
“And the best part is, it’s going to be a surprise!” Mingo added triumphantly.
Bunny and I exchanged glances again. Mingo’s surprises had been known to turn out badly.
“Is that wise?” I asked.
“It’s more romantic that way,” Mingo said, taking a drink of his beer. “Kelli wanted to go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day, but I told her I have to work late.”
“How is that romantic?” Bunny asked incredulously.
“She’ll be caught off guard when I arrive to sweep her off her feet,” Mingo explained.
He outlined his plan, which convinced us there was trouble ahead. Like most of Mingo’s schemes, there was too much margin for error.
We were unable to convince Mingo to alter his plans. His mind, what there was of it, was made up.
Valentine’s Day arrived, and Mingo appeared at Kelli’s workplace well before she was due to be done for the day.
He found her red Pontiac Grand Am in the parking lot of the office building where she worked, and he got down to business.
He decorated her car with red and white streamers, and wrote sweet little love messages on the windows. Then he tucked a great big Valentine’s Day card under her driver’s side windshield wiper, and retired to his own vehicle to wait.
It was getting dark by the time Mingo observed a female figure in a white jacket approach the car and stop to study his handiwork.
Mingo silently got out of his vehicle, and crept up behind her.
He leapt out brandishing a bouquet of roses, and shouted “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
The effect was dramatic. The woman whirled around to face Mingo, at the same time reaching into her purse for her can of pepper spray.
Before he could react, she gave him a shot in the face.
It was especially effective, because seeing a woman he did not recognize in a place he had expected to see his girlfriend had left Mingo standing with his mouth and eyes wide open.
Mingo dropped his flowers and began sputtering and coughing and rubbing his eyes with his sleeves.
The woman watched this with her pepper spray at the ready.
“You’re not my girlfriend!” Mingo stammered when he finally found speech.
“You’re so right I’m not, and I’m not going to be, either,” the woman replied crossly.
“But, this is her car,” Mingo said, after coughing some more.
“This is my car,” she corrected, “and I’m going to get in it and get out of here.” She snatched the card from beneath her windshield wiper and threw it at Mingo before getting in her vehicle and leaving.
Mingo was still coughing up a storm, when squinting through his burning eyes, he noticed a familiar face staring at him near another red Grand Am a few rows away.
Mingo picked up his sodden flowers and the mangled envelope and made his way over to Kelli.
“I thought you had to work late,” she observed sharply, getting the conversational ball rolling. “What were you doing talking to that woman?”
“I was giving her a surprise for Valentine’s Day,” Mingo croaked. “I mean, I wanted to surprise YOU for Valentine’s Day, but I must have got the wrong car.”
He held out the pathetic flowers and card.
“We’ve got reservations at Mario’s,” Mingo added, dabbing at his eyes.
Kelli gave him a long assessing look.
“We better get you cleaned up first,” she said finally, and drove Mingo to her place.
A call to the restaurant revealed it was booked solid and a cross voice informed Mingo that, no, they would not accommodate a change in the reservation.
Kelli and Mingo had a quiet dinner in Kelli’s apartment.
Often, the stories we hear after Valentine’s Day bear more resemblance to reality than all the hype and fantasy leading up to the day.