Edmonton. Sherwood Park. March 23, 2019. Saturday.
“Why are people looking at us?” I ask Dylan as we prance out of the airport terminal, ferrying our luggage along.
“They’re not looking at us, Ace,” she replies. “They’re looking at you. Like, how Rahul was desperate to figure out which famous celebrity you were. And then — they see me — figuring out when I’m supposed to do your laundry or clean your house.”
“I feel insulted each time you do this,” I brew up.
“Well, it’s true,” she yelps. “I still don’t know why –”
“Dylan, stop it! Or I’m compelled to break the rule and kiss you in front of these people right now!”
“Let’s have breakfast,” I say.
“I still feel dizzy,” she groans, feeling her head.
“You need something warm. C’mon.” I drag her into a burger bar that serves breakfast, and she browses through the menu without a particle of appetite that she pokes her cheek — to and fro — with her fist. “Veggie omelette and coffee?” I ask.
“Okay,” she moans — Once our order is served — “Ace, my parents wouldn’t believe — us — at all,” she sweats. “I mean, I’m out, but they wouldn’t believe that you’ve — you know –?”
“That I’ve fallen in love with a diva potato?”
“That a miracle has rocked into their daughter’s life.”
“Dylan, good parents have sound instincts. They would know right off the bat if I were for real or just a sham. Besides, what we have is not a miracle. It’s a metaphysical universe click. So please — enough of bobbling my nerves around already. Clinched?”
“Claimed. It’s just that — I feel like — drowning into all the world’s seas and oceans here. It scares the hell out of me. Like — I can’t even breathe anymore.”
“This walnut will always win, babe,” I snap. “I guarantee you that. Stop brewing now, and get your appetite to work. Eat.”
Two timid pretty women take their seats next to our table, and an instant curiosity whooshes over to me, along with an anxious smile. Dylan is strung out of their presence, and pops in a piece of omelette. “You’ve just frightened my appetite out of your wits,” she says.
“Good.” I set my plate and cup of coffee in front of me as my peripheral vision catches a sight of the two spectators devouring my walnut, with their absorbed eyes. “Do you still feel dizzy?”
“A bit,” Dylan replies and sips her coffee.
I take a bite of vegetable omelette. “Those two girls are looking at us.”
“They’re not looking at us, Ace,” she yelps. “They’re looking at you, wondering why you’re branched up so closely with your housekeeper.”
“Dylan, don’t make me break the rule right now.”
“It’s just another which celebrity guessing game. Which would haunt you down all over Sherwood Park, and then they would demand for a book of explanations and anecdotes from me.”
“I just find it — bizarre that I get this — much dotty attention around here when I can just waltz around Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa without this awkward clown horrifying my stomach — regardless of how many pairs of eyes maggot me off along the way.”
“You don’t waltz around here, Ace. You run.”
Her adorable charm arrests my senses. “Can I kiss your nose?”
“Nope.” She swirls her head away.
“C’mon, babe. Just nose.”
“Just a little smack.”
“Please, Ace. Don’t. Or I’d break the rule myself. So bug off about it.”
“You can’t even give me your nose for a split-second?”
“Our thing is sacred in my books, okay? I don’t plan on ruining it anytime soon no matter how much my screaming insecurities tempt me to escape.”
“You know that I’d still find a way to capture you, right?” I hit back. “So clinch it up, Dylan. ‘Cause I won’t let that happen at all. Ever.”
“What if your world would be way too much for me to take on, though?” she grumbles. “Then I’d be terrorized, and I’d end up with ugly puffy eyes everyday.”
“Dylan, my world is this potato right here. Would you please be kind enough to believe that?” I grant her with a luring grin, then she forks in some omelette and delivers it into my mouth. I savor every ingredient like never before, with a confronting desire to press my lips against her — Okay, just nose — FOR NOW!! Argh!! “My one and only LUSH,” I say, holding her hand, “may I take the pleasure of — kissing your nose?” She smiles. It’s a YES! Woohoo! And I endear the opportunity to remedy my cramps with a nose-kiss!
“All I got was the omelette!” she laughs.
“How dare you!” I guffaw, then sip my coffee. The snoopy eyes from the other table melt into the twilight zone after witnessing the delectable display mooned off by baby carrot and potato. “You know what?” I say. “I totally forgot about our audience. Now that’s a good sign. Don’t you think?”
“You’re coming out of it, huh?” Dylan replies.
