Kevin swallowed a mouthful of potato and said, “So, Dad, how was work today?”
Hugh Nelson stopped scooping up his peas and sighed. “Y’know, Son, I don’t really want to talk about it tonight. It’s just the same old nonsense from the same people. Tell me about your day instead.”
“Well, Mr. Mackenzie told me that when Vernon Morgan retires next month, he’s moving Pete Cooper up to the number two spot.” He looked around the table at his family and grinned. “And I will be the new paint department manager.”
“Oh, how wonderful,” Kevin’s mother, Betty, said.
“Good for you, Kevin,” said sister Karen.
Hugh nodded. “Now that’s the kind of office talk I want to hear around this dinner table. Congratulations, Kevin. That’s a quick promotion as young as you are, but I know you’ve earned it. You’ve proved your work ethic at the hardware store, and it’s paying off.”
“It sure is,” Kevin agreed. “With the raise I’m going to get, I can afford to buy a nice little house and start out on my own now.”
“Well, that’s just fine,” Hugh said. “Start living the American dream.”
Karen eyed her brother mischievously across the table. “And does that dream include Tina?”
Kevin shrugged. “It does tonight. I’m taking her to the sock hop. I went to the school three weeks ago and asked Principal Henderson if that would be okay. Since I just graduated last year and Tina’s about to graduate, he gave me permission.”
“But that nice little house would be even nicer with a nice little wife, wouldn’t it?”
Kevin frowned at her. “Don’t push, kiddo.”
“That’s right, Karen,” Betty said. “The time and the girl will be right when Kevin says so. Don’t you go trying to rush things.”
After dinner, Karen helped her mother with the dishes, and Kevin went upstairs to get ready for the dance. He came downstairs with his jacket over his shoulder.
“You’re not wearing that tie to the sock hop, are you?” Karen asked.
“No, just while I’m picking Tina up. You know, for appearence’s sake with her folks.”
“Good idea. Here, I’ll put your jacket over a chair. Dad’s in the living room watching TV.”
Karen opened the jacket and placed it on Kevin’s chair at the dining room table. She looked around to make sure she was alone. A few seconds later, she scampered up the stairs to her room.
She came down half an hour later wearing her pink poodle skirt and white blouse. Kevin had his jacket on and was looking around for something on the floor.
“Hey, Karen, have you seen my wallet?”
She held it up. “Right here. I found it on the stairs.”
“Huh. I wonder how that happened.” He checked the available cash and took what he hoped was a casual look under the insert tab. Then he put the wallet in his jacket pocket.
“Time to go pick up Tina. See you there.”
Kevin said goodbye to his parents and drove off in his ’49 Olds. Karen sat down to wait for Warren Gray, her steady boyfriend, to collect her. She wondered if Tina’s father gave Kevin the stern “keep your hands off of my daughter” routine Hugh always gave Warren. Not that Hugh needed to worry about Warren; he was the shy type. Karen was coaxing him along, though.
When the band took a second break, Karen steered Tina toward a relatively quiet corner of the gymnasium and a quiet talk.
“How are things between you and my brother?”
“Fine,” Tina said.
“Well…” She smiled suggestively. “Better than fine, if you must know.”
“I don’t want too many details. He is my brother, after all. I just want to know that you’re … satisfied.”
“Has he told you about the big promotion he’s about to get at work?”
“He sure did. He’s starting to move up the ladder. It’s exciting.”
Karen frowned thoughtfully. “It would be more exciting if he could see his way clear to putting his lofty position and windfall to good use. Say, a walk down the aisle with my best friend.”
Tina laughed. “Maybe someday. But you, better than most, know how deliberate he is in everything he does.”
“Oh, yes. Solid, thoughtful, deliberate, dependable Kevin. A game of checkers takes twice as long with him as with anyone else. You need to spur him along. What else is there for you to do after we graduate?”
“I’d kind of thought about business school,” Tina said. “But I’m tired of taking classes. I just want to get on with life, you know?”
“I surely do. That’s why you need to pester Kevin a little. Get him to see the advantages of making hay while the sun shines.”
“I’m trying, but it’ll take more than me to get him to move off the dime.”
Karen just smiled at her friend.
Four months later, Karen stood beside Tina as her maid of honor at a hastily arranged wedding.
The bride and bridegroom – and both sets of parents – seemed both pleased and embarrassed even though the cut of Tina’s wedding gown kept the reason for the speedy arrangements mostly hidden. Karen saw no reason for them to be embarrassed – not that she would permit such a thing to happen to her.
She loved her brother and was proud of his burgeoning success at the hardware store; Tina had been her best friend since kindergarten. It was a perfect match, and Karen had seen no reason why it should wait for Kevin’s plodding.
She thought back to the night of the sock hop, and how she had slipped Kevin’s wallet from his jacket and raced upstairs with it. The condom, in its little package, was hidden underneath the insert tab of the wallet. Some deft work with a straight pin – not easily discovered in the darkness of a 1949 Oldsmobile – had ensured that Kevin’s proposal was necessarily offered sooner rather than later.
Perhaps, Karen thought, some day she could tell the lovebirds how hers had been the hand rocking their cradle, so to speak. And they could all laugh about it.
For now, she settled for dabbing her eyes gently from time to time and stealing a glance toward where her little nephew or niece lay sleeping and growing.