Thinnes reached into the canvas bag strapped across his chest and took out a small bottle wrapped with a pink ribbon and presented it to her.
“What’s this?” she asked, puzzled by the offer.
“Something from an admirer.”
Shyly he shook his head. “No, ma’am, I’m just the messenger.”
Her sliver of a mouth widened into a cryptic grin. “Well, thank you, young man,” she said, after accepting the bottle.
Moments later, back on his Italian racing bike, Thinnes swerved around the corner and headed north toward the river. The next delivery on his schedule was to the manager of a vintage clothing store on the edge of Chinatown. He had three more bottles to deliver then he would be through for the day and would not have earned a penny. Swift Spokes, the courier service he rode for, had volunteered its riders to participate in a fund-raising project, sponsored by the Children’s Hospital, to benefit heart disease research. The idea, according to a hospital spokesman, was to spread the message of love across the city. Specifically, people were encouraged to donate ten dollars for the opportunity to write a love note to someone and have the note placed inside a bottle and delivered to the person. When he arrived at the banquet room of the hospital this morning, he was startled to find two long cafeteria tables set up with manual typewriters at which people could write their love notes. He had never seen so many typewriters in his life, only the couple in the attic at his grandmother’s house. He was amazed how loud they were, making as much clatter as dancers on a hardwood floor.
Abruptly, a horn blared, and on his left a dented panel truck roared by, the driver blaring his horn twice more.
Bastard, he thought, pedaling hard as he strained to make it through the intersection before the light changed.
“Bastard!” he shouted once he got through, though he doubted if the guy could hear him above the buzz of traffic.
In another moment, weaving around a fuming station wagon, he spotted a clock on the side of an insurance building. It was almost three-thirty and he figured he should be at the vintage clothing store in a couple more minutes. Curiously he wondered if the manager would be as composed as the last recipient or would she squeal with laughter as two women did earlier this afternoon. One even embraced him as if he had been the person who sent her the note.
“I can barely make out a grocery list, let alone write something from my heart,” he admitted to her after explaining the purpose of the peculiar project.
“Whatever, sir, you’ve certainly made my day.”
“And I hope whoever receives a note from you is half as happy as I am.”
For a split instant, as he waited to collect his first batch of bottles this morning, he sat down at one of the typewriters and attempted to write something but was unable to put together a coherent sentence and got up and left in frustration. It was always difficult for him to articulate what was in his heart, the right words proving as hard to find as pebbles in a cloudy stream.
As he swept around the next corner, he spotted a green lantern gleaming above the front door of the vintage clothing store and immediately looked for somewhere to lock up his bike. There wasn’t a rack in sight so he figured he’d secure it to one of the many parking signs on the block and dismounted and walked his bike toward a bent sign right in front of the clothing store. Through the cluttered display window he noticed a young woman with frosted hair behind the counter and assumed she was the one who would be receiving the bottled note. Her smile was so lavish and infectious he was sure she had received many tokens of affection in her short life and doubted if she would be upset if she didn’t receive one today.
Impulsively he got back on his bike, turned around, and pedaled past the store toward Chinatown. There was a hostess at one of the restaurants there he was very fond of but was unable to convey his feelings to her so he decided to present her with the note intended for the clothing store manager. Maybe then she would realize how much he thought of her. It was worth a try, he decided, as he crouched over the handlebars and raced down the narrow street.