“Amen to that,” I confirm. “Why is it taking so long for their order to arrive, anyway?”
“Maybe they haven’t ordered yet,” she assumes, “‘cause you’ve hypnotized them dead on.”
Quite a long ride from Edmonton International Airport to Sherwood Park. It’s already past 9 o’clock when we approach the front door of a townhouse along Oak Street. Dylan rings the doorbell and hefts a nervous sigh. “Stop rattling,” I say.
“They’re different people, Ace,” she replies.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
The door opens, and –!
A delightful woman in her early 60s, with a bright blue apron on, stands in awe — more like — SHOCKED — really – oh, god! She looks at Dylan, then investigates me with her startled pupils, back to Dylan again — this time, perplexed yet welcoming — and suspires over my presence —
“Who is it?” a kind man’s voice barges in, and he appears next to the delightful woman — who still seems traumatized! The man must be in his mid-60s, stout, fully bearded, country-like — just as delightful as his ladylove. His jaw drops, paralyzed. He glances at Dylan, then his boggled optic electrifies towards me. He gulps to keep his composure together, then addresses Dylan with — “Did you commit a crime? Who did you kidnap?”
“Mom, Dad,” Dylan mumbles in a bumbling state.
“Hi,” I interrupt her, smiling at the two of the most delightful people I have ever laid eyes on, “I’m Ace Hansel.” I extend my hand, and they glim down at my suspended open palm for a moment, then exchange glances and elbow each other. I throw each one of them a brisk squeeze instead, and I can feel the ripples fizzing out of their systems. A mortified silence hums in, and I succor to Dylan for a move it signal. Nothing. So — “I’m a walnut,” I mutter, introducing myself — formally!
“What did she say?” Mrs. Dawson asks her delightful husband.
“She says she’s a walnut,” Mr. Dawson replies, unsettled.
Dylan’s delightful folks have come to their senses — somehow — though I know — my walnut pride is about to be fried on an open pit as we all sit down in the kitchen for coffee. No awkwardness. Just a sprinkle of bashful curtsies and snoops.
“I’ll take our luggage upstairs,” Dylan says.
“We’ll do it together, babe,” I reply, and the delightful folks mouth ‘babe’ to each other — either amused or floored. “Let’s just chill for a second. C’mon now.”
“So –” Mr. Dawson kicks off, smiling at me, “Miss Ace Hansel –”
“Please,” I say, “just Ace. Just call me Ace, sir.”
“Ace,” he stutters, “w-what’s — this — Hollywoodish — thing — going on here?”
“Mr. Dawson,” I sigh, “there is nothing — Hollywoodish — about our sudden visit at all. It’s more like — Well –”
“Oh my god,” Dylan cringes.
“All right.” I jam all my courage sticks together and set them on fire. “Dylan and I have found each other’s All of Lush — in each other. But I pursued her first before the true love wish made its formal affirmation in a flash. So then, a vicious monster, my ex, blackmailed me — involving — both of you — and my parents — That’s why we flew away as fast as we could — to stop the destruction from happening.”
“What did she say?” Mrs. Dawson asks her delightful husband, dazed.
“She says,” Mr. Dawson analyzes my statement, “they’ve fallen in love with each other. Now her ex is about to murder us — and her parents.”
“Dad!” Dylan bolts at him.
“Murder us?” Mrs. Dawson distresses.
“My ex, Alex Avery,” I explain, “is the daughter of one of the wealthiest couples in the country. She’s an almighty elite powerhouse. She can take down anybody who gets in her way. Her vicious plan is to strip you off of your jobs — strip my parents off their top clients. And we’re here to talk to your bosses about it — and hopefully — we could drag them over to our side.”
“We’ve already got fired!” Mr. Dawson confesses.
“What?” Dylan and I exclaim in chorus, almost jumping off of our seats.
“Yesterday,” Mrs. Dawson mutters.
“Oh, god!” I’m about to vomit out of contempt.
“It was just quite puzzling,” Mr. Dawson says, “as to how we both got fired on the same day.”
“I am so sorry!” Dylan bursts.
“Oh, Dylan,” I grip her hand for comfort.
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you!” Mr. Dawson persuades us.
“Pardon me, sir?” I yelp, muddled.
“Dad –?” Dylan seconds, surprised.
