The sun was shining through the windows while a gentle breeze was blowing through the curtains and I could tell right away that it was going to be a great day. I needed to take my car into the repair shop by 8:00 a.m. so I poured a cup of coffee, headed into the living room and turned on Sports Center. I was lacing up my sneakers and keeping an eye on the Yankees highlights when Stephanie came into the living room and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want me to follow you over? You can drop off your car and then come with me to drop off the kids at school.”
“Thanks, Steph, but I’ll be fine. Take the kids to school and I’ll meet you back here afterward. Besides, it’s a great day for a walk,” I responded as the kids came running into the living room.
“Can I watch Curious George, Daddy?” Chloe asked.
“You need to get ready for school,” I said as I touched her nose with the tip of my pointer finger. Then I picked up the remote control and turned off the television.
“Are you sure? I can drive you…”
“Trust me, Steph, I’m fine. The sun is shining outside; a walk will be nice after the winter we have had,” I said as I cut her off mid sentence. I took one last swig of my coffee, gave the kids a bunch of hugs before I left, went outside, got into my car and drove off. After I pulled into the repair station and gave the mechanic my car key, I started to walk home. As I crossed the street, I made my way to the local garden center and walked in the front door.
“Good morning,” the owner said as I walked up to the counter.
“Isn’t it? I love the warm weather. I am so glad winter is finally over.”
“You and me both,” he said with a smile on his face. “You and me both, now, how can I help you today?”
“Can I get a dozen roses?”
“Sure can,” he said as he went to get a dozen roses for me.
But before he could disappear out of sight, I asked, “Do you have any Irises? Or are they out of season?”
“I have irises, would you like to have irises instead of the roses?”
“Actually, I would like to add a half a dozen irises in with the roses. Can you do that for me?”
“Sure can,” he said as he went into the back room to put together my order. When he came back with the bouquet of flowers, I paid for them and left.
I took the long way home and strolled along a couple of the side streets as I took in the warm weather. The grass was growing, trees were in bloom, bees were buzzing and the birds were in full song. It was a great morning to be out and about just taking in the scenery. And as I turned onto my street, I saw one of my neighbors in her front yard and I waved to her. But instead of waving back to me, she quickly put her head down and walked toward her front door. Who knows? Maybe she didn’t see me.
I was sitting out on our front porch having a cup of coffee when Stephanie pulled into the driveway and parked her car. When she got out of the car, she started tending to her garden in the front yard.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m going to water the grass and the flowers in my garden.”
“I thought we were going to relax and do nothing today.”
“I have to water the garden and the grass before the sun gets too high in the sky,” she said as she walked over to the hose. As she turned on the water, I noticed her looking at me with an odd look on her face.
“I made some coffee, do you want some?”
“I’m fine,” she said as she watered her flowers. After she finished watering the front yard, she made her way slowly up the front steps to the porch and I gave her the flowers I had bought for her. Then she sat down in the chair, turned and looked at me seriously and said, “I have to tell you something but I don’t want you to get mad.”
I was caught off guard by her statement, “Is it something I might get mad about?”
“You might. But really, when you have had a chance to think about it, it’s kind of funny.”
“If it’s funny, then why would I get mad?”
“Because it involves you and I promised the person who told me that I wouldn’t tell you,” she said as I grew increasingly intrigued at her news. “But I can’t keep it from you, so you have to promise me that you won’t get mad.”
“It’s funny, though, right?”
“That depends on your perspective of the story.”
“Okay, from my perspective, is the story going to be funny?” I asked nervously.
“I don’t know. Just promise me you won’t get mad.”
“Okay, Steph, I can’t promise that so just tell me already.”
“When I was dropping Josh off at school, our neighbor was taking her granddaughter to school as well. When she saw me, she excitedly came over and asked, ‘What did Doug do?’ I must have looked at her like she had three heads when I asked her what she was talking about. So she asked me a little more directly, ‘what did Doug do to get thrown out of the house?!’”
“WHAT?!?!” I said as I spit my sip of coffee across the deck. “What the heck gave her that idea?!”
“She saw you walking down the street carrying flowers and since you didn’t look like you had showered, she assumed that we had had a fight last night and that I had thrown you out of the house,” Stephanie said as she tried to fight back pangs of laughter.
“Oh my God, this is not happening,” I said as my eyes flew wide open in disbelief and I buried my head in my hands. “Please tell me you straightened this out?”
“I told her that you had to take your car into the shop this morning and that on the walk back to the house, you must have stopped off to get me some flowers.”
“So you knew I bought you flowers before you got home?”
“Can you please tell me when we get to the ‘funny part’ of this story? I mean it Steph; please get to the funny part!”
“Sweetie, it’s not that bad. It really isn’t,” Stephanie said as she bit her lip to keep from laughing out loud.
“Easy for you to say, you’re not the one who got thrown out of the house last night!”
“Really, it’s not that bad. I told her what really happened and that should clear everything up.”
“Should? Why did you say should?” I asked as I lifted my face out of my hands and looked at her. “Is that the end of this story or is there more?”
“Well, she did have to go home quickly to call her mom back.”
“Oh, no Stephanie, she didn’t…”
“Well, when she saw you coming down the street, she ran inside and called her mom to tell her what she had seen. So after I explained everything to her, she had to get home quickly so she could call her mom back before her mom had told too many people.”
“Are you kidding me?!”
“Sweetie,” Stephanie said as she was laughing. “This is funny.”
“For you, this is funny, because it doesn’t reflect poorly on you! To me this isn’t funny”
Although this is now a humorous story that Stephanie and I can laugh about, at that point in time, this wasn’t funny. What can I say? This is how rumors get started. People like a good story.
But I know the neighborhood
And talk is cheap when the story is good
And the tales grow taller on down the line
Rumors get started based on a perception and not a fact. And then they spread like wildfire! And with each telling of the story, the tale gets more convoluted. We were lucky because we were able to correct the story at the source and get the facts disseminated before any real damage was done. But in many cases, rumors cause long term damage to a person’s credibility and/or their character and in those instances, the stories never become funny; they only serve to prove that words truly have the ability to hurt.