There’s a “holiday” for everything from tweed day to lazy day (although I could get into that one). I wanted something to go with last year’s May Day story, “Bringing in the May,” but what comes after May Day? Mother’s Day. Um… for a fledgling relationship, that might be pushing it. Ahem.
So, I did some digging and guess what today is? A Poem on Your Pillow Day.
I’m a horrible poet. Parodies–not so bad. After all, I did the “If You Give an Author a Character“ one and “The Night before NaNo.” Not exactly prize-winning stuff, but I can work with this. As long as Elton is as bad as I am, we’ve got this.
I’m the author. This can be a thing. Woot!
And who said “Poem on your pillow day” had to be a good poem on your pillow? Not me!
So, without further ado, unless it’s to point out that if you didn’t read last year’s story, you might want to to start there first…
For Poem on a Pillow Day, I bring you… “The Versary.”
I don’t think there are any links to affiliate products in this post, but there might be. So, if there are, I receive a small commission but it doesn’t cost you extra, I promise.
The sticky note mocked him from the side of his monitor—just a simple reminder of an idea he’d had. A text arrived to distract him. From Bethany—very distracting. Tomorrow’s our anniversary. Want to celebrate?
Elton’s thumbs hovered over his screen. The truth was, he didn’t know what she was talking about. They hadn’t exactly cemented a relationship in the week since May Day. No, he’d come home after the best kiss—and only one worth noting, if he was honest with himself—of his life, and his life had continued as usual.
On Wednesday, he’d ventured out for Tolkien’s walk at precisely the same time he did every day.
Bethany had arrived at her usual time as well. They’d talked. Tolkien got his biscuit. Thursday… Friday… He’d hoped she’d cash in that gift card. Saturday and Sunday came and went. He’d decided to go see Mary Margaret Montmorency about it on Monday, but a new project had landed in his inbox, so he’d spent the day and most of the night working on troubleshooting a new app.
Now she’d sent that message about an anniversary. It might be relational suicide, but Elton had to ask. We have one of those?
The one-week anniversary of our first kiss.
It was something to celebrate… He blinked at the note on his monitor. A plan germinated, sprouted, and blossomed. It sent out tendrils and rooted new shoots. Monday night… he could go back to Scrappy Night. The women might eat him for snacks but Di would help.
His phone blipped again. What do you think?
Elton zipped back a reply. What’d you have in mind?
I’ve got this gift card to Olive Garden…
The Scrappy Night gals had been right. She did like it. And she did want him to go with her. Giving Bethany that card had been the equivalent to asking her out—without needing words, even.
He’d need time, though—lots of it. Elton zipped back a suggestion of seven o’clock. Or, we could go tonight…
The moment he hit “send,” Elton regretted it. I can’t! Scrappy Night!
Seconds ticked into long, miserable minutes, but no reply. If she’s trying to make it happen…
The blip came at last. I tried, but I can’t reschedule my appointment. Tomorrow’s the right day anyway.
Temptation crept in and flopped its chin on his arm. Puppy dog eyes of hope begged him to do it. Elton glanced over at Tolkien’s bed—just to be certain he’d lost his mind. Yep, the dog was where he belonged, and still, Elton felt the fuzzy face begging him to do it. I’ve had her number for ages. I’ve texted her half a dozen times—always about Tolkien. Now…
Before he could talk himself out of it, he sent back the closest thing to a flirtatious text as Elton Sadler could manage. Tolkien misses you.
Her response solidified every plan he’d come up with. I miss you, too.
Twenty minutes after Bethany should have been home Elton realized, much to his chagrin and Tolkien’s amusement, that of course she’d be late if she couldn’t go out. So, he completed his tenth pass up and down their street, fed Tolkien, and took off for his second night at the Scrap Shack. Who knew how that would go. All he had was a vague idea and a classroom full of crafty gals who might be able to make it become a reality.
And they’ll never let me live it down.
Di greeted him first. “Hey, Elton! You’re back! How’d it go with your May baskets?”
From the back, the snarky one called, “Obviously it went well or he wouldn’t be back!”
“I thought scrapping wasn’t masculine enough for you!” another called. “Should we nickname you, Ellie?”
And just like that, it happened. Elton became “Ellie” to half the room. There was a new gal there, and one or two of the others weren’t. Still he sat down, took their teasing with as good a grace as he could, and started to explain his mission. The Snarkster, as he’d decided to call her, stopped him.
“Nuh uh! You start with how it went, and then you can start on a new project. We need the ‘deets’ as the young people say.”
