You &  Me & Everything We Could Be

I wish we could find a room with a view

of nothing but you and me

and everything we could be;

I caught a glimpse of someone

kissing you in the rain

and looking closely

I realized it was me inside a dream

I could never make on my own

without your smile in my head.

And I don’t think I have ever felt

quite this naked before;

My clothes, and skin,

my very soul laid out for you,

to touch whenever you want

to hold close to you forevermore

if only in this silly little dream

of you and me

and everything we could be.

And in the heart of someone

who looks remarkably a lot like you

I would feel safe under the protection

of once dormant passions

now springing awake

like dawn against the dew, me against you,

to make love out of sorrow’s moment,

to take the shadows

of tragedy’s great conviction,

and turn it into faith –

A new religion of you and me

and everything we could be.

Poem  & photo/digital art by Paul D Aronson.

Models: Paul & Heather.

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Orchard House Part 6: You Can’t Eat A Book

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Part 6: You Can’t Eat A Book

Most of the Wal-Mart’s I had been in were uniformly designed. If you had been in one, you’d been in them all. But not this one. I was completely lost and couldn’t find a thing. We had both started out with separate buggies and she had headed off towards health and beauty. “Girl stuff time,” she explained, leaving me with my buggy to head wherever. I tried to determine which direction the groceries were in, but instead I found myself passing by the book department, which was an instant hook for a fish like me. I stopped and browsed the paperbacks, wondering if one day I could ever write anything worthy to be on these shelves. The closest I had come was to see one copy of my first book in a Barnes & Noble. Of course, I bought it myself and never saw it in another store. “You can’t eat a book,” Summer said from beside me. She had bath stuff and feminine products in her cart. “Well, I guess you could, but it won’t taste as good as fish sticks or a self-rising pizza. Okay, it might taste better than fish sticks.”

I laughed. “Sorry, I kind of got lost. Couldn’t find the grocery department.”

“Lost? Heck, just follow the good looking guys. Every gal knows the hottest place to meet guys is in groceries.” Before I could inform her I wasn’t ‘every gal’, she went spinning off down the aisle towards where hot guys dwelled. Once I caught up with her in fresh fruit, she was in full shopping mode. She would pick something up, put it in her buggy, and then two minutes later, take it out and put it back. “We can get this at the fruit stand,” she reasoned out loud. Finally, she settled on one fruit we couldn’t get from the Orchard House store: bananas.

Two guys walked by and flashed her their college boy smiles. Problem was they both were overweight and looked so sweaty I thought there must be football tryouts the next aisle over. “See, hot guys,” she whispered in my ear.

With a giggle she was off again, heading around the corner and into the frozen food section. I had the feeling I was going to need roller skates before too long. Again, she was a whirling dervish; popping stuff into her buggy like the store was going out of business. Me, I ended up having like five things to her fifty. We went through the whole grocery section like this, her charging down each aisle, dodging other shoppers with her cart, with me trying to follow behind saying “excuse me” to everyone she almost plowed down. By the time we had navigated each aisle, her cart looked as if she was preparing for three weeks instead of three days. When I told her this however, her mood shifted. The exuberant little girl going crazy down every aisle vanished and was replaced by a hurt woman who was just trying to enjoy life.

“Well, you don’t have to tread on my flag,” she said. “Come on, I want to go.” She pushed her buggy up the main aisle towards the checkout and never said another word until we were back at the house and unloading groceries.

At the house, after we had gotten everything in and was putting our bounty in the refrigerator, she broke the silence. “Look, I just wanted to make sure we had enough food. I haven’t had such a fun time shopping in ages and you… well, you ruined it.”

I sat down at the kitchen island that separated it from the dining room. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I was just making a silly observation on all the things you were buying.”

She turned from the task of putting the eggs and milk up and faced me. “Maybe I’m wanting to stock things up so I’ll have it for the next place I go stay. I can leave in the morning, if you like.”

“No, no, Summer. Wait. I truly didn’t mean to insult or offend you.”

“Well, you did,” she answered in a low, hurt voice. She returned to stocking the refrigerator.

