Sunday, August 1, 2021 by Donnie Stevens
Another breath-taking view awaited Landon’s rise at his beach front condo on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Up at daybreak, every morning for his two-mile run on the beach, then after a light breakfast of a boiled egg and cereal with seasonal fruits on his back porch, Landon readied himself for work. He had been hired by an advertising and marketing company under contract with The Outer Banks, Chamber of Commerce, to promote hospitality and events for the many restaurants, hotels, and area businesses of the Outer Banks beaches during the summer of 2020. But his dream job hadn’t worked out the way he planned. Two weeks out of college and accepting this job as marketing manager, and moving to the Outer Banks, the governor closed all beaches and nonessential businesses for an unknown period of time. What should’ve been a thriving business opportunity was now a deserted beach community with empty parking lots at the hotels, restaurants, and the many other favorite tourist spots.
With no family close by and moving to the beach only two weeks ago to begin this job, and social distancing now being the norm, he sat alone working from his back porch on a laptop. Trying hard to envision an advertising tagline or campaign or marketing commercial that would still draw crowds to the beaches once they reopened. During the day, he often wondered out to the beach for a stroll or drove up and down the waterway searching for inspiration, or a tagline he could use to capture the essence of the Outer Banks in an ad commercial. He always wore his mask, as everyone else did and kept his distance. His treasure hunt for inspiration on this now deserted beach, usually ended up with him sitting on his back porch, thumping his fingers on the table wishing he hadn’t applied for this job. At least, it was only for this one summer. The one good distraction was the young lady tenant who had recently moved into the unit three condos down from him. Since her condo was in the L-shape around the corner, he could easily see her when she sat on her back porch which she did often. He had seen her on the beach a couple of times while running and thought of introducing himself to this attractive, long legged, blonde beauty, but social distancing the norm, he thought it best to not break protocol. But she still piqued his curiosity.
Sighing, Landon picked up this morning’s local paper while walking through the lobby after his morning run. The headline article caught his attention. “Area Community Outreach Services,” suffering great loses because of Coronavirus shutdown. The article highlighted the urgency for food, meals, and essential household supplies needed for thousands of laid off and furloughed workers. With most of the area businesses closed and local citizens out of work, monetary donations were few. The nonprofit was putting out a plea for help or ideas to be able to meet the needs of so many in this unprecedented crisis. An email address was posted in the paper as a contact to send ideas. Landon sat back, staring out while tapping his finger on his chin. He had an idea. “Yes, I can do this.” He began to type.
Shelby sat on the back porch of her recently leased condo, working from her laptop, frantically trying to make sense of all the cancellations of events, concerts, and activities her company had booked for the Outer Banks beaches a year in advance. And now, even when the beaches did reopen, what would be the norm for community gatherings for the pending contracts in place. Her events company wanting to present a caring, front-line approach with the Outer Banks hospitality community, had moved her to the beach for the summer as their representative liaison to make sense of the unfolding crisis dealt them and to salvage business relationships going forward. But with ninety plus percent of the restaurants, hotels, and area businesses closed, she found herself working alone form her condo back porch, on the telephone or laptop trying to contact the many businesses they had relationships with as she struggled to make sense of the new norm for these unprecedented times.
To take a break, she sat back from her laptop and picked up her Chobani yogurt with blueberries to finish her breakfast. Missed were her routine, morning yoga classes at the gym, but she did manage to get a run in on the beach earlier this morning. Glancing at the guy working from his laptop three condos to her left, she wondered what kind of work he did. When she had passed him coming from the beach this morning on her way out, she started to greet him and introduce herself, but with a mask on and social distancing the new norm, she elected not to.
For a distraction, she tabbed the Outer Banks, news app on her laptop. The headline story caught her attention, She read on about how a nonprofit, serving the greater Outer Banks was in desperate need of funds to continue providing food, meals, and household essentials to many of the eighty plus percent now unemployed because of Coronavirus. With monetary donations at an all-time low, they were seeking ideas from the public on how to manage this crisis. Shelby sat back twirling a strand of her hair with her finger. Reality sunk in again, only deeper. It disheartened her. What could possibly be done to meet the needs of so many. She had an idea. “Yes, I can do this.” She typed a message back to the nonprofit.
Within hours, a message came back to Landon about his suggestion to help the nonprofit organization. They liked his idea and had received a similar idea from another person interested in helping also. Would it be possible to connect them by email and let them brainstorm to put a program in place for the nonprofit to consider? Landon immediately replied, “yes, “and sent it back.
