The Proposal

“Storms a’coming,” said the old man as he rocked in his chair on the veranda of his house. He motioned towards the horizon where dark clouds were amassing. “Going to be a big one,” he added and then turned as he spat a large hunk of tobacco into a metal bucket by his side. There was a metallica PING as the spit found its intended target and began sliding down the inside wall of the bucket.

Will sat in his own chair examining the old man, not a rocking chair, more of a garden variety lawn chair that the man had pulled out for him to join him. He couldn’t get over how much the old man resembled the stereotypical “old southern gentleman” of many a movie and tv show. He wondered whether the old man, Fred, knew this and was purposefully embracing such a character or if the film and tv industry had just got their portrayal completely correct.

“Looks like it,” replied Will, “so… about Lara…”

“Yes, yes, yes,” interrupted Fred, “I haven’t forgotten why you’re here. You want to marry my only daughter and you figure getting all gussied up and talking to me man to man is going to ingratiate yourself in my eyes, such that I might go along with all this malarkey.” He turned and directed a withering look at Will. Will tried desperately to stare back, he couldn’t be seen to be weak, not now. But eventually he had to look away, the older man had an unsettling intensity in his eyes and Will felt it rude to continue to stare back. Besides, it couldn’t hurt to further defer to the older man’s superiority.

Looking away, Will was taken aback by this response. He had thought everything was going to well so far. He had arranged for Lara and her mother to go for a massage as a mother’s day present for his hopefully soon-to-be mother in law. Of course this was all part of a cunning plan to get them out of the house and give him some time to sit with the old man and show his respect, asking for the hand of his daughter in marriage. Seemed the thing to do. However, after managing to get up the courage to ask him, first the old man had been silent, then had deflected to talking about the storm, and now seemed to be going on the offensive. This whole thing was not turning out the way he had hoped. Will was beginning to regret this whole idea. It was 2015 for fucks sake, he didn’t HAVE to ask for permission, he did it as a sign of respect, yes, to ingratiate himself slightly as he knew how close Lara was to her dad but he didn’t need to do it. He could have just straight up asked her and left it at that. Now, the old man was seeing completely through his thin veneer of sincerity and was calling him out on it. Time to turn on some old fashioned charm.

“Sir, you’ve got me all wrong,” said Will, he laughed trying to make it seem Fred had just told him a particularly funny joke but his nervousness meant that his laugh came out as a nervous chuckle. “I wouldn’t do anything you weren’t happy with. That’s why I wanted to ask you first.”

The old man let out a sputtering laugh that could easily have been mistaken for a cough if it weren’t for the slightly upturned corners of his mouth. When he was done, he added another large hunk of tobacco and began chewing, staring off towards the upcoming storm clouds that were closing in fast and now seemed to be almost merging into the land below indicating very heavy rain was on its way.

“So…” said Will, the hint of impatience in his voice was hard to detect but it was there. This was really not going as he had hoped and he didn’t know how long he would have until Lara and her mother got back. It had taken him longer than he had thought to get up the courage to ask and now this old man seemed to be playing delay tactics. His temperature began to rise as it often did when he ended up in stressful social situations. He could almost hear the roar of Lara’s car coming up the long driveway already. If they came back now, what would he do? Would they both pretend like nothing had happened or would this old fuck try to ruin everything for him, perhaps even straight up telling Lara and his wife what had happened. No, this really had to be resolved and now.

“Sir…?” said Will, gently touching the old man’s arm to try to snap him out of whatever thought he had disappeared into. The old man yanked his arm away from Will and turned on him, there was a look in his eyes that Will had never seen before. A cross between fury and mocking ridicule.

“Request denied,” spat the old man, “you’re not good enough for Lara and you never will be. She’s just hanging around with you to piss me off. Do us all a favor and take your liberal ass back to Los Angeles and leave us all the fuck alone.”

Will’s mouth dropped open in shock. He had never been spoken to like this in his life. The initial shock didn’t last long, it soon dissipated and was replaced with an anger… no a rage that he had not felt in a long time.