Yeah, that was the last decade, but okay.
From his 007 moves to Bethany catching him before he had a chance to hang the basket, Elton dragged out the story. “I took her to ask Mary Margaret Montmorency what to do.”
Di interrupted there. “Why? You get caught, you get kissed—period.”
“That’s what she said.”
The memory of that kiss… Elton ordered his face to remain unresponsive—for all the good it did him. The others around the table hooted. With the enthusiasm of elementary school kids shouting, “Fight, fight, fight,” the ladies pounded their fists on the table and cried, “De-tails, de-tails, de-tails!”
“A gentleman does not get kissed and then tell. I will say, however…” In that moment, Elton was transported back a week and to Mary Margaret Montmorency’s chintz sofa. To afternoon light filtering in through lace curtains. To the quiet sounds of water sloshing in the next room. Bethany’s fingers on his cheek, the way her eyes told him that she looked forward to it as much as he did, that moment when her lips came close enough to feel although they still didn’t touch…
No. He wasn’t telling them all of that. Instead, he described the knowing look on Mary Margaret Montmorency’s face and how they’d sat there, holding hands, probably looking as goofy as they felt.
“Held her hand, huh?” The Snarkster waggled eyebrows at the rest of the ladies. “This one knows how to take things slow. Good move.”
“All the way home too.”
The new gal eyed him. “Any repeat performances?”
As awkward as it felt, he shook his head. “It’s been a normal week until today.”
The air of expectation would have clogged their paper trimmers had he tried to slice it. “Come on. What’s different about today?”
“She sent me a text—told me tomorrow is the anniversary of our first kiss. And that’s when I decided I wanted to do this thing I read about.”
Again, anticipation pulsed through the room. Di came and sat beside him. With one hand on his arm—Elton had to remind himself that it wasn’t the puppy of temptation—she whispered, “You’re going to give our ladies palpitations if you don’t tell us what that is, Elton.”
“Ellie!” The Snarkster interjected.
“Oh, be nice. He’s here, isn’t he?”
Feeling cheeky—clearly, Mmm’s influence—Elton leaned his bony elbows on the table and winked at them all. For the first time, wondered what Bethany thought of them—his bony elbows, knobby knees, and equally bony ankles. Unfortunately, he wondered aloud. “She kissed you, boy,” someone quipped. “She’s clearly unfazed by the bones.”
“Too fazed, if you ask me.” The Snarkster winked at him. “Go on. This is going to be good.”
“Well…” Though he didn’t feel the need to draw out his story, he couldn’t resist taunting them a bit. “I went looking for other obscure holidays—something sooner than Guy Fawkes Night.” Again, Elton winked. “I didn’t think that sounded overly romantic.”
“I don’t know, Di argued. “November can be pretty cold. She might need comfort and a bit of warming…”
“I’ll keep it in mind. Anyway, I found a list of special days by month. Tomorrow happens to be poem on a pillow day.” He pulled out his phone and flipped through ideas he’d found. “Some people get really literal and use a sharpie to write a poem on an actual throw pillow… see?”
The room gave a collective thumbs down at any idea not involving paper.
“This one was kind of neat—a box that they call a “pillow box.” They use one of those machines…” Elton gestured to the die-cutting machine he’d watched them use the previous week. “Voilà. Instant pillow. I even found one I could print at home and make, but that would be boring if I didn’t do something neat to it.”
“He’s got the bug…” The woman who said it grinned at his blush. “And there’s no vaccine for it. Like the common cold, you’ll get it again, and again, and…”
“I think he gets the picture. What else?”
Elton swiped from one idea to the next—a pretty paper with a poem pinned to a pillow. “Except I’d probably rip it trying to pin it to her pillow.”
“And how do you plan to be able to get into her room to do this?” a few serious and seriously awkward eyebrow waggles accompanied that question.
Those, he ignored—proof indeed that there is a God. “And then I saw this card and thought it could just be propped against the pillow. That’s close enough, right?”
Though he would have swiped past the next picture, Di stopped him. “Wait! That’s cute. Simple. Easy.”
“I thought maybe when I find out when her birthday is…”
“You could do it for your poem. How sweet would it be to have a box wrapped up like that and inside is just a simple poem—meaningful in what you give and how you present it.”
Woman after woman eyed the photo before passing to the next. The verdict was in. They’d decided for him. He’d make the box and wrap his poem with it. Still, the card appealed to him—the paper doily, the paper roses, the sweetness of it. “Do you think it would be hard to do something similar—for Mmm?”