To take a break from work, he rose from his seat and walked the few steps over to the porch ledge to peer out at the ocean and deserted beach. It disheartened him. Leaning against a post and his thumbs hanging in his front jean pockets, his gaze narrowed and came back around to glance at the young lady sitting on her porch looking at her laptop. Would a simple “hello,” or nod to break the ice between them be out of the question? With the condo complex practically empty, the only conversation with someone live, other than on his cell phone has been with a couple of people at the local grocery mart or gas station across the inlet. He was lonely. His laptop pinged an email dropping. He went over to read it.
It read: “Hi, my name is Shelby. I hear you and I came up with similar ideas to help the nonprofit seeking help in this morning’s news article. They suggested we communicate our ideas to each other to produce a formal program or guideline for them to consider. If in agreement, how do you want to start?”
Landon immediately presented his idea, then Shelby shared hers. They were amazed how similar their ideas sounded. Back and forth, they had a plan devised in a couple of hours. Landon would handle marketing and advertising to launch the program through the local medias to the community, and Shelby would coordinate the events timeline, venue, and location for the finale. After sending a synopsis of the fund raiser event to the nonprofit for consideration, Landon and Shelby shared a little about themselves with each other. Where they were from, their careers, and what landed them at the beach. Both agreed, working with this nonprofit to overcome its crisis was both challenging and rewarding, but would be a good distraction for them working their other jobs that had become anything but fun. Before signing off, Landon pressed his luck to find out more about this mystery woman.
“Are you married, or do you have a significant other in your life?” he asked.
“No…do you? Why do you ask?”
Landon smiled. “I thought about meeting for a drink or dinner sometime to celebrate the success of our community fund raiser, I hope. That is if and when the restaurants open up again.”
“They will. But you don’t know anything about me.”
“I know enough about you that you came up with a great idea on how to make our campaign a success. That tells me volumes about you.”
“How do you know the nonprofit will accept our proposal?”
“Oh, they’re going to accept it. It’s called instinct. You learn fast in marketing classes what works and what doesn’t. What we put together is a winner.”
“I hope so, because all I’ve dealt with since the end of February is damage control for canceled contracts because of Covid 19.”
“Another reason to celebrate. To get your mind off work. Do we have a date?”
“Let’s see what the response from the nonprofit, then I will let you know.”
“Certainly. Have a great rest of the day.”
“You too, bye.”
Shelby stood and walked over to her porch ledge to gaze out at the ocean. The young guy across the way had stood and walked over to his ledge to gaze out at the same time. When she brushed her long blonde hair back over her shoulder, he conspicuously glanced her way, it piqued her curiosity. What kind of work does he do? He looked handsome leaning against a porch post, his thumbs hanging in his jean pockets. When he glanced her way again, she pretended not to notice. Her arms crossed, tapping her fingers on her arm, she turned away. I need a break from work. A walk on the beach should do it.
The next morning headlines read, “Two Individuals Team Up to launch a campaign for nonprofit fundraiser in Outer Banks Community.” Then mentioning their names, it outlined the fundraising event. The campaign slogan, “ ONE- One Community, One Goal taking care of One another!” The fundraiser outlined for all residence of the Outer Banks who were able, to contribute a craft, painting, entertainment, or service to the nonprofit to be silent auctioned off in two weeks at an events location. Then it went on to read how bad the monies were needed and how the funds would be used. Landon immediately sent Shelby an email boasting their teamwork success.
“We did it!” Then he added fireworks logo to his email before sending.
A moment later her reply. “Yea…, now I have something to look forward to besides negotiating canceled contracts all day.”
“And another reason for us to celebrate its success over dinner, once the fundraiser is over.”
“I hear you.”
“Is that a yes?” Sean still wasn’t sure about this lady.
“Hmm, let’s just say a strong maybe. I don’t know anything about you.”
“I’m short, fat, and bald headed, and harmless.” Time to make it fun. “And if you knew me, you’d never go out with me…. Just kidding.” He added a wink.
“Is this your sense of humor or are you honest?”
“Once we meet, you can decide. Time to move on. What are you going to do for the fundraiser?”
“I’m going to do a canvas painting.”
“Canvas painting, that’s cool. Where did you learn that?”
“In college as part of my arts degree. I stuck with it after school. How about you? What’s your contribution?”
“I’m thinking about writing a short story.”