I got up and walked over to her. I touched her on her shoulder and when she turned to me, I jerked my hand away, feeling I had done the wrong thing again.

“Look, I know this isn’t an excuse, but I haven’t been around girls much in recent years. Not to the point of actually interacting. I was around two other women in the last twenty years, my mother and Ashley. Other than that, I barely said two words to another female except ‘thank you’ to a waitress or ‘excuse me’ when trying to walk around someone. I don’t know how to say the right things. Probably why I tried to be a writer, so I could learn the correct way to talk to someone. I didn’t mean to hurt you Summer; I just don’t know what to say to you.”

She sighed. “Just say you had fun today.”

I smiled. “I had more fun today than I have had in ages.”

“Good.”

“I don’t want you to leave tomorrow.”

She nodded and tried to hide a smile. “Thank you. I will be heading out early to do a few things, though. I’ll try not to wake you.”

“Are we good, then?”

“Peachy as an orchard,” she replied. “Now, what are you going to fix us for dinner?”

“Um…self-rising pizza?”

“Sounds great. ”

“I hear it’s more appetizing than books.”

She smiled and sat down at the kitchen island while the ten minute chef put the pizza in the oven. When I turned around, she was still looking at me. It made me a little nervous.

“What?” I asked.

“Who’s Ashley?”

“Oh my, now that’s a long story.”

“I have three days.”

I turned back to the oven, wishing all of a sudden to crawl inside it. “Let’s talk about her another day,” I suggested.

“Sounds good,” she replied. After that, the pizza cooked in silence, and once again things were awkward. It’s strange how one sentence, one question, can make a person shut down. We ate our pizza sitting across from one another. She downed hers with tea, mine with soda. After three pieces she said, “Okay I’m done. You can have the rest.“ She got up and walked to the window, looking out on the orchard. “I think I’ll take a walk.”

She didn’t ask me if I wanted to go with her this time. She just went out the door. Maybe she realized that we both needed time alone, or perhaps she wanted me to take the initiative and follow her. Either way, I just sat there staring down at the pizza, berating myself for being so pigheaded about Ashley. Once again, that woman had spoiled a nice thing.

Part 7: Country Girl

“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.

Orchard House Part 5: Life Is A Highway

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Part 5: Life Is A Highway

I took the ground floor bedroom as I had said I would. It lay at the front of the house. One step out of the room and you would be out in the hallway. Another step and you’d be out the front door. A staircase descended to meet the ground floor here in the hallway. Following the hallway in the opposite direction, you would wind around a corner into the living room. From there, it was just another right into the dining room and kitchen. It may have seemed something of a maze in this farmhouse, but it was perfect in making one feel that they weren’t sharing it with someone else. I could hear Summer upstairs, opening dresser doors and closets it sounded like. I set about putting my things up as well.

I set my luggage up on the bed and looked around the room.. While it was designed to look like home, it certainly didn’t look like any home I had ever lived in. The room was done up in blue. The bedspread was blue and white roses, and everything seemed to match it. On the bed, the pillowcases were light blue. A lamp of the same color sat on a nightstand. Fake blue flowers sat on a dresser and were reflected in the mirror behind them. The valances above the windows were done in blue patchwork, and hanging on the wall was a framed reprint of ‘The Blue Boy’, the famous oil painting by Thomas Gainsborough. I thought it appropriate that I had set out on this road trip because of my blues, and now here I was in a room done completely in blue.

I opened my suitcases and went about putting my clothes away in the dresser. Might as well make it like home since I had paid for a week. I was happy to see a small desk in one corner, with a blue stone paperweight on its top, keeping in theme with the rest of the room. The desk looked perfect for writing on, and so I unpacked all my writing gear into its empty drawers. Paper, pencils, pens, erasers, an electronic dictionary and thesaurus, as well as all my various notebooks filled with half finished writing on an array of subjects, all of which I had lost interest in. Also on this desk I set a framed photo of two people in happy times. They were standing outside a movie theater, its neon marquee declaring “FOX” in big capital letters. The man in the picture looked a lot like me, though his smile was beaming much prouder than mine these days. On his arm was a beautiful woman, and she had her head leaning on his shoulder, so in love and happy to be standing there in front of The Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta. I remembered the picture well. It captured a moment in time that I would always associate with my idea of the perfect couple. I had been just a boy in those days, but as I stood there taking their picture with a camera nearly as big as my face, I knew I wanted to grow up to be just as happy in love as my parents.