“I was gonna fire myself a long time ago, anyways,” Mr. Dawson explains. “They put me behind the desk to do computer work ‘cause they said I was getting weak. I wasn’t productive enough anymore. But the administrative job strained me up, turning me into a cranky cowboy instead. So then, I’ve talked to my friend, and we’re gonna do some carpentry work here and there. Wherever. So long as I get my bones into action, I’ll be fine. Rather than wasting away my strength behind a fancy desk.”
“Me too,” Mrs. Dawson follows. “They said the young teachers were more vibrant to accomplish the job, and the paperworks would give me migraines — forcing me to go home early everyday. So it’s fine. I’m just gonna go back to my seamstress work, which I’ve been doing on the side for a while now. It makes me happy, anyway.”
“Oh god,” I pop off, whiffing out cutting tears, “this is just — I can’t even –How could I ever make it up to both of you? Please — let me know — And I’ll do anything and everything to –”
“Oh, darling,” Mrs. Dawson interrupts me, with her nurturing voice, “it will all be fine. Don’t worry about us. Honest. We’re happier — this way.”
“I’m so embarrassed that this has happened,” I weep on. “I’m so sorry for all this! It’s so disgraceful!” Dylan reaches out for my hand and gives it a consoling rub. I respond with a coy smile, then present the delightful folks with an indebted look. “If there is anything that I can do –”
“We will be fine,” Mr. Dawson echoes his delightful wife’s testament. “And it wasn’t your fault at all. So don’t worry, and stop crying now.”
Oh, their beautiful hearts! How could the universe be too kind? I AM THE LUCKIEST HUMAN ALIVE!
“By the way, he’s singing at the mall today,” Mrs. Dawson announces, killing off the doleful air.
“Oh, god!” Dylan worms away. “Dad!”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” I exclaim, then turn to my one and only LUSH. “Babe, we’re going!”
“The last time he performed,” Dylan briefs me, “he scared the hell out of the young crowd. Kids booed and heckled. It hurt me.”
“Which song was it, sir?” I ask Mr. Dawson.
“Something from the 50s,” he answers.
“Would you like to do one in a contemporary style — perhaps?” I suggest. “Can you do All of Lush, Ocean Lawrie’s version? Rock it up a bit more, and –?”
“On my guitar?” he whoops. “Yeah! I can do that!”
“Ace!” Dylan prompts me. “Don’t push it! Please!”
“I’m not pushing it!” I say in defense. “I just know that he can do it, and he’s going up there to delight them all! Trust me!”
“So –” Mr. Dawson interrogates, “– are you and my daughter — really — serious about –?”
“Dad,” Dylan interjects, “we’re not getting married, all right?”
“Yet!” I yelp. “We’re not getting married yet! But we will! Someday!”
“Oh, goodness gracious!” Mrs. Dawson cheers.
“You’ve no idea,” I proclaim, “how grateful and happy I am right now. Having found her. My… diva potato. And I really do hope I got your hearts, too.”
Mr. Dawson keeps an eagle eye on Dylan for a good — minute — long — then — “How are you gonna explain all this to the entire province?”
“You shouldn’t have convinced him,” Dylan argues, as we walk into her old bedroom.
“They wouldn’t boo and heckle this time,” I promise her, “or I’d kick some butts!”
“Really,” she giggles. “You can’t even mush a mosquito, Ace. Now you want to kick some butts in Sherwood Park?”
“I mushed Alex,” I reply. “Standing up for my hair like that was a historical event of my walnut pride.”
“Back to that. What’s the plan? How is this outwit mission running in your head so far? Got an idea yet?”
“It should pop in once we get to Vancouver, and we’re flying on Monday.”
She sets our suitcases in the corner, then lays down in bed. “I’m exhausted.”
“We’re not taking a nap,” I say. “The show is at 2 o’clock. C’mon. Let’s go for a walk.”
“I’m not parading you around now?” she complains. “I’m already losing my mind here, for god’s sake.”
I sit on the bed, facing her. “Baby, you’re losing your mind over erratic things that will never win. It’s pointless. What are you so worried about, anyway?”
