Romance, Shromance

“Romance, shromance,” said Ida Wingate as she tossed the dozen red long-stemmed roses into the alley dumpster behind the pet store. She lingered for a few seconds, taking a teary-eyed last look at the flowers before turning away and walking down the alleyway. Who needs him anyway, she thought, thinking the roses already looked half-dead lying on a mound of banana peels and soiled newspapers topped by a lifeless goldfish. “I should have known better,” Ida muttered as she made her way toward the bus stop across the street. “I never should have trusted that loser.”

Ida plopped down on the bench with a heavy sigh and eyed the digital bus tracker. “Next bus in twenty-five minutes,” scrolled by on the screen, right above a poster featuring the new mayor with a tagline that read, “Never wait more than ten minutes. I guarantee it!”

“Liars,” spat Ida at the mayor. “They’re all a bunch of liars.”

A man in a wheelchair rolled into the sheltered bus stop and glanced sideways at Ida.

“Don’t worry about me,” she said, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. “I’ll get over it.”

“Well, I don’t mean to be nosy,” said the man, “but …”

“Then don’t be,” said Ida before the man could finish his sentence.

“Excuse me?” asked the man.

“Don’t be nosy,” said Ida. “It’s none of your business.”

“Yes, ma’am,” replied the man, maneuvering his wheelchair into the corner. “Far be it for me to pry into anyone else’s business,” he added, settling into place and looking up at the digital bus tracker, which now read, “Next bus in twenty-eight minutes.”

“Damn!” he cursed. “Looks like this bus is heading in the wrong direction.”

Ida craned her neck to read the sign. “Unbelievable.” She sighed and motioned toward the poster of the mayor. “They’re all a bunch of liars,” she said.

“And crooks,” said the man. “Don’t forget about crooks.”

“That’s right,” replied Ida, a quivering smile forming on her lips. “Liars and crooks.”

The man burst out with a deep, hearty laugh that had him rocking back and forth and slapping the arms of his wheelchair. It was one of those contagious belly laughs that makes you want to laugh right along with it. Ida felt herself giving into it as she chuckled.

“Liars and crooks,” bellowed the man when his laugh died down. “Ain’t that the truth,” he said, nudging his chair towards Ida.

“Liars and crooks,” Ida repeated. She looked around to see if anyone else was around before adding, “And assholes,” which made them both laugh again.

“I’m sorry,” said Ida when the laughter subsided. “I didn’t mean to snap at you earlier. I’ve just had a bad day, that’s all.”

“No need to apologize,” said the man, flashing a big, friendly smile and straight teeth. “My name’s Henry,” he said. “Henry T. Goodfellow.”

“Get out of here,” replied Ida. “That’s not your real name.”

“God’s honest truth,” answered the man. “My mother had her run of trouble when it came to men—as I take it you can relate to. Anyway, by the time I came along, my father was long gone. I never even knew the man, but my mother was so fed up with his shenanigans that she wouldn’t even give me his name. That’s how ‘Henry T. Goodfellow’ came to be on my birth certificate. I guess she hoped it would provide me with a sense of direction.”

“What an incredible story,” said Ida Wingate, turning her head from the man so he wouldn’t notice the tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Yes, indeed,” said the man. “And I have my mother to thank for that,” he added. “God rest her soul.”

“I’m Ida,” said Ida, wiping her face. “Your mother sounds like a good woman.”

“A good woman who gave birth to a Goodfellow,” said Henry T. Goodfellow without missing a beat. And with that they both began laughing again.

When it got quiet, Henry glanced up at the digital bus tracker. It read: “Thirty minutes. Next bus in thirty minutes.”

“Half an hour,” he exclaimed and chuckled. “Can you believe it?”

“We might as well stay the night,” said Ida, blushing.

“I’ve got an idea,” said Henry.


“I mean if you’re not doing anything.”


“How’d you like to join me for a drink across the street.”

Ida eyed the little bar on the corner. The malfunctioning neon sign over the door read “Chance Encounters,” with every other letter flickering on and off. Beyond the bar, down the alley where she’d been earlier, Ida could just make out a pack of feral cats prowling around the dumpster with the discarded roses and the dead goldfish.

“All right, Mr. Henry T. Goodfellow,” said Ida, turning toward Henry and gazing into his kind, smiling eyes. “You’re on, but on one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“The drinks are on me.”

“It’s a deal,” said Henry. And with that he unclamped the wheel locks on his chair and began rolling across the street. Ida fell into step behind him, grabbed the chair’s handles, and smiled while guiding the kind man with the big belly laugh toward the cozy confines of the neighborhood bar.

“Romance, shromance,” Ida said to herself. “Romance, shromance.”