A knock on the door frame brought me out of my reverie. I turned to see Summer leaning against the doorjamb. She had changed clothes. Now instead of brown kneed jeans she had switched to more comfortable capris, yet her t-shirt still declared her love of nerds. She also had switched from shoes to open toed sandals. A small denim purse was draped over her shoulder and she had pinned her hair back in a ponytail, much like I used to wear my hair when I had a head full of it.

“I think I’m going to Bedford for a food run. There’s nothing in the frig here. You want to come?”

In my current reflective mood I really just wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to be reminded of what it was like to go shopping with a companion, or even riding side by side down the road. I didn’t want to be reminded of all the little domestic things couples do. And even though Summer and I were never going to be a couple, I still didn’t want a feeling that such a thing were even possible. With anyone.

“Sure, why not,“ I replied.

“Great!” she said. “Meet you at the car.” I heard her skip happily around the corner and I shook my head, hoping she wouldn’t skip like that through the local Wal-Mart.

Summer’s car seemed to be nearly as old as she was. It was remarkably well taken care of and she informed me it was the only decent thing that came from an ex. I didn’t ask if she meant boyfriend or husband. None of my business. It was a nice car, though. Pontiac Sunbird, complete with sunroof. Not the automatic kind of sunroof, but the ones where you had to slide it open by hand. It made me think of a little heard song from the early 90’s. ‘Power Windows’ by Billy Falcon. I nearly interviewed him once when I was a young intern for Southern Sound magazine. One of the many near interviews I had when I was training to be a failed music critic.

When I got in the car the music comparison changed. Summer wasn’t ‘Power Windows’. No, she was more ‘Life Is A Highway.’ As she started the car and the old rock song came blaring from both speakers, I knew this was going to be one fast ride to Bedford.

“Love this song,” she said as if to rationalize turning up the radio until the speakers started to vibrate and rumble. “but it can’t be the Rascal Flatts one. It’s got to be the original. I hate covers.”

“Tom Cochrane,” I informed her. “Canadian. Used to be in the band Red Rider. “

She raised an eyebrow and pointed to her shirt. “Nerd, “ she grinned, but I wasn’t sure if she meant him or me. She seemed to know my thoughts. “I’m talking about you,” she said, and turned the volume up another notch as we spun out onto the gravel road.

We sped past the store, windows down, and neither of us thought to stop and complain about renting the house out to both of us. As if to send this point home, she let out a whooping rebel yell out her side as we passed the Latino men working in the fields. In the city, they might have looked at her as if she was crazy, but here they just answered right back as we sped off down the road.

When we left the gravel for pavement, she turned it up again. “Last notch,” she said as if to be proud of blowing out her speakers. My thought at this was to wish she would turn it down a little; that it was much too high. But then I laughed. I was sounding like my parents when I blared out Kiss or Led Zeppelin down in the basement when I was a teenager.

“Too loud?” she shouted.

“Nope,” I yelled back, and in a long suppressed act of rebellion, hung my head out the window and screamed Turn it up!”

By the time we reached the Wal-Mart in Bedford my voice was hoarse from our shouting duet out the car window, finally ending with a mad yelling version of the 70’s radio rock classic “I’m on Fire” by the Dwight Twilley band. I had that record back in ’75 when I was a kid, and it was very appropriate now, because on this whole ride I had felt just like that again. Wild, free, and definitely on fire.

Part 6: You Can’t Eat A Book

“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.