“What do you think, Ace? I don’t think we would ever have a private All of Lush life together at all considering your celebrity-like splendor. We’d always be attacked by strangers’ wolfing eyes, then maybe another vicious monster would wangle in and lure you away, and I’d –”
“I’m sick of you judging my heart all the freaking time, Dylan! Like, no matter how hard I try, no matter what I do, you would always buckle up in your doubts, fears, and screaming insecurities, and smack me around, like I’m just some simulated walnut in your daydreams and dreams that you can dismiss anytime you want because it hurts! Well, you’re not daydreaming and dreaming anymore! Neither am I! I’m not that 12-year-old girl anymore either, who wished for you! We’re right in front of each other now, we’re together, we’re still in a mess, we hope for the happily ever after, and our drabbles must stay in our wooden box until one of us loses her breath in the other’s arms — WHAT PART OF THIS BEAUTIFUL TRUTH YOU STILL CAN’T ACCEPT???”
She gazes at me as her tears hasten down — I caress her hair and hold her hand — “I’m just really scared,” she sobs.
I lie down beside her, and we snuggle. “Me too,” I reply. “I’m scared that you’d run away from me — anytime — and any day.”
“Wooden box?” she giggles, snagging it off from my frenzied speech.
“We should get one,” I say. “Something sparkly.”
“Why does it have to be sparkly?”
“So it wouldn’t fade for the next seven decades or so.”
“I’d never live that long at all.”
“If it has something to do with your doubts, fears, and screaming insecurities, I’m not listening anymore. C’mon. Let’s go get one now.”
The mall has just opened, and is located right across Oak Street. Some establishments are still closed, though the food court starts to get a little busy now, tending to lineups of dearest old folks. A sleepy, hearty, and maybe even celestial community — and I’m loving it!
I grip Dylan’s hand as we check out the keepsake isle of a commercial bookstore while a suave young male associate has been stalking us around — with his stealth and subtle leapfrogs. I ignore him, though I have a funny feeling about his character. The same male specie character that quails my walnut back into the shell. I keep my defiance to spare Dylan’s angst and grab a sparkling brown wooden box from the display. “Our seven decades,” I moan. “What do you think?”
“It’s perfect,” Dylan replies. “Love it!”
We approach the cash register, and the suave male associate jumps right in, with a soothing smile delivered to my presence. “Good morning!” he greets.
I place the item on the counter and tug out my wallet, as Dylan ducks closer to me — disturbed. Her intuition is just as sharp-edged as mine. Oh, my one and only LUSH, indeed!
I catch his nametag. It reads: Jason. “Good morning,” I say. “Just this box, please.”
“Name’s Jason,” he introduces himself. “What’s yours?”
“Walnut,” I reply.
“Walnut!” he cackles. “No, what’s your name? Really? I won’t bite.”
“We’re kind of in a hurry,” I say, slipping out a card. “Could you punch it through now, please?”
“I’m 25,” he pushes, “single, and my family owns this franchise. So what’s your name?”
“It’s walnut, I’m gay, and this beautiful girl — is my WIFE!” I grunt, wrapping my hands around Dylan’s waist.
He goes numb. “No — No. That’s just something that you’d say to put me off.”
“Good catch,” I giggle, amused. “But really — I’m gay and this is my All of Lush true love wish right here!” I kiss Dylan’s neck, and the brash testosterone loses his balance — ALARMED and in disbelief! “Now — are you running a business here or what?” He is forced to scan the item through, then I tap my card on the machine — And as he attempts to grab a plastic bag — “No bag. That’s okay. Thanks.” I seize the wooden box and catch Dylan’s hand. “C’mon, babe.” Instantaneously, my wife and I boot our way out.
“What a prick!” Dylan groans.
“I’ve come out to a complete stranger,” I narrate, “then introduced my wife. Welcome — to Sherwood Park. I love how my walnut cracks around like it owns the absolute definition of spunk.”
“You shouldn’t have done that,” she protests. “You shouldn’t have introduced me as your wife.”
“Well, I meant it,” I reply. “Though it was a white lie, but I meant every word of it, and it felt crunchy and real to me. Stop brewing now.”
“How am I supposed to handle all this wild attention surrounding your walnut, Ace? This is driving me insane already!”
“Aw, you’ll laugh over it sooner in time. ‘Cause it’s sickening and insignificant.”
“It’s sickening, yeah,” she exclaims. “Insignificant? That’s like, you telling me I’m forbidden to mush a thirsty mosquito sucking in my blood.”
“It’s insignificant ‘cause it wouldn’t affect our appetite at all,” I insist. “We go home together and eat at our table. That’s what’s important.”
We surge back into the bedroom right away to perform the drabble ritual. We stand face to face, spellbind into each other’s eyes, and — with a delicate move — place the sacred envelopes inside the sparkling brown wooden box.