“What right do you have?” said Will as he stood from his chair and towered over the old man, “What fucking RIGHT do you have to speak to ME like that?! When I come to you out of respect… I didn’t need to come and I don’t need your FUCKING permission!”

The old man lifted his head, his chin jutting out defiantly as he faced off Will.

“Showing your true colors now aren’t you boy?!” said the old man, “on the surface you pretend to be a respectful gentleman but underneath, you’re nothing but a sniveling, entitled, shiteating liberal FUCK!” With that, he spat a huge hunk of tobacco right at Will’s face. It smacked into his right cheek and began to drip down his face.

“That fucking does it!” Will grabbed the old man by the shoulders and yanked him up and out of his rocking chair, he ranged back, blinded by rage now and intent on shutting this hateful fuck up once and for all when he noticed an unusual look come over the man’s face. The old man was choking on his tobacco! Will let go of him, letting him fall back into his chair. The old man grasped at his throat, pointing towards his mouth and his throat as he coughed and spluttered but to no avail. Will looked around him, the rage dissipating fast as he realized he had to do something to help the old man. He turned back towards the driveway, Lara had taken their car so it wasn’t as though he could drive the old man to get help. As he looked, he saw fat drops of rain smacking into the earth around them. The storm had arrived, right on schedule.

Turning back to the old man, whose face was now turning a slight purple color, he went to pull him out of his chair. He vaguely knew of the heimlich maneuver and was pretty sure the person had to be standing before you could perform it. As he got him to his feet he heard a loud rumble all around him. Thunder. The storm was officially upon them now. Turning him around, Will got behind the old man and wrapped his arms around his waist, under the rib cage, and began to pump his hands into the old man’s stomach. The old man continued to sputter and choke. It didn’t really seem to be working.

“Come on you old bastard,” muttered Will, “you’re not going to die on me…” As he said that, his mind which had so far been mostly just reacting suddenly cleared and thoughts began to surface. What if he did manage to save him. Surely the old man would blame Will’s violent outburst for the whole incident. He would surely use this as an opportunity to wedge a stake between Will and Lara and drive him away in shame. Will stopped pumping. The old man looked back at Will and frantically began pointing to his mouth and throat again. A muffled sound emerged from his throat as if he was trying to explain to Will that he was still choking, and why had he stopped?

Of course there was a chance that the old man would hail Will as a hero for saving his life and gladly give his permission to marry his only daughter but Will barely entertained this thought. Not after what he had just said to him. This cantankerous old fool would blame him for the entire thing. But if the old man were to choke to death…

Will unwrapped his arms from the old man, whose muffled cries now increased their urgency, and gently but firmly pushed him back into his chair. There was a flash of lightning and Will saw the look of understanding cross the old man’s face as he realized what was going to happen. The old man was going to die and Will was going to let him. The old man tried to struggle to his feet, desperately trying to get to the rail that ran around the veranda to perform some kind of a self-heimlich. Will was having none of that. He firmly grasped him by the shoulders and pulled him back down into the chair. The old man continued to struggle but he was no match for Will’s steady and strong grip. Eventually the old man’s struggling eased, as if finally resigned to his fate. His eyes closed and he went limp in his chair.

When he was absolutely sure that the old man was dead, Will opened the door to the house and went back inside. As he shut the door, he could see the lights from Lara’s car meandering up the driveway, windshield wipers on max as the car tried to battle the heavy rain. Will turned and returned to the living room where he put the television on. He flicked through and found an episode of Seinfeld that was midway through. The thunder outside rolled again and he turned the volume up to close to maximum, to drown out the sound of the storm. He smiled, it would also provide a great excuse as to why he hadn’t heard the old man choking to death outside.

Turning his full attention now to the television, he sat back in what had once been the old man’s comfy lazy-boy, and watched as George Costanza explained what a great word “manure” was. Despite the joke not being one of the funniest, Will leaned back and laughed raucously. Now there was nothing to stand in the way of his upcoming proposal.