Orchard House Part 4: Call Me The Breeze

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Part 4: Call Me The Breeze

A loud noise brought me up from my bathtub nap. It sounded like a slamming door, then something getting slung down hard on the kitchen floor. I heard a whistle. Not the sound of a kettle boiling or a train coming down the track, but the whistle that replaces awe and exclamation when someone finds something beyond their expectations. Then the whistle turned into a happy sounding tune. I recognized it instantly. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Call me the breeze. It was at that point I realized someone else was in the house.I climbed from the tub and threw my legs over the high sides, snatching a towel from a shelf on the wall. I bumped the sink as I wrapped it around my waist. I heard a low voice whisper, “oh hell,” as I rushed out into the kitchen area. Standing between the dining room and the fireplace that separated it from the living room was a young woman. She had been looking at my luggage there on the couch and realizing she wasn’t alone. With my rush out of the bathroom she spun towards me. Surprise turned to shock, which quickly turned to embarrassment.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” she apologized. She put her hand to her mouth, then corrected herself and covered her eyes instead. I looked down quickly to make sure nothing was showing and clutched the towel tighter to me. “I’m sorry,” she repeated and turned her back to me.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

She pushed a strand of long dark hair out of her eyes. “I just rented the place. I didn’t think anyone else was here. They didn’t say anything about other guests.”

“Well, I just rented it no more than half an hour ago. They must have a short memory.” I reached for the phone on the wall. The number of the fruit stand was posted it beside. I started dialing.

She turned to face me again. “What are you doing?”

“I’m calling them to find out what’s going on.” Then my towel fell off.

She threw her hand to her face and turned away. “Maybe you should dress first,” she suggested with a nervous giggle. I don’t know who was more red – she, I, or the apples out in the orchard.

As a child I had a recurring nightmare. It’s the first day of school and I’m walking the halls. It’s nice to be there and I’m happy to be reunited with my friends after the summer and maybe meet a nice girl to boot. I’m alone in the hall, lost in thought, when the bell rings. The classrooms dispel their students and they come rushing out in the hallway to go to their next class, their lockers, or quite possibly the smoking block. As everyone is scurrying around me, I suddenly realize I’m naked. And within seconds everyone else does, too. They laugh and point, and I’m so embarrassed I’m trying to find an empty classroom to escape to. That’s what it felt like with this stranger in Orchard House, and I, just like in the dream, ran for it. Dashing back into bathroom, I slammed the door behind me and hurriedly dressed. Getting my pants and shirt back on, I looked in the mirror. If I was trying to gain courage from my reflection, it wasn’t happening. I took a deep breath and stepped back out into the kitchen to confront the woman. I didn’t know what to say to her. I was never much good with the ladies, and especially not ones who just showed up in your house. It didn’t help matters that she was beautiful. She had long dark hair, framing a face that carried a slight trace of Native American heritage. She wasn’t dark skinned, but her high cheekbones and shape of her face gave it away. She had deep brown eyes, and light freckles painted her face, which bore no trace of makeup. She was wearing long jeans, brown at the knees, as if she spent most of her time on her knees in a garden, and a bright t-shirt that happily exclaimed “I love nerds” on the front. For a moment, I almost wished for a pocket protector and black framed glasses.

Finding my voice, I asked her, “So, what’s your name?”

She held out her hand. “I’m Summer.”

I took it and discovered her hand shake was pretty firm. “Matthew.” I sighed and picked the phone off the wall again. “Well, let’s get this thing straightened out, I suppose.” I dialed the number on the wall and it began to ring. I looked at the woman, who had now sat down at the kitchen table to wait the outcome. She was watching me with her dark eyes, brown like rich earth, and I had to look away because I wasn’t used to it. It’s not that I found her gaze intrusive; eye contact has always been an alien thing to me. When no one picked up the phone on the other end, I dared to look at her again. She sadly smiled.

“Hey look, you were here first,” she said. Her duffle bags had been sitting in the kitchen floor, and so she stood up and reached for them. Hefting one in each arm, she started for the door. “I’ll just go back to the store and ask for my money back.”

I hung up the phone, as she came around me and opened up the door. I didn’t know what to say.

“I’m sorry to have intruded, Mr. Matthew. I truly thought the place was empty.” She held out her hand and I took it. Her palm was now soft and warm and it made me realize her handshake earlier was the first time a woman had touched me since Ashley. Not a thing to be thinking at all, when this woman is walking out the door. But it was just a handshake after all. Business, not pleasure.

