Late afternoon shadows fall across the golf course. He's decided that today is the day he's going to do it: ask Katreen's father for her hand in marriage.
He knows it's old-fashioned, a product of a former time, but Katreen tends to be an old-fashioned girl, choosing the values of an earlier time in history over how things were in today's world, even preferring to dress in a style that she called vintage retro. His beautiful, sweet, thoughtful vintage retro girlfriend, whom he hopes will soon be his wife.
They both knew that the other wasn't perfect but yet in their shared vulnerability, they'd found a type of perfection that neither imagined could even exist. He loved Katreen for her creativity, which she expressed through her journal and her unique way of dress, unlike any other woman in their zone. And he valued her stability and her loyalty to him.
Popping The Question to Pop
As they walk toward the final green, they are flanked by old ancient evergreen trees, unwavering in the shadowy glow of the afternoon sun. That's when he thinks the timing is right to say it; he values timing and is quite good at it most of the time.
If her father didn't say yes...would she?
"I think you know how much I love Katreen," he says. He's practiced saying this in his head many times and it's almost a relief to hear the words coming out of his mouth. "I think we're really good together, and I want to marry her. I promise I'll be the best husband I can be and will always support her, encourage her, and protect her, keep her safe. I'm asking for your permission to marry her."
An afternoon shadow falls across her father's face, his shoulder slumping a bit in what Josh reads as resignation. The father clears his throat, doesn't answer immediately. They've reached the tees, the final flag motioning them over from the distance. Her father glances at the flag, the evergreen trees, no doubt calculating the impact the slight breeze will have on where his ball lands. He takes a couple of test swings then hits the ball with a loud crack that launches it into the air.
One Question and One Answer Suspended in Air
"Well, Katreen always has wanted to get married," her father's words hang in the air much like the golf ball hovers over the green. The two men stand and watch the ball'a trajectory, both calculating the speed and distance, both predicting where it might land. "And I knew this would be inevitable. At least it's you."
Josh feels like his heart is beating fast. He understands that this is not the reply he'd wanted; her father hasn't given his blessing on their marriage yet. He tries to be patient as he waits for the reply, knowing that human response can not always be precisely calculated. Still, this was a strange moment in time, with one question and one answer suspended in the air. The golf ball hovered over the green, then found a place to land, bouncing on the lush green grass of the final hole, just where he'd predicted it probably would.
Perfection in the game of golf; imperfection in this game of life; perhaps he'd asked poorly, missed something in his request. He knew he wasn't a perfect human but he had developed some internal personal skills over his years. It was mostly wordplay that tripped him up, so he'd been careful to make his request clearly.
Something to Understand; An Agreement is Made
Her father spoke, "You know I like and respect you, Josh. And I know how much you love my daughter. But if you really want to marry her, there's something you need to know. So let me ask you this: how much do you know about Katreen?"
Josh thought he knew 82% of everything about Katreen. They'd spent the last six months dating and talking about many aspects of life. He knew her biggest secret; that she had a PH designation and that her left ear was smaller than the right due to an injury she'd sustained earlier in her life. He knew she was on medication to manage the memory loss that went along with the memory loss. He knew she enjoyed keeping a journal, that security was quite important to her, and that she had stayed loyal to him even after he'd revealed his own designation. HH. She was the most creative and loveliest human he'd ever encountered.
"I think I know 82-84% about her," he said.
"Yes," said her father. "Well, I think that might be right. But, has she told you about the pills?"
"You mean the medication she takes for her memory?"
Josh stepped up to the tee, making a calculation on distance, swinging his club, sending the first ball's twin into flight. The two men advanced into the dusk that was unfolding around them, stepping up their pace, recognizing that there wasn't much time left to finish the round and still get to their respective homes before curfew descended upon the city like an impenetrable force field.
"Just know that if she ever misses even one dose, she will likely have a meltdown of the type you can even begin to imagine. Don't marry her if you can't make sure she takes her pills every day."
His analytical brain tried to calculate a world where Katreen would "meltdown," and he just couldn't find any sort of evidence for it. Although they'd had some good-natured debates, he'd never seen any sign of her becoming angry or volatile.
Medicine or Melt Down
"I see," said Josh. "I promise I'll do whatever it takes to make sure that she always has her medication, even helping her track her supply and recording that she's taken it every day."
If staying on her medication was the "big secret" her father had just revealed, he'd do whatever it took to make sure that never happened, and he told this to her father, solidifying their agreement with words just as they reached the green, their golf balls just inches apart.
A Rare Win
The game came down to the final moments, Josh putting his ball into the hole with a quick calculated stroke; her father hitting his ball a bit too hard so that it skimmed over the hole instead of dropping in. It was rare that Josh won, but tonight, he had, and he finally got the firm handshake and the "welcome to the family" statement that he'd hoped to hear earlier.
Back at his transport, he glanced down at the app he used to fastidiously track every golf game he played, taking joy in the numbers and the routine of recording them, something to be sure about in an uncertain time. His analytical mind noted that although his golf games with Katreen's father were usually very close, it was unusual for Josh to win.
Well, he'd won tonight, in more than one way. He'd won at golf and now he could ask Katreen to marry him, guaranteeing both of them a more stable life together. At his moment, he felt like he was living his best life ever, the "robot boy," finding love and acceptance.
A Lead on a Stone and a Transport Home
Now he just needed to get a ring so that he could propose in the old fashioned way; he wanted a tangible symbol of their love and commitment. Finding a ring could be challenging, especially the type of unique ring that Katreen would like, but he'd done a risk analysis on it, tracking not only the closed jewelry stores but also the jewelers who'd used to own them. He had a lead on a stone, and if plan A didn't work out, there was also a jeweler just outside his transport zone that he might be able to use if he was careful enough and had enough to trade.
But not tonight, dusk was already fading into darkness, and he needed to get his transport home and into the garage of his house, where he was certain Katreen was creating something innovative in the food zone.
He knew the meal would be just as beautiful as it was nutritious; she holds certificates in several of the family-friendly arts including tiny herb gardening, artistic meal preparation, and nutrient-rich meals; good for humans who needed to stay healthy; good for half-humans who needed to stay powered up for as long as they could before getting a charge at the local infusion center.
He wondered what vintage-inspired outfit she'd be wearing tonight and was grateful for her insistence on having "old-fashioned family dinners" together, just the two of them. The thought made him smile, and he pressed the GO button.
Finish Line: How will you finish this story? What do you think it means for Katreen to melt down? What foreshadowing do you see in the story?