Humor Fiction posted August 24, 2016


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Budding Romance

Herman and Tootsie

by Ric Myworld


The checkout line to the cash register wound up and down two aisles, congesting the walkway intersecting the convenience store and the truck-stop cafeteria.

Big diesel-motors revved and airbrakes squeaked as tractor-trailers pulled into and out of the gas lines outside.

The front doors swung open with a blast of hot air.

Nauseating fumes of petroleum, oily diesel fuel, and smoky exhaust created a haze that permeated the whole facility.
   
WHA-A-A-A! A sudden blast from a mighty air-horn blared.

Herman almost jumped out of his skin. Trembling, he shook with the ferocity of an electrocuted cat.

Startled customers nonchalantly peeked around to see if anyone had seen them jump. Then, the whole place erupted into cacophonous laughter.

Herman, a kind, timid sort of person, smirked as he looked down in his meek embarrassment, figuring he must surely be the center of attention.

He glanced up over the top of his thick, black-rimmed glasses in a perfect, yet unintended, Steve Urkel cameo imitation. The crowd howled.

It’s hard to say whom Herman resembled most. Steve Urkel, the star of Family Matter’s television show, or Barney Fife from way back in the stone-ages of Mayberry on the Andy Griffith show.

Five-foot two-inches tall and one-hundred thirty pounds of puny, he wore bright-red suspenders and high-water trousers pulled up under his armpits.

His screeching high-pitched voice was so obnoxious that it caused listeners to cringe worse than fingernails scraped on a schoolroom blackboard.

The shoppers, already worked into a frenzy of delight, busted out in pandemonium when Tootsie Tuttle came strutting in.

Screaming, laughing, and pointing, some held their stomachs while others doubled over in hysterics.
 
Eyes and mouth wide open, there was utter shock on Tootsie’s face, as she turned sharply back and forth, curious to everyone’s focus of fascination. Never for even a second had she imagined herself as the amusing diversion.

Almost six foot and weighing approximately three-hundred pounds, Tootsie was a behemoth-sized woman.

Dressed impeccably, in a dainty, multi-layered off-white and black polka dot Chiffon skirt, cut well above the knees, and a black light-gauze polyester blouse accented by a florescent pink belt and neck scarf.

Fine quality feminine apparel for women on the go, she only bought the best—but, let us face the facts, folks—Tootsie was butt ugly, big butt UGG-U-G-L-Y!

Expensive clothes, even a genie from a lantern or a wizard with a super-duper magic wand couldn’t make Tootsie’s Humpty-Dumpty physique with her bulging boxcar caboose fit in such skimpy, clingy attire.
 
The slightest glimpse of her rolling fat thunder thighs bubbling out from beneath her skirt gave immediate evidence of her bad style choices and tasteless charm.

For all who have pondered whether wealth and good taste are synonymous— please, consider braggart billionaire Donald Trump, the epitome of white trash tacky—non-politically speaking, of course.

Scarier yet, is that in today’s world of pocket t-shirt elegance, some find him kitsch. Moreover, for those who have never heard the term . . . never mind?

Tootsie waddled and bumped her way to the hosting station and gave her name, party of one.

The cafeteria-style restaurant would allow her to be in line as soon as a seat came available, which it did almost immediately.

The truck stop known for good food at fair prices stayed steady to packed breakfast, lunch, and dinner, eaters never seeming discouraged.

The illuminated overhead sign advertised it as “The Meet and Greet, place to eat.”
    
The line went quickly. In almost no time, the server took Tootsie’s tray to her designated seat at a tiny two-person table, which sat directly across from a man hidden behind a newspaper.

In a courteous manner, the man folded his paper, stood, and said, “Hello, I’m Herman Hollingsworth . . . and your name is?”

At first, he wasn’t sure she had heard him, but looking around to see all those beady staring eyes, he could only wish to melt through the floor. Then, at the very instant he began to ease toward sliding back in his seat, she answered.

“Oh, hi . . . I’m Tootsie . . . Tootsie Tuttle.” She smiled, so wide in fact that you could see her tongue wiggling behind the huge gap between her two front teeth.

“So nice to meet you, Tootsie . . . won’t you sit down, please? I hope you don’t mind sitting with a stranger for lunch?”

“Oh, no . . . I don’t mind at all. In fact, I get tired of eating alone all the time.”

“Good, good . . . so, Tootsie, what do you do, if I may ask?”

“Oh, sure . . . I don’t mind. I’m a truck driver . . . an eighteen-wheeler, over the road.”

“No, you’re not . . . seriously?”

“Yeah, that’s what I am, alright,” as she hauled-off and smacked the table so hard the saltshaker and napkin-wrapped utensils bounced off and hit the floor.

The people across the aisle sprang in a panic from their booth.

Herman scurried to gather the silverware and shaker, trying to draw the least scrutiny possible.

Then, Tootsie asked, “So what is it that you do, Herman . . . ? It is Herman isn’t it?”

“Yes, Herman Hollingsworth, and I’m a school teacher.” Herman smiled, blinking and licking his lips, his tongue slapping as if he were trying to swat flies.

“A teacher, huh . . . that’s nice. What do you teach, Herman?” Tootsie asked.

“I teach chemistry.” He had barely gotten the words out of his mouth before Tootsie started laughing, with a gradual crescendo to guffawing; the whole restaurant soon joined her in a roar of chuckling.

