From the author: Love and a corpse. Perfect together.
Darlene had been trying to play footsie under the table with her sweetie, only to discover it was the foot of the corpse he was hiding under the table.
Awkward, but it did explain the lack of response.
“Darlene,” he cut her off. “I know what you’re gonna say, and you’re right, and I’m sorry. But I was so busy with cookin’ the spaghetti and settin’ the table—“
Darlene snorted; she couldn’t stop herself in time.
Dwayne blushed, a terrible sight because it made his already red skin even redder.
“My table ain’t good enough for you, I know, with your fancy job and your 1982 Chevette, but I work hard, Darlene. I put this here food on the table with a lot of my own effort. You could at least ‘preciate me for myself! The chaplain at state said that it’s the intention what matters, and I intended to do good.”
“That’s not the problem, Dwayne,” she said, although that was at least a little part of it. “It’s the body. You can’t leave bodies in your dining room where they’re all surprising-like and unsanitary—“
She had known about Dwayne’s hobby since they started dating. She’d been working the check-out line at Wal-Mart when he came in, buying plastic sheeting, gloves, bleach, cement, and a big plastic tub. Trying to be funny, she had asked, “What you doing, disposing of a body?”
He raised those big bushy eyebrows of his and said, “How’d you know?”
Darlene’s heart skipped a few beats – probably her arrhythmia – but it was love at first sight.
That’s why she could forgive a few little problems, like him using salad forks for dinner and paper napkins instead of linens. Her momma had always told her that men weren’t good at housekeeping, but she drew the line at decomposing bodies under the dining room table.
“Oh, oh, I see. I’m sorry, Darlene. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for it to shock you. I ran outta time.” He ran his fingers through the thinning hair left in his half-inch crew cut. He leaned back from the table, balancing his chair on two legs. His right hand slid under the table, and Darlene saw his shoulder twitch.
“I know this may seem awkward, this only being our third date, and I know I messed up, and I hadn’t planned on doing this yet. I was savin’ it for a special day. But…”
All four legs of Dwayne’s chair hit the ground, and he brought out his arm from under the table. In his hand was a small blue velvet box. Dwayne dropped to one knee from his chair, discretely tucking the corpse’s arm back under the tablecloth.
“Darlene McManus McShanus, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” He opened the box, revealing a brilliantly clear shining diamond atop a simple gold band. “I know I ain’t the best at housekeeping, and I know I don’t got a double-wide like you and your momma, but my heart is double-wide, and I want you living here with me.”
Darlene felt tears spring to her eyes. It wasn’t as good as a proposal at NASCAR, but she knew that Dwayne would be good to her, right up to her dying day.
“Oh, yes, of course, yes! You are plenty the best, and I do want you as my husband!”
Dwayne slipped the ring on her finger, and they kissed over her mostly uneaten plate of spaghetti.
“You know, it’s a shame,” Dwayne said.
“What is?” Darlene asked, twisting and turning the ring on her finger, checking out the sparkle.
“That body there under the table you were complainin’ about is the chaplain. If only I’d waited, we could’ve done been married now.” Dwayne tugged the tablecloth down a little more, making sure the priest’s dog collar wasn’t rolling out from under the table.
“Dwayne, baby, that’s okay! We can go elope! Then we can use my employee discount to get us some cleaning supplies for the house.”
Dwayne took her hand and squeezed it and smiled at her.
For a second, Darlene doubted that true love feeling and thought maybe – just maybe – Dwayne was using her for her cement and tub-getting abilities. But it was only for a second. If she thought of it again, well, she’d make sure Dwayne didn’t notice.
Darlene smiled at her ring. Yes, Dwayne was definitely a keeper. For now. If that changed, she was the one with the discount for the cleaning supplies after all. And a woman gets to know an awful lot about her husband’s hobbies.