HARVEST BLEND: Short Story written by Tamera Lawrence
Ernie Holloway slapped water over his face. The water bucket turned murky. He picked up a towel, rubbed his face and hung it over a tree branch. Eyes followed him. A familiar itch danced in his belly. In the distance, smoke billowed from his neighbor’s house. He squinted, suspiciously. There she was again, watching him from her kitchen window. Miss Nosy Body gawked at him, putting on airs. It was the third time this week. Well he’d give her a show to see. Without much ado, he promptly dropped his pants, revealing long underwear. With a jerk of his head, he smiled sweetly. Stunned, she bolted out of sight. He rolled his head back and laughed. The sound echoed across the distance.
Whistling, Ernie returned to his house, sat on his porch and lit his pipe. He puffed for a while, enjoying the tranquility. Scent of fall harvest slipped through the twilight, mingled with pungent smoke. His prize pumpkin sat in the back of his wagon. Tomorrow he’d enter it in the county festival. It was the biggest pumpkin he had ever grown. Surely, he’d receive a prize ribbon. Emily would have been proud.
His wife’s face loomed in his mind. Emily had loved the annual festival, entering many contests. Although his wife had been dead for ten years, he thought of her this time of year. Childless, he lived alone, except for livestock. He preferred it that way.
A scream broke the silence.
Ernie bolted out of the chair and leaped from the porch. Who was yelling? He stared at his neighbor’s yard. There stood Greta Gibbon, miss high and mighty herself. The widow twirled around in circles, flapping her apron with her hands. She appeared to be engaged in a strange ritual dance.
Without further ado, Ernie ran to her aid. Yellow jackets swarmed around Greta in a gathering storm, furious over her intrusion into their nest. He grabbed Greta’s hand, yanked her along into her house and slammed shut the door. Greta slapped at the bees that clung to her dress, howling and mumbling illogically. Ernie helped in her task, turned her around and swatted at the bees along her backside.
“Mr. Holloway,” she gasped, jerking around. “Please mind your hands.”
Stunned, he stepped away as she finished checking her clothes. His skin throbbed from the stings he bore on her behalf. Finally, she finished, lifted her chin and gave him a haughty glare.
“I think I am fine now, Mr. Holloway,” she declared. “Good evening to you, sir.” And with that, she dismissed him with a snap of fingers.
“Well that’s a fine how do you do,” he mumbled, scratching his stubble chin. “Not even a thank you.”
“I did not invite your intrusion, Mr. Holloway,” she said directly. “But beings that you have forced your assistance, I now bid you good evening.”
“If I had not assisted you, Ms. Gibbons, you would still be running around in circles out in your back yard.“ He smirked, the image appealing. “Bees would be filling your belly by now.”
“You are most crude.” She sniffed, wrinkling her nose. “As you can see, I am quite fine.”
“Yes, I can see you are.” He cracked a wry smile. Her face was swollen from the many stings. She had to be in pain, yet her pride remained ever intact. “You are back to your delightful ways.”
“Humph.” She eyed him like an insect. “I detect sarcasm in your voice. Do not mock me. I am not a county bumpkin like the folk around these parts.”
“That’s right. You are from the city. Tell me, why are you living here amongst us country bumpkins?”
“Not that it is any of your concern,” she said. “But I followed my son here to be closer to my family. My granddaughter was born a week ago.”
“Yes. I heard her crying through my bedroom window. That child could stir the dead.”
“Cad,” she said. “She is just an infant. You are a peculiar man.”
“Perhaps. But my habits are my business. You should keep your eyes and noise in your own back yard. But I suppose that would be a boring proposition.”
“You talk to your vegetables.”
“You talk to your cat.”
“My cat is an animal.”
“ My vegetables are plants.”
“I find it absurd.” She crossed her arms, scowling. “It’s not natural.”
“My plants bloom even in drought.”
“You think too much of yourself.”
“You are welcome to move anytime.”
“I shall have to talk to my son about the very notion.”
“I’m sure he’d like to send you packing back to the city.” Her face paled considerably.
“Get out.” She opened the door.
After his morning chores, Ernie readied himself for the festival. Despite his hopes of winning a ribbon, his eyes often strayed to Greta’s house. As he readied the cart, eyes watched him. She was at it again. He saluted her. The curtain moved as she jerked away.
Just as he was about to leave, Greta approached. Her face looked terrible and raw.
“Good morning to you, Ms Gibbons.”
“You look a sight,” she said mockingly. “How can you allow yourself to be seen at the festival?”
“I am not a handsome man,” he commented. “A splotch or two on my face will make no difference.” A glimmer of a smile hinted her mouth.
Greta walked around the wagon, staring derisively at the pumpkin. “So you think that ghastly thing will win a prize.”
“I win ever year,” he boasted.
“I suppose you think it’s because you talk to it while it grows.”
“My little secret.” He winked.
“Humph.” She patted the pumpkin. “What will you do with it after?”
“Sell it at market.”
“Don’t you ever cook it up and make pies.”
“Well it’s just fortunate that for you I make the best pumpkin pie in the county. But I have one question?”
“What will you tell it when I bring out my knife?”