“A writer, huh? When did you start that? And what are you going to write about?”
“In college getting my marketing degree. Took a creative writing class as an add-on and like it, so I stuck with it. Thinking about writing about this drop dead, gorgeous girl living next door I know nothing about. What are you going to paint?”
‘“Ha,’ can’t wait to read it. I’m thinking about painting a portrait of this handsome guy that lives next door.”
“Hmm…competition. I don’t like the sound of that.”
“No worry. I don’t know him and don’t intend to know him.”
“Glad to her that. But can’t wait to see your painting. Maybe I’ll buy it.”
“Then I need to get started. The nonprofit said they would post the items on line as they come in.”
“I know. I forwarded the news release to my marketing company this morning so they could see I’m involved. You may want to do the same. Nothing wrong with letting them know you’re involved with the community in crisis mode they’re doing business with.”
“Good point. I’ll do the same. Thank you.”
“You can thank me over dinner later.”
“You don’t miss an opportunity, do you?” Shelby sent it with a smiley face in sunglasses.
For the next two weeks between working their day jobs off their back porches, Landon and Shelby emailed back and forth regularly during breaks. A pleasant distraction from their challenging jobs and coronavirus headlines dominating the news.
As his contribution to the nonprofit, Landon had started fabricating and writing a short story about this mystery lady, three condo units over from him and his secret plan to woo her. And Shelby had set her easel up on the back porch to paint her canvased portrait for a fundraiser to the nonprofit. She chose to paint a portrait of the guy three condos to her left, who constantly walked to his porch ledge and stole glances her way. She secretly photographed him with her phone so she could enlarge the picture to capture details for her painting.
Two weeks later and after hundreds of items, crafts, and services posted on the nonprofit website, today was the final day to bid on the items at an events center. Only ten people were allowed in the center at a time to look at and or bid on items because of coronavirus. You were assigned a number and if your bid won, then the nonprofit volunteers would contact you.
With only an hour left to bid, Landon with his mask on, got a number, and strolled into the center to browse and bid. He bidded on several items but the one that got his attention was a canvased portrait of a young man leaning against a post with his thumbs hanging in his jean pockets. But more surprisingly, the portrait looked like him. He debated, then put a bid on it since no one else had. Then before leaving, he looked to see if anyone had bidded on his short story. They had. But then, thinking about writing this story in so much descriptive detail about his neighbor, he decided to outbid the person in front of him, since he didn’t get permission from the lady to write about her. She would never know, but he would, and he surely didn’t want to chance causing hard feelings with her if she ever found out. On his way out, he met a girl walking in who reminded him of his neighbor at the condo. But with her mask on, he wasn’t sure.
The next morning, the news release read, “ONE Fundraiser A Triumph Success. Over two hundred and twenty thousand dollars raised. It then gave instructions for people to come claim the items, gift receipts, or service certificates won on bid. Landon had a joint email with Shelby to show up at two o’clock for an interview and photo opt since they spearheaded the idea. He immediately sent an email to Shelby to get her reaction and they went back and forth all day. Landon couldn’t wait to meet her. But he was disappointed when learning someone out bidded him on the portrait.
Shelby across the way, went back and forth with Landon and their success on the fundraiser. She was cautiously nervous about meeting Landon for the interview and photo opt. Eyeing her neighbor who anxiously pranced around on his porch deck, what had him keyed up? She was glad she’d gone back to the center and out bidded the one bidder for her canvased portrait. Without her neighbor’s permission of painting him, she didn’t want to chance him finding out about it and causing hard felling.
At the center, with her mask on, Shelby found the location for the photo opt. A young man wearing a mask was already standing and talking to the cameraman and news reporter. He turned when Shelby walked up. Their eyes met, but neither said a word. The photographer positioned them a couple feet apart for the camera shot and asked them if they minded dropping their masks briefly.
They did, then Shelby and Landon recognizing each other burst into laughter. The cameraman had to take several shots before he got one with them not laughing so hard. But they still wore big smiles. After the interview, Shelby and Landon ended up at her place sipping wine but wearing a mask and sitting six feet apart reminiscing their unknown journey together. Shelby then presented Landon with the portrait of him and Landon, the short story to Shelby he had concocted about her. They then agreed, once the stay in place ban was lifted, they would go out together. Maybe many times, they giggled and chuckled. One thing for certain. Because they chose to serve the community through their talents, they were now destined to have a good summer together. Maybe One of the best Summers they would ever have.