Herman didn’t know how to react. He couldn’t figure out if she was making fun of him, or what could be so funny?

Finally, becoming frustrated, his demeanor turned stern, and he barked-out, “May I ask what is so funny?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Herman. I just couldn’t help myself. I mean, like, here you are a teacher of chemistry, having lunch with me, and . . . I can’t even spell chemistry.”

Flushed, Herman’s rosy cheeks broke into a smile. Although, he still didn’t understand what was so damn funny.

Yet no sooner had he forced out the slightest laugh, than they both, got the giggles. Sounding like a couple of school kids on a first date.

“Well, Tootsie, I must say that I’ve never met a lady trucker before.”

“Well you have now, Herman. I’m a red-blooded, all-American, big ol’ Hell-raisin’, truck-drivin’ woman . . . HEE HEE HEE!” Her laugh rang out like a jackass throwing a hissy fit.

Herman’s mouth fell open, his eyes darting all around, and the whole restaurant erupted in another symphony of raucous cackling.

The sound of Tootsie’s laugh took Herman’s mind back to an old joke he had heard years before.

"Someone called the bartender a jackass. A friend sitting at the bar asked the bartender if he had heard what the fellow had called him, and the barkeep said, 'He-all, he-all, he-always calls me that.'"

That joke still tickled Herman's funny bone. It had ever since he first heard it. 
 
<><><><><> 
 
Tootsie and Herman started having lunch together two or three days a week at the Meet and Greet.

Before long, they were even coming in for dinner, and then for late night snacks. Seemingly spending lots of time together, from what we could tell.

Then it happened. Right there in front of God and everybody.

Herman stood up, took a spoon and dinged it on his empty glass until the whole place went quiet.

Then, the glass slipped out of his hand and broke all over the floor. It was a whole lot louder than hearing a pin drop, that’s for sure.

It took a few minutes to regain order and get everyone’s undivided awareness again.

Nevertheless, no sooner had things quieted down, than Herman got down on one knee.

He looked up at Tootsie with that typical love-bitten gleam in his eye, and said, “Miss Tootsie Tuttle, I would like to take this moment to thank you for all the happy times we have shared over the last few months. It’s been the happiest time of my life. So, with that being said, there is nothing that would make me happier than for you to be my bride.”

Tootsie had a funny look on her face from the minute Herman fell to his knee. You know, like someone trying to sneak out a little gas in a crowded elevator.

She kept making a conscious effort to appear cool and unconcerned to the crowd. Motioning for Herman to get up, looking around as she tried not to be too obvious, and hoping no one else could see.

Herman had handed her his hanky before he started his proposal, just in case, I would suppose.

Wadded up in Tootsie’s right hand, she held it to her mouth as she tried to whisper where no one else could hear her.

However, I could hear every word, as she kept repeating, “Herman, get up . . . please, Herman . . . I thought you knew?"

He finally stood up, leaning in real close to Tootsie.

Her facial expression more resembled jittery apprehension now, as she tried to whisper, “Herman, I’m so sorry. I thought you knew.”

“Knew what, Tootsie?” Herman’s voice was the loudest it had ever been.

“Well . . .” Tootsie seemed to be searching for the right words, and then out they came in a holler. “I’m already married!”

“Then what in the . . . the . . . bejesus . . . have you been doing with me?”
       
“We’ve been having fun . . . ain’t we?”

“Yes, we’ve had fun, Tootsie . . . but what about your husband?”

“Well, Herman . . . he’s always on the road . . . and sometimes I don’t see him for months. Like all these we’ve been spending with each other.”

“But Tootsie, this isn’t right. I can’t be fooling around with another man’s wife.”

They hadn’t noticed that the restaurant patrons had slipped out the doors, leaving them all alone.

Herman dropped his head and in a glum mope wandered out the front door toward his car.

He opened the vehicle’s door, got in, and sat there frozen in place for the longest time, before turning to look back at the restaurant. His driver-side door opened slightly, but then, he slammed it shut and drove away.

Tootsie had plopped down in a chair. Tears streamed down her cheeks along with her mascara.

She shook and sobbed, occasionally swiping her arm across her eyes and nose, streaking a blurred mess of snot and makeup across her face and sleeve.

Then, all at once, realizing Herman’s handkerchief was still in her hand, she held it to her nose, inhaling a deep-scented breath of his cologne. Her frown flipped from the smile upside down, to beaming happiness again, as she said aloud, “I know what I have to do.”

Herman hadn’t driven more than a mile or so down the road before turning into the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, where he sat a spell.

Eventually, he took out his cell and called the restaurant, but it was too late. Tootsie had already gone. Therefore, he did the second best thing and called me at the front counter.

Mixed-up and sad at how things had come down, he racked his brain as to what to do next. It only took a little prodding and encouragement to convince him that it was Tootsie's choice to make, and he would just have to sit and wait, which he did, but not for long.


<><><><><>


Tootsie had already filed for divorce nine months before, which Herman hadn't given her a chance to explain the night everything fell apart. So, the following week, while Tootsie's husband was in town, the sheriff served him with the papers and made their divorce final.

It's been little over three years since Herman and Tootsie first met.

Tootsie, she's still driving a truck.

And good ol' Herman, well . . . he gave up teaching and found himself a new profession.

Now . . . they travel the roads together, him as her co-driver. At home, when they aren't eighteen wheelin' across the highways, she is his snuggle buddy, and they are the Hollingsworths.  

 


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