“Clinched,” I utter in whisper.
“Claimed,” she replies, enamoring me with an esoteric smile.
I ram it into my suitcase. “We’ll take it home.”
“Home?” she counters. “Where’s our home, Ace? We don’t have a home — yet. And it’s too early for us to have one, anyway.”
“It didn’t take too long for us to catch All of Lush in each other, did it?”
“But that was a miracle.”
“Dylan,” I snap, “I don’t have to question the universe anymore, okay? It’s clinched and claimed. We’re stuck with each other now whether you like it or not because it’s meant to be. Now all we gotta do is find a home for us and our sacred seven decades ahead.”
“Can we please just talk about this u-haul event by the time we’ve mushed the vicious monster?” she panics.
“Okay,” I giggle.
“This is not funny, Ace,” she whines. “I’m still having a hard time grasping your walnut splendor here, for god’s sake, and you’re already talking about us hauling our lives away into a load of apocalyptic pile.”
“Would you breathe out all your doubts, fears, and screaming insecurities already?” I urge her. “I wanna be with you, Dylan. I’m sure of it. I had never been sure of anything in my entire life — until I met you. I know it sounds cheesy and scary, but — here I am — being so brave and so proud — to dance with you.”
“Your parents wouldn’t approve of me,” she mutters, “that’s for sure.”
“My parents are not like that,” I assure her. “They don’t hype along with Alex Avery’s kind. Though the main line has always been a part of their respective careers, but that’s about it. I’ve just been scared to come out, that’s all. Just out of plain ignorance. But having you has given me the courage to. And I promise you — they’re kind and warm. They’d only roast me without mercy once I’d get myself into — scummy situations — Like — sacrificing my morals to please the vicious monster — kind of scummy situation.”
“You better call them, Ace,” she insists. “Send them a message or something. They have to know. You’ve got to warn them about — Alex. Go on. Use my phone.” She rests the device in my hand. “There. Don’t be scared. I’m sure they’d understand. Tell them everything. Tell them the truth.”
“Okay!” I kiss her on the cheek. “Thanks!” And I type away with thoughtful, honest, and detailed messages, then hit send. “I hope they wouldn’t freak out, though.”
“I hope the vicious monster hasn’t gone that far yet!” And she pouts.
“Dylan,” I laugh, “I’m gonna catch that pout with a huge smooch one day soon! You’ll see!”
“Girls!” Mrs. Dawson enthuses from the stairs. “Lunch is served! Come on down!”
“Mom!” Dylan howls back. “It’s not even noon yet!”
“Doesn’t matter,” I say, cuffing her wrist with my grip. “C’mon.”
And all four of us swash down in the kitchen to rejoice in delectable vegetarian meals. Like one happy family. Like a festivity of life — sizzled with love!
“I practiced in the park,” Mr. Dawson says. “In front of a group of ducks swimming in the pond. I’m tellin’ ya, I swear on my momma’s soul, god bless, hallelujah, them ducks? They all gathered together and listened on.”
Mrs. Dawson and I cheer — while Dylan skulks and rolls her eyes away. I slide my hand under the table and pinch her in the thigh. She squeaks and drops her fork. At once, Mr. and Mrs. Dawson twist their heads to us, mystified.
“What’s the matter, darling?” Mrs. Dawson asks Dylan.
“Ace pinched me ‘cause I rolled my eyes,” she mumbles.
Oh, god! My one and only LUSH! She can read my moves! Now my lower abdomen aches even more! “Your dad’s gonna rock it all out,” I say. “Don’t jinx it. Stop with the eye-rolling.”
“I just don’t want those mean punks making fun of him, all right?” she grumbles.
“They wouldn’t make fun of him,” I reassure her. “I guarantee you that.”
“You can’t even mush a mosquito, for crying out loud,” she blows off.
“Give me one, and I’d torture it in my palm,” I jest.
“Walnut,” she sneers.
“Diva,” I bark back.
“Baby carrot,” she snarls on.
“Potato,” I gibe.
“I was a carrot, too,” Mr. Dawson says, “in our fights.”
“And I was the potato,” Mrs. Dawson seconds.
Dylan and I exchange looks, then titter — and a sweet dispute blares out between the delightful Dawson folks —
“We should fight over something some time soon,” he informs his delightful wife. “We haven’t done that in a very long while.”
