Put Five Rings on It by David Connor and E.F. Mulder is now available!
Numbers mean everything to an Olympic marathoner, but for Gordon O’Dooley, his obsession with one number in particular might get a little out of hand.
Gordon literally comes running into Marty Walsh’s family diner one day, and their mutual attraction is instant. He comes on too strong, though, and Marty quickly slams on the brakes. When Marty suggests they take things slow, Gordon races off, and any hope of a relationship goes right along with him.
Four years pass, and Marty does his best to move on. But fate brings them back together as Gordon is preparing for another Olympic bid. They agree to start over, slowly this time.
As they get to know each other, Marty comes to realize how strong Gordon’s obsession with the number five is. Will Marty be able to handle Gordon’s OCD? And what will Gordon do when he realizes the reason behind Marty’s reluctance at intimacy?
I helped Spencer through the loss of his father. We went out on a couple of dates in the months that followed. We even fooled around a bit. It was fun. It was nice. It also made me sad, because as much as we loved each other — and we did — we weren’t in love. How was that possible? To use a kitchen metaphor, maybe there was only one lid for every pot. He was a stock pot. Getty was his lid. I was a griddle. I didn’t have one.
“If I’m always waiting for some miracle there, with Getty, that’s not fair to anyone else I go out with,” Spencer had told me. “Especially you.”
“I get it. You two have known each other your entire lives,” I had said. “One only has to be in the room with the two of you to see there is something unfinished there. I hope it works out. I really do.”
“I hope the same for you.”
“Me, too,” Clarence said, on his way to the exit. When I looked at his sweet, gentle face, I couldn’t be angry at him for eavesdropping. “It’s time for you to find your soul mate, Smarty. The clock’s ticking. The years move too fast.”
I only had to think back on the four since I’d last seen Gordon to know that was true.
It appeared as if Mother Nature didn’t see Labor Day as the end of summer like the rest of us. The kitchen was hotter than hell. I didn’t do catering work all that often, but once word got out that I made the best apple and cherry pies in the state, well, people wanted what they wanted. I’d gotten an order for six. And speaking of hell, the delivery … well, I certainly wasn’t looking forward to that. I’d asked my father to take them over, but no. “They’re your pies. You take them. And don’t be gone all day. I plan on shooting off some fireworks with Vicky.” Vicky was his latest girlfriend. “I see no reason to wait until after dark when she has a pool.”
“Eww. And wrong holiday.”
“You celebrate your way, I’ll celebrate mine.”
So, off I went to Pine Meadows — yes, the nursing home — with six pies beside me on the seat of the truck. My heart was racing by the time I walked in through the front door with boxes stacked up to my forehead I had to peek around to find my way. I should have just said no, but twelve bucks for a pie it cost barely two to make, that was too much profit to turn down because of stupid, adolescent fear. I was hoping I could just drop them at the reception desk, therefore avoiding any chance of running into a certain nurses’ assistants, slash Olympic hopeful. I was thinking about him. I couldn’t help it, even though I hadn’t spoken to him for years.
“Can you take them to the dining room?” the blond girl at the front desk asked. “All the way down the hall, a left, another left, and then straight ahead.”
The question had been rhetorical, I figured, since it was followed by directions. I set down the pies on her desk and thought about bolting. Instead, I hiked up my pants — which had been falling lower and lower since I’d started across the parking lot — and then grabbed the boxes. The top one fell. “Fuck.” I looked at the receptionist and pictured her teaching Sunday school on her day off. “Sorry.” The box was sealed. I hadn’t made a mess, but I could only imagine what the pie was going to look like once it was opened.
The dining room was empty. It was only three-thirty. Dinner was a long way off. At least another half an hour. I beat a hasty retreat to the front door once I’d set out five beautiful pies and one that looked like a crime scene in an aluminum plate. My hand was on the doorknob; I was almost safe. “Who are you?” The woman in the wheelchair appeared to be about a hundred years old. Though her body looked frail, her voice and manner were harsh. She seemed just Great Gramp’s or Grandpa’s type. She asked me again, “What’s your name?”
“Um …” I looked for someone who might have been in charge. She had a demeanor about her, this old woman, as if she was planning an escape and I was the perfect patsy to take as a hostage. I didn’t want to be an accomplice, so I debated whether or not I should even answer.
“Your name, son. It’s not a tough question.”
“Marty. What’s yours?”
“You’re not the Marty that broke Gordon’s heart four years ago, are you?”
Was I? She stared me down for an answer. “Maybe?”
“Evelyn, I have your afternoon meds. Hello, Marty.”
“Hello.” It was him. I’d wondered if he might not even work there anymore, but there he was, just as I’d feared — or maybe hoped.
“How are you?” Gordon asked.
“Doing well.” He smiled. “You look good.”
“Oh. I lost a couple pounds and –“
“No. Not your body. That was always perfect. I meant … it’s good for me to see you.”
Evelyn eyed me as if I was Satan.
“Thanks. Same here …” I was stammering like a fool. “You … I mean … what you said.”
“Evelyn, your medication …” Gordon handed her two little cups. She swallowed the contents of both — one pills, one water, presumably.
“I’ll be keeping an eye on you,” she warned me before wheeling herself away.
“Will those pills knock her out? I’m a little scared, to tell you the truth.”
Gordon chuckled. “She won’t hurt you … much. She’s very protective.”