Laura cleaned the house from top to bottom, baked three pies, made a new pair of lemon yellow curtains for the kitchen and groomed Tony, her gold retriever. Edna had stayed the night and although Laura had initially wanted the company, she was relieved to see Jimmy pick her up the next morning. As it happened, Michael had decided to stay in Lincoln another six days. She didn’t bother to ask why. Ever since Edna had told her about the phone call from Danny her hours were consumed with trying not to think about him. She stood at the kitchen sink pinching stems off strawberries, her mind wandering back to the first time their eyes had met. Joanne Sproule from the next farm had called her that morning asking her to do her favor. ” Hi Laura, I’m running late, what with the the birthday party for Gran and all, so would you be a peach and take over some apples I picked for that artist guy, you know the one that moved into the Glover’s old Barn? Well he asked me if I could spare a few ’cause he don’t eat much when he works, or so he says and he liked the look of the apples on our trees. He said they would keep him goin’ so he don’t have to stop or nothin’. There sure is some crazy folks around so I’m not surprised he’s out at old Nutty Glover’s.”
When Joanne has stopped her usual choppy rambling Laura had agreed very reluctantly just to get rid of her. Joanne talked so much she could exhaust a parrot. She didn’t really like Nutty Glover either and she suspected Joanne’s grandmother was just an excuse to avoid going there herself. Nutty was old, peculiar and he had a way of making you feel investigated when his tiny pin hole eyes darted all over and into you. The thought sent a shudder through her as she rinsed the berries, placing them on an old tea towel to dry in the breeze near the window.
Nutty’s place was still a Halloween tradition for kids in the area, a rite of passage before you grew up and out of trick or treating. When she had been little she and her friends would taunt each other into running up to Nutty’s front door, knocking and then staying rooted to the spot as long as they could. Whoever stood the longest won half the kids other candy. She’d never won but she did twist her ankle running off his porch one year and when her mother questioned her she lied through her teeth, saying she’d slipped running down the road to get to the next house. She knew her mother didn’t believe a word of it because it was the last time she was allowed out trick or treating with the other kids. All these years later, there she was purposely driving up to see some strange guy who had taken up residence in Nutty’s old barn. A normal person would not live with Nutty and an intelligent person wouldn’t agree to take apples to him. She just hoped her visit didn’t turn into a Stephen King story with her has the unwitting victim.
When she got to the end of the gravel drive the sun was high and she could feel the sweat trickle down the nape of her neck when turned onto a worn patch of grass and dirt that led to Nutty’s barn. She carried the basket of apples to the door, swatting at a cloud of mosquitoes that had begun feasting on her as soon as she stepped out of the car. Before she’d had a chance to reach the door, a man completely covered in dust with a chisel in his hand shouted hello.When she got to the door he smiled, ushering her inside.
He was tall, at least six feet but he was dwarfed by the monstrous rock which stood in the center of the building. This must be his ‘art’ she thought in amazement. The sheer size of the thing obliterated all thoughts of Nutty Glover, Stephen king and horror stories. This, she thought, was incredible. She could just barely make out a leg and foot, only a shape with no detail. When she turned to face him he had put down the chisel and was grinning at her from ear to ear.
“Is that basket for me?” He asked.
“Oh, yes!” She said, caught off guard. “These are the apples from Joanne’s trees, you know, the apples she promised you but she couldn’t be here because of her gran and she asked me to do her a favor instead and so uh…here they are!” She was so flustered she could have kicked herself. There was something about his eyes, as if in some way when she looked into them she disappeared. Their depth shattered her inner defenses, as if he knew her inside and out.
“You haven’t come here to do a sinful thing and tempt me with some apples, have you beautiful lady? Your name wouldn’t happen to be Eve would it?” He asked, laughing at his own joke.
“No I didnt’ and no I’m not Eve and you think you’re pretty damn funny don’t you?” Laura dropped the apples at his feet with a thud, the dust from the floor clouding around their feet. His laugh made her feel insulted.
“Well then Miss…uh, what was your name?”
“Laura, my name is Laura.” She said, her indignation feeling suddenly artificial, the longer they gazed at each other.
“Well pretty Laura, Just to be on the safe side, I think we should each eat one together while I take a break, just in case that serpent is slithering around. If I’m going to hell then you’re coming with me.”
She laughed, she couldn’t help it, it was funny. She couldn’t deny that she also liked the idea of going anywhere with him, even to hell if that was their destination. In a way, that is exactly what they had done and now he was coming back for a visit. A visit that included his new wife, a woman he loved enough to marry. A woman who wasn’t her.