Charlie found Rose an intriguing young woman. She was as fresh as a spring morning. Her interest in amateur radio was questionable, except for the geography the QSLs offered.
He was older than Rose. He wasn’t sure how her father felt about that age difference, but he suspected his asking for a date would not be well received, not yet anyway. He would have use caution.
College was her immediate future. Rose’s father had found a black 1940 Ford Coupe and brought it to Charlie’s shop for inspection. After it was deemed a sound automobile he bought it for her, calling it her college car.
# # #
Autumn gave way to winter. During those few months he’d managed to take Rose to three movies at the Fisk Theater on the Butler Square. In a slight way, her perfume caused Charlie to recall letters he received from a Colorado girl he’d met while in radio school. It was a long ways from Denver to his duty station in Iceland and the faint fragrance of civilization was always welcome. The letters continued for a few months, and then the space between them gradually expanded until they stopped altogether. There had been nothing between them, so it didn’t really matter. He wished her well.
Rose, however, was different. She was someone with whom he could build a future.
One cold and snowy morning, hours before daylight, the telephone brought Charlie out of a sound sleep. The caller was a long haul trucker at a payphone north of town on US 71. One of the wheels on the drive axle had sheered the lug nuts and dropped his truck onto the highway. His load was fresh produce that could freeze if he didn’t reach Kansas City by morning. Charlie wasn’t equipped for heavy work, and road service was beyond his capability. However, he got dressed and drove out to see if there was something he could do.
The driver had already set out his flares and had retrieved his wheel and tire from an adjacent field. If the truck had not been blocking the northbound lane, Charlie would have turned down the job. But it was a potential disaster. Returning to the shop he loaded tools, jacks, blocks, and in his father’s inventory, he found the correct stud bolts and nuts for the job.
It was difficult, working by lantern light. Lying on his back in the snow had soaked him to the skin. By the time the trucker was ready to roll, Charlie was wet and chilled through.
Later that morning he developed a nasty cough. Artie took over the shop while he went to see his doctor. He was going into pneumonia, his doctor said, and admitted him to the hospital.
Fortunately, the pneumonia was caught in the early stages, and he was quickly on the mend. After he was no longer contagious Rose drove to school each day and then came by the hospital to check on him. During her third visit he suggested they step outside of some fresh air.
“You can do that?” she asked.
“Of course, they don’t care. Wait for me while I get my clothes.”
Minutes later they were in the elevator and headed for the lobby. The snow had been cleared from the sidewalk. Though a frigid wind blew from the northwest, they strolled around the parameter of the hospital grounds for a quarter-hour. When it was time for Rose to head home Charlie returned to the hospital. As he stepped into the lobby a lady at the main desk ask if there was anything she could do for him.
“Are you here to visit someone?”
“No, it’s just pretty cold outside and I though I might step in here to warm up,” Charlie replied.
She nodded and returned to her duties. All was quiet until the day-nurse assigned to Charlie floor stepped from the elevator.
“What are you doing out of bed?” she growled.
“You’re Charlie McAntire, aren’t you?” asked the lady at the desk.
“Yes, I am.”
“Come with me, Mr. McAntire,” the nurse demanded, taking Charlie by the arm and heading for the elevator.