“What was our last fight all about?” she replies.
“I think it was something about – Abby Phillips,” he recalls.
“What about her?” she supplicates.
“That she also did a recording of All of Lush,” he answers.
“SHE DID NOT!” she objects.
“DID TOO!” he points out. “I just got no proof of it. But I know she did. Momma told me.”
“No, she didn’t!” she insists. “Carmen Cozzolino did!”
“Her and Abby Phillips!” he vouches.
“You mean, in a duet?” she blurts out.
“No!” he yelps. “Respectively!”
“What year was that?” she challenges him.
“Mmm — I don’t know,” he ponders.
“1965,” Dylan and I render in chorus.
And the delightful Dawson folks gape at us, transfixed. “Huh?” Mr. Dawson reacts.
“Both versions were released in the same year,” I say.
“In 1965,” Dylan rings it out again and spreads her palm before me.
“Clinched!” I meet it with a high-five.
“Claimed!” she snaps.
“That’s just settled it then,” Mr. Dawson says.
“How long ago was that?” Mrs. Dawson asks. “I mean, the fight?”
“It was on Dylan’s 9th birthday,” he replies. “On my old folks’ farm. When we caught her dancing alone to the song, and dreamily smiling away. And it was Zea Schiavione and Kai Cannon’s version. It’s been stuck in my head since.”
“Oh, that’s right!” Mrs. Dawson affirms.
And that does it! The effulgent desire to dance with her for the rest of my life radiates in with a major greenlight — enslaving me into an impulsive myriad of colorful and vivid thoughts — I want to marry you now! I can’t wait to clinch and claim the sacred seven decades! And I am desperate to be your wife!
I smile at Dylan and whisper into her ear: “I love you. Very much. Way more than what this crazy world can offer us.”
“What did she say?” Mrs. Dawson snoops in.
“It’s their thing,” Mr. Dawson reprimands his delightful wife. “We should have a thing, too.”
“We already have a thing,” Mrs. Dawson replies. “There’s so many of them that I can’t even name one right now.”
Dylan traps me in her happy and fulfilling teary eyes. “Me too.”
The mall show!
Whoah. The humble stage is set up in the food court, and it is full packed! The camera operator is good to go! Surround sound systems — checked! Community media — ready! The anticipation mounts as a middle-aged man appears on stage and performs a mic test in different tones and voice volumes. He must be the host. He addresses the crowd with punch lines about being a carnivore. He gets suppressed laughs. He gets the cue — shut up and get it rolling already!
Dylan and I stand close by the stage, sipping our smoothies, clinging to each other’s arms — while inquisitive and emanated eyes ingest us. When I survey some audience members, smitten smiles assail at me. I smile back with a self-conscious wave at some female seniors and teenage girls. My polite response titillates them. Dylan starts to find humor in it now, cooling it around with soft giggles.
I caress her ear, and she shimmers. “Please, Ace,” she pleads, whispering, “you’re cramping me up. Stop it.”
“Okay,” I giggle. “So I call you babe — or baby. What’s your term of endearment for me?”
“I haven’t thought of a better one yet,” she replies.
“What was the first one that you had in mind?” I ask.
“I like lushie.”
“No. I’m not going for it. It sounds like — a cat’s name.”
“It sounds cute.”
“It doesn’t suit you.”
“What would suit me then?”
“When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror, anyway?”
“Dylan, looks do not fall in any category at all.”
“Since when has the world said that?”
“Since the beginning of time. It’s how you see me that matters here.”
“It’s a million beautiful things,” she says. “So it’s hard to decide. I’m still deliberating.”
“I love you,” I whisper in her ear.
“Me too,” she whispers back.
Aaannnddd —- the show lights on —- at last!
First performer: a teenage girl belts out the latest country hit. Applause! Whistles! More cheers!
Second performer: a young man swags on stage with a classic rock strain. Standing O! A town pride! Yay!
Third performer: a young boy with an extraordinary singing voice charms the crowd with a power ballad song. A Sherwood Park gold! Wow!
Fourth performer: a young woman takes over the stage, seizing the audience up on their feet with a mega pop dance tune! Professional! She should invade a Vegas spotlight! Hands down!
Fifth performer: a young girl delights all corners with a global knockout country melody! A future star! Adorable! Awwwwww!
Mr. Dawson climbs on stage with his acoustic guitar, and — oh no — grisly groans — mocking giggles — unwelcoming murmurs —
Dylan sheds tears and looks at me. “I’ve told you so.”