“Mmm?” The entire assembly of crafters extraordinaire spoke their question in a perfect, unified chorus.
“Mary Margaret Montmorency. Mmm…”
That’s all it took. Di dragged him all over the shop again. “You’ll need baker’s twine for the pompoms….”
“I’ve got baby yarn in just those colors in the car if you want them, Ellie! I like the fluff yarn gives and it takes less to get that fluff.”
“She has a point,” Di conceded. “If you want…”
He agreed. Within five minutes, he had ribbons to match, a felt-tipped calligraphy pen, and several pieces of “kraft paper,” whatever that meant. It all looked like “craft paper” to him. “You can make a lidded box this way. Then you’ll just tie on the ribbons and, voilà!”
The way she said it sounded like “wah-lah,” and Elton itched to inform her that the word should be pronounced with th “v” sound. He didn’t. Instead, he took the instruction sheet that Di passed him, reached for a ruler and pencil, and settled himself in for a long springtime’s scrap chat.
The Snarkster, it turned out, was a preacher’s wife. Scrappy Night was her one night a week to go where no one in her church ever went. “I don’t have to be ‘on’ here. My husband is under orders never to divulge my whereabouts, and no… I don’t live in Hillsdale.”
“I would never ask.”
Di owned the shop, of course. It was her concession to not becoming a professional craft artist. “I’m not quite original enough,” she admitted. The room erupted in protests, but the woman held firm. “You’re all biased. When you compare me to people like Teresa Collins or Anna Griffin…” She winked at Elton. “Or Tim Holtz, you see that I’m not that original. I’m just a great copycat with a twist.”
All while they talked and argued, Elton worked on his box. Buoyed by his success, he moved on to the daunting task of pompoms. Those, too, proved easy. Wrap a million times, tie, cut, and fluff. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, according to The Snarkster whose snark began to mellow with the constant influx of chocolate.
He met his defeat at paper roses.
Cutting the spiral—easy enough. Creating the center flop—er, flap—not so much. The woman with the giant red-rimmed glasses, with the very incongruous name of Misty, wedged a chair between him and the new gal and helped him. “You’re trying to roll from the center. The outside is what makes the center. Start out here…” She rolled a bit. “And then just work around. You don’t have to make it look nice yet. Just get it all rolled. Then you’ll loosen it up, see?”
Just like that, it was done—and beautiful. She dabbed a bit of glue on the bottom, squished it down into that, and held it. “Now make yours.”
Should have known I wouldn’t get to keep it.
His second one worked, however—and was much too large for his card. He passed it to Misty-who-should-not-have-been-so-named and begged for a two-inch circle die. Though his masculinity protested, his geek side pumped a fist. The Snarkster taught him how to make “stitching” lines to create the illusion of embroidered stems and leaves. Di taught him how to add the tiniest hint of glitter with a brush and “shimmer” stick.
Misty had a son who wanted to go into video gaming—not design, gaming. “I keep telling him there’s no future in being a gamer,” she wailed.
“Actually, he could do what I do with games. I have to, sometimes.”
Off they went on that tangent, and in the end, Elton found himself agreeing to meet with “Dax” to go over the skills a quality assurance analyst would need to get hired in the first place. In the end, he didn’t even care.
His total for week two—twelve bucks and owing The Snarkster a bit of yarn. He’d taken a surreptitious picture of one of the skeins and had decided it was a good enough excuse to come back the next week—to make Mother’s Day cards, of course.
One for Mmm… one for each of his grandmothers.
Desktops—both virtual and physical and littered with crumpled sticky notes, computer paper, and Word documents—told a tale of writers through history. So far, his only successful attempts had been parodies of other poems, limericks, and jingles. Sad, pathetic attempts at parodies, too.
Free verse had declared independence from his pathetic little mind and set up a new state where freedom really did ring. The worst thing was that Elton decided free verse fit Bethany better than traditional iambic pentameter and the like. Mmm, however, would expect rhymes—not ditties, rhymes.
Tolkien begged to be let out, and the electronic blue glow of the microwave clock said it was time to give it up and go to bed. Thirty-six hours without sleep made him giddy.
Tolkien woke him with demands for a visit outdoors. While the dog romped, and likely snarled a few foxtails for Elton to pick out of his fur, Elton plopped back down in the chair at the desk and glared at the empty pad.
Kindness comes in many forms
A smile, a story, a kiss.
Love is shown in kindness’s shadow
The half-hidden tale of bliss.
