I could spot him from the across the store. Trademark bib overalls and plaid flannel shirt ̶ it had to be Ebeneezer Griper.
Eb was surveying the candy inventory as I approached and stuck out my hand. “Howdy, Eb!” I said with a smile.
“You and that stupid grin,” Eb scowled. “Do you know how stupid you look?” Eb has never won the Mr. Congeniality Award.
“I like you too, Eb,” I teased, shaking his hand. “Picking out a Valentine present for Hilda?”
“No, I’m shopping for a new truss,” he grumbled.
“I take it you’re not excited about Valentine’s Day?”
“Naw, it’s just another trick to get men to spend money on women.”
“Aw, come on, Eb,” I countered. “How many special days are there? Christmas? Birthday? Anniversary? Valentine’s Day? That’s just four a year. Hilda’s worth four gifts a year, isn’t she?”
“Well, I suppose. It’s just that I always end up in trouble when I buy her a gift. She’s never happy with anything I give her. I’ll never forget the fight we had on our first Valentine’s Day together.”
“I gave her a Valentine card and a gift.”
“What was the gift?”
“A compass for the car.”
“A compass?” I asked incredulously. “Why in the world would you give your sweetheart a compass for Valentine’s Day?”
“Well, she was always trying to tell me how to drive so I figured I’d give her something to help.”
“Surely you have improved your gift giving habits,” I said. “What did you give Hilda for Valentine’s Day last year?”
“A floor mat for the back porch.”
I shook my head. “Eb,” I asked, “why?”
Eb frowned. “Darn it,” he said, “she’s always bellyaching about me tracking mud into the kitchen so I figured one of those floor mats with the little rubber fingers to scrape your shoes clean would tickle her pink. I can’t figure that woman out.”
“Eb,” I said, “it’s time for a little education. Now, my wife will tell you I’m not the master of gift buying, but you need help from someone. First of all, for occasions like Valentine’s Day you need to look for a personal gift. You know, like a nice little nightie from one of those lingerie stores.”
“No! No! No!”
“First of all, I ain’t walking into one to those stores. All those women looking at those flimsy little things, for crying out loud. I feel like a pervert in those stores.” Eb shivered. “Secondly, I ain’t paying hard earned money for clothing that won’t keep a woman warm.”
“You said ‘no’ three times,” I said. “What’s the third reason?”
“If I bought it, she’d wear it. Hilda looks better in flannel. The more flannel, the better.”
“How about some candy then? There’s a lot of good stuff on the shelves here.”
“Absolutely not! She’d end up needing even more flannel.”
“Not a lot of romance in your blood, is there, Eb? Say, why don’t you have some flowers delivered to her? She’d love that!”
Eb scowled. “I’ve seen that trick. Buy ’em flowers once and they’ll expect flowers all the time. I’m too smart to get caught in that trap.”
“You’re a tough case, Eb. How about a gift certificate? Then Hilda can pick out whatever she wants.”
“Naw, that won’t work,” Eb mumbled.”
“I checked at the service desk and they won’t issue gift certificates for less than ten dollars.”
“You know,” I said, “I think you ought to just forget Valentine’s Day.”
Eb gave me a dirty look. “What?” he challenged. “And disappoint my sweetheart?”