THIS IS NOT HAPPENING IN FRONT OF MY WALNUT PRIDE!!!
I shove my cup of smoothie to Dylan and flight up to the stage! Aaannnddd –
HUSH!!! GUSH!!! GOSH!!! GASPS!!! FREEZE!!!
Though surprised, Mr. Dawson grins at me. He gets it! I drag him aside and whisper into his ear. He nods, pumped up, proud! Then we both stand before the microphone. “Hi, I’m Ace Hansel!” I introduce myself, and radiant smiles hot-boogie at us, along with giddy anticipation.
“I’m David Dawson,” he seconds. “And here’s our little treat for you today!”
Mr. Dawson and I perform a duet of All of Lush, Zea Schiavione and Kai Cannon’s version. AND!!!
The crowd falls in love — clicking away with their phone cameras, taking videos, compressing their way towards the stage — Even the punk kids fight for perfect shots and better spots — The camera operator and the community media spark up on a frenzy — The entire mall humps into a hysterical state! Oh, dear god.
Meanwhile, Dylan – oh, my baby — is wiping away her spirited tears — smiling — ecstatic — though perturbed by the bouncy and intense audience — She zests on in the moment — like it is the most valued memory stick.
Mr. Dawson ends it with a rocking strum of a power chord, and rousing SCREAMS — jammed with passionate CHEERS — throw off the roof! I evade the host as fast as I can and jump off the stage to get to Dylan, as all heads turn to my direction and —
The community media and the doting young audience rush towards me! OH MY GOD! I’m about to be SMASHED!
Dylan races on and captures me by the arm, then we horse our way for a zipping escape! Stumbles! Wheezes! Until open air slams into our faces! Though some boys and girls are still trailing along behind us — we’re safe now!
We cross the street and skitter inside the house, then slam the door closed! Startling Mrs. Dawson, bouncing away from her sewing machine! “What happened?” she yelps.
“Ace performed with dad on stage,” Dylan replies, catching her breath. “Now the entire Sherwood Park is dying out of complete madness! Over her mesmerizing jazzy singing voice that can instantly launch a million breaths to the heavens — and over her walnut!”
“Really?” Mrs. Dawson cheers, then suddenly realizes the ghastly consequences — “Oh dear! Oh dear! Where’s dad?”
“He’s still back there,” Dylan gasps. “Hopefully, not entertaining those local reporters! Or we’re out of here!”
“We gotta lie down,” I say and drag Dylan upstairs, into the bedroom. “Oh my god!” I plop down in bed and feel my head.
“We have to leave Sherwood Park now, Ace,” she panics. “I have a gut feeling it’s gonna go really RACY!!! This is not just another day anymore!!!”
“Baby, I’m exhausted,” I sigh. “I think I’m ready for a long nap now. C’mon. Come here. Let’s take a nap together.” She lays down beside me, and we snuggle. I kiss her forehead and pet her hair. “It’ll be fine. They’ll get over it.”
“I didn’t know you could sing like that,” she mutters.
“Ah. Singing was just something that I’d do in my secret world just to give me something to smile about.”
“Nothing made me genuinely smile, Dylan. Just my parents. The sweet darlings’ affectionate gestures. And sometimes, some random strangers telling me about their beloved. Then I met you, and –”
“Don’t you find it odd at all?” she interjects. “How it’s all happening so fast?”
“I blame it on destiny.”
“The metaphysical universe.”
“All of Lush true love wish.”
“And — your grits!”
“My what?” I laugh.
“If you didn’t grit up like that,” she reasons, “then none of this would have happened at all. No walnut in my life, your hair would still be tied up, and –”
“And we’d still be looking for each other,” I interrupt her. “Then some time later — I’d find myself back in Toronto, I’d spill coffee on my top, and I’d attack you at Luster. See how tricky destiny is?”
“That was coffee?” she smirks. “It looked like puke to me.”
“Did it look like I got super drunk the night before, with some guy slobbering all over me?”
“While my walnut had been mangled into million pieces because of you.”
“How was I supposed to know a miracle flashed itself in front of me?”
“It was not a miracle,” I insist. “It was meant to be.”
“Still a miracle,” she pouts.
“Dylan!” I laugh. “One more! I swear to god, I’m kissing that pout away!”
“Shut up, walnut!” she giggles.