Of love, there are many kinds
A friend, a pet, a mother.
Yet through kindness love unveils the blind
And declares you are no other.
It didn’t make sense—he knew it.
And yet, it had that ambiguous quality that always stumped him in poetry. Perhaps Mmm would see in the words he had used the words he didn’t know how to use. Besides… he really needed to get it done and get to Mmm’s house.
Elton wrote too large on the inside of the card—the words wouldn’t fit. He pulled out the little tape runner and extra inserts Di and the others had insisted he take and tried again. Once again, charm appeared at the stroke of three.
Tolkien rode all the way to the Montmorency cottage with his head out the window, tongue lolling to one side. Mary Margaret Montmorency met them at the bottom step. “Elton! I hadn’t expected you today!”
“I came for help, Mmm…”
“Oh, of course. But first, tea.”
Rarely did Mmm allow him in her kitchen. The “lounge” was where visitors belonged. But whenever he had a troublesome moment, Elton found himself at her little cloth-covered table with a cup of tea and a plate of “biscuits” before him. Four decades in the United States hadn’t taken the proper English woman out of her yet.
While she fussed, he pulled everything from a shoe box he’d brought—everything but her card, that is. That, he’d slipped between two books as they passed through the living room. “So, I found out today is ‘poem on your pillow’ day. I made a box to put a poem in, came up with a way to get the poem onto her pillow, and everything.”
“But you can’t write a poem?”
“Free verse, Mmm… I think Bethany would like free verse, and it’s even harder than a rhyme.”
“Well…” Mmm scooted closer. “What are you trying to say?”
Therein lay the rub. “I don’t know.”
“Well, you can’t expect to write a decent poem if you don’t have something to say.”
Affection, memories, hopes, dreams, admiration—Elton came up with one idea only to have it eclipsed by the next. Then she said it just four short words. “Perhaps a memory, then?”
“Like when I met her or first saw her?” The idea grew. “Or when I first wanted to ask her out and couldn’t? I could turn it into something about how she was worth the wait?”
“Try it, Elton. I’ll take Tolkien for his walk while you play with words. Try putting down some words on a separate piece of paper—words that fit your feelings. Keep it sensory. I think that’s probably more important for that blank verse nonsense.”
The moment she closed the little gate behind her, Elton dashed to put his card on her pillow.
Then he returned to the table, stared at the blank page, and waited.
The words came in a flood, then. Too many words, too many emotions, much too many declarations. He struck one line out and added another. By the time Mmm returned, his papers reminded him of poorly redacted letters from the World Wars. Mmm took them all from him, and on a fresh piece of paper, wrote one line, then another. She flipped through and chose another. A smile formed. “Beach Boys. I always did like them.”
A few lines he’d crossed out made the final cut, and he protested. “Don’t you think that’s a bit…precipitous?”
“Tell her how you feel, Elton. It’s a declaration of feeling, not a proposal. There is a difference today. This is not Victorian England, thank goodness.”
She’d been right about May Day—all the traditions. Maybe he should give it a chance…
Mmm walked them to his car, kissed his cheek, whispered encouraging words in a soft, gently undulating English accent, and told Tolkien to help him “muster some courage.”
“I can’t wait to tell you how that part goes. Getting the poem done was bad enough. Sneaking into her house won’t be as easy.”
“Bring her over so I can hear her side of the story, too. I’ll make a real shepherd’s pie and Victoria sponge.”
With sponge included, how could he refuse?
Since his attempts at stealth had been a complete disaster, Elton attempted a different approach. He dropped Tolkien off at a friend’s house—just three streets over. He gave strict instructions to keep the dog in the basement as much as possible. “I owe you guys.”
“Just let us know if it works,” they insisted.
It just has to.
First, he broke the law. He stuffed her little box—the one Mmm had helped him tie up in ribbons and affix pompoms to—in the very back of her large mailbox. Mmm had been rather proud of his accomplishments on that box and assured him any young woman would appreciate the effort expended on her behalf. It might even be true—unless he got them both locked up in the pokey for tampering with federal property.
Once his bad boy persona had been established, he walked to the corner and waited—just out of sight. Any time a car sounded like it might be growing close, he called out. “Toooool….kieeeeen.”
The first three were a wash, of course.
Then it happened. Her little Subaru Outback appeared as he peered over lower fences, behind trees, and basically any illogical place someone would look for a dog who rarely ventured more than a few yards from him. Bethany’s car came to a screeching halt. The window rolled down. “What are you doing?”
