Meet me again in St. Louis

Using a built-in webcam and mini-microphone on the new laptop he got for
Christmas, Troy in Minneapolis chatted online with his best friend Erica in

"Merry Christmas, Erica!" Troy excitedly said. "This is so much better than
talkin' on my cell. Stupid thing always cuts out...and I know you'd miss half my

"Merry Christmas, Troy! Yeah, and we don't hafta worry about using up my

"Well, now that we finally got this thing workin', I have to tell you something."

He sounded serious.

"Oh, oh. What's up?"

Troy scratched his ear like he always did when he was nervous. "Last night, when
I was downloading some software updates so I could get this webcam workin' right,
I got some spyware. I mean my computer got some spyware."

"Spyware? You mean like pop-ups and that kinda stuff?"

Just then, Erica's father walked by. Concerned, he asked, "Who you talkin' to?
and who is 'Papa Latte'?  a new coffee shop?"

Laughing, Erica turned and answered, "No daddy, it's 'pop ups' - an annoying
computer thing. I'm talkin' to Troy--see?" She pointed to Troy on the monitor,
and Troy waved back with a big smile.

"That's ok." Erica's father said. "I thought you might be talkin' to yourself
again. Only us old folk can do that!"

"Oh daddy! You're just battling some flu right now, at least you got your
health-- it's not like it's cancer or somethin'."

"Oh, no!" Troy said, "Another one. It says 'Click here now for TWO FREE COPIES
of the latest SUPER Diet Weightloss Book!' Arrrgh!" He clicked the window away.

"What's so bad about that?"

"It just pops up on its own, and it's soooo annoying."

"Hey Troy--"

"Yes, dear?"

"Very funny! Hey Troy, I was thinking we could meet in St. Louis again, like we
did last New Year's?"

"Sure, same 'bat-place', same 'bat-time'?"

"Yep. Hey --Buster-- not now!" Erica's dog -- a Black Lab dog, about a year
old--tried getting on her lap. Buster sheds a lot of hair (and slobber!) and he
was about as annoying as Troy's pop-ups just then.

"Hey Erica--I just checked my e-mail, and it looks like the spyware infected my
inbox, too."

"That could be--like--real bad, hey?"

"Here's one... 'online dating for singles in your area!' and another... 'reduce
your home debt with cheap mortgage insurance!' this one is interesting... 'start
an online credit loan business - no attorney needed!'
I would forward these to you, but I wouldn't want your computer to get 'spywared'

"No-no-no don't send me that junk. Unless it's about fashion jewelry or wedding

Troy giggled, because he knew Erica had no idea what he was about to do.

Erica's father appeared again. "Here, Erica. Merry Christmas--I made you a
special 'papa latte'!"

Troy and Erica laughed at the same time. It was a special moment, because her
dad got his humor back, which meant he was feeling better.

Smiling, Erica wiped a happy tear from her eye. "I'll get my car packed and leave
in about 20 minutes..." I'll drink my 'papa latte' on the road. Daddy, are you
gonna be okay?"

"Oh sure, pumpkin. You go--just go--I'll be all right. I'll just sit here and
watch football and eat chicken noodle soup."

"Thanks, Daddy. I would hug you, but--"

As Erica had her back turned, her father gave a 'thumbs up' to Troy on the
monitor. Troy returned the signal.

Erica wasn't fooled. "What are you two up to?"

"Oh, nothin. Just don't forget your 'papa latte'!"

+ + +

St. Louis was about half way between Minneapolis and Dallas. Every year around
New Year's Eve, Troy and Erica would make the drive and stay in separate rooms at
a downtown hotel. After celebrating the new year, they would spend a week
working together in the nearby homeless shelter, ministering to the hurting

"It's so good to see you Erica--I mean in person." Troy gave her a big bear hug.

"Oh Troy. I want this year to be special."

"Okay, let's do that. I want to spend New Year's Eve in the shelter."

"Sounds...different?! Why, what's up?"

"You'll see!"

It was about 11:00 p.m. Troy and Erica met in the lobby at the downtown hotel
near the St. Louis arch, and walked to the shelter. As they got closer, they
heard the beautifully haunting sounds of 'Kenny G' playing "Auld Lang Syne' on a
boom box from inside.

Troy gently grabbed Erica's white cotton gloved hand and led her into the

"SURPRISE!" The shelter volunteers and all of the homeless--especially the
'regulars' were all there.

Quickly bending on one knee, Troy grabbed the small velvet box with a ring in it.
"Erica, will you please do the honor and marry me?"

Shocked by the suprise and the request, Erica finally caught her breath and said,
"Why, yes, of course--of course!"

Everyone clapped or jumped or whistled.

With tears streaming down his face, Troy gave Erica another big bear hug.
Then he asked the crowd, "Is this okay? Do I have your permission?"


It was unanimous.


--bro. tim pickl
Saturday December 22, 2007 A.D.

Originally posted HERE (the first portion):

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