“Looking for Tolkien. Think he could have gotten in your yard?”
It worked. She ordered him into the car and shot down the road. In seconds she jerked to a stop in her driveway. “I’ll go look. We’ll find him, Elton. I promise.”
But will you forgive me?
Bethany returned a moment later, shaking her head. “He’s not back there. Why don’t I drive up and down the streets south of us, you go north. Come back in…” She gave him a questioning look and when he didn’t answer, shrugged. “Ten minutes?”
Elton just nodded, not trusting himself to speak. A kiss to his cheek, a whispered, “It’ll be okay. We’ll find him,” nearly made him confess.
He strode toward the end of the street, but the moment she rounded the opposite corner, he jogged back and retrieved the box. His entire plan hinged on this moment. Had she been rattled enough to leave the door unlocked?
The doorknob twisted, but the door stuck.
Elton gave it a shove, and it groaned open. She did mention that it sticks in humid weather…
Inside felt like her—sensible and whimsical at the same time. He wanted to take his time, examine every little thing, but he couldn’t. Only one room had a bed, and considering the filmy pile of satin on the corner—a nightdress, he supposed—it must be hers. He settled the box against the pillows and stepped back.
One pompom drooped.
He rotated the box forty-five degrees and properly-pronounced, voilà!”
Back out the door, down the streets, into his friends’ home, and back out with Tolkien. She met him one street over, panic on her face until Tolkien barked and raced to her. That’s when he saw them—tears in her eyes and tear stains on her cheeks. I did that to her. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea…
It took some serious arguing to convince her that they still needed to go out to dinner.
“He has to learn that he doesn’t get pampered if he takes off.” Oh, pal, I owe you big time for this. Tolkien seemed to understand. “Just go get ready and maybe we’ll leave early. We can bring dessert here or something.”
That compromise did it. She squealed, kissed them both, and dashed out the door. Elton promptly gave Tolkien a handful of dog treats. “You’re a good sport, ol’ pal o’ mine.”
He’d just taken off his shirt to put on a clean one when the doorbell rang. Never had Elton buttoned on a clean shirt faster. She’d take one look at my pasty zero pack and be more grossed out than Twilight viewers over Edward.
With one side tucked in and the other in progress, Elton opened the door and found her standing there. “He wasn’t lost, was he?” As if he needed an explanation, Bethany held up the poem. “You just needed a way to get in?”
The way she looked at him—scrutinized every bit of him, it seemed—sent alarm bells ringing. Mmm! What do I do?!
“You are, aren’t you?”
“Not that I left it there but that I couldn’t think of a better way to make it happen.”
To his surprise, she leaned forward and kissed his cheek, again. “It’s a lovely poem, but there’s one thing wrong with it.”
Elton braced himself.
“I can’t hear it in your voice.” She passed him the page of scrawled words. A smile played at the corners of her lips. “I liked the heart on the tag.”
And I felt twelve doing it, but it needed something.
“Read it to me?”
Something in the insecurity of her tone gave him confidence he hadn’t expected. He leaned forward, his forearm resting on the doorjamb beside her, took the paper from her, and read.
What’s in a kiss?
For me so much.
The memory of when I first saw you.
How the Beach Boys wrote of you before you were born.
“… sunlight plays upon her hair.”
Elton even sang that line in his weak baritone.
If the blush that stole over her cheeks meant anything, it had been the right decision.
Patience in waiting for my lips to obey my thoughts
And ask you to spend time with me.
They never did.
But you caught me—with more than May flowers
You caught me with your smile.
Your kindness to animals.
Your kiss in a strange house.
That’s what’s in a kiss—everything I dreamed of
All wrapped up in you.
The last word could have been shouted into a microphone the way it reverberated in his little entry hall. Elton didn’t even know if he’d said the last couple of lines correctly. He’d gotten lost in the look in her eyes. And now, with them still gazing into his, something told him it was time for him to seal those words in the time-honored way.
At some point, she murmured something about getting ready. The words tickled his lips and Elton couldn’t make sense of them.
“For dinner…” She stepped back and slipped through the door. Before it shut Elton heard two things. First, “I’m famished enough as it is,” and second, “Thanks for the best ‘Versary’ we’ll ever have.” A moment later, she popped her head back in the door and added, “But I fully expect you to try to top it.”
I’m sort of falling in love with these guys…
I doubt it’ll be a whole year before I play with them again. What obscure, lesser-known, or even under-appreciated but common holidays like… poem on your pillow day, bless your socks off? Maybe I’ll play with those.
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