She stepped out on the back porch and went down the steps without looking back. She was proud. She wouldn’t show me a look of sympathy, nor regret. She wouldn’t look at me from beneath her dark locks, or stare at me from deep eyes to say she didn’t want to go. Instead, she disappeared around the corner of the house and I heard her fumble for her keys and open her car door. I stood there in the doorway, staring out at the orchard. I had come here to be alone, to find what was next for me if anything. I didn’t want company; I just wanted my sad world to stop spinning enough to gather my thoughts.

The closing of her car door brought me out of my thoughts of aloneness. “Damn,” I muttered, and pushed open the screen door. I ran down the steps and around the corner. She had put the car in reverse and was getting ready to back down the long drive. I threw up my hand. “Hey wait!” I came around to her window. She was looking at me curiously.

“Did I forget something?” she asked.

“No, it’s not that. Look, the house is huge. It has rooms upstairs and downstairs. It should be enough space for us both to live in without running over top each other. If you don’t mind sharing the house with a stranger, I guess I don’t mind either.”

She seemed to think about it, staring down into her own lap silently, before looking up at me. “I’ll tell you what. I have business here in the area. May take me three days to finish up. Once it’s done I’ll get out of your hair. I won’t be a bother in the meantime.”

I smiled. “Neither will I. and I promise not to flash you anymore.”

She laughed. “Okay. Deal.”

I stepped back and let her get out the car. “You want ground floor or upstairs?” I asked.

She reached into her back seat to grab her duffel bags. “I’m used to apartment living, I’ll take upstairs if you don’t mind.”

“That’s fine, here let me help you.” I reached for one of her bags but she wouldn’t let me take it. Miss independence. “Well, I’m going to go and finish settling in. just make yourself at home, Summer.”

I left her to carry her bags as she wished and returned to the house. Back in the kitchen I had to ask myself what I was doing, staying in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with a woman who had to be twenty years my junior. In the city, the neighbors would have been wagging their tongues for sure. I stepped into the bathroom and looked at the discarded towel in the floor. I had to laugh at my embarrassing moment upon meeting Summer. It was the stuff of sitcoms and comedy movies, not real life. it was also the kind of things you tell your kids when they grow up. Now where did that thought come from? Maybe once I had thought of children, but never more. One woman can kill everything for you.

I had taken my bath things out and set them on the sink before my bath. I looked down at a razor sitting on the edge. Picking it up, I stared at it, wondering if I would ever be so brave to show Ashley just what she had done. I ran some warm water and sprayed shaving cream into my hands. Rubbing the cream on my face, I took the razor more firmly and shaved the three days growth off my face. I watched myself in the mirror with red rimmed eyes, but I refused to cry.

Part 5: Life Is A Highway

“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.

Orchard House Part 3: Welcome Home

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Part 3: Welcome Home

Back out on the gravel road it didn’t take long to go round the bend to Orchard House. On the right stood grape vines wrapped around wooded trellises, and not far ahead on the left sat a row of gazebos and small buildings with a large hand painted sign reading “The Artist’s Village. Open every Friday -Saturday.” Across from that, a graveled drive led up a small hill to the house. I made the turn and passed through an opening in the fence, watching as the big white farmhouse came into clearer view. I passed by a large magnolia tree in the front yard and parked beside the house. It was a huge structure, painstakingly restored on the outside so it looked like it must have appeared in my parent’s time. The front porch was small; a mere shadow of the house, but one could tell it was full of rooms and history. Getting out of the car, I felt like I was instantly transported back in time to when large families all lived together, mothers and fathers, their children and their spouses, and their children, all under one roof. The fact that it was surrounded on three sides by the massive fruit orchard gave me a feeling that this house was too big for one person. Probably why the dog came free. And free he was, running wild towards me. I barely had time to prepare myself for Jackson’s excitement over having company. He barked hello several times, then parked himself at my feet waiting for me to pat him. “Well hello, you must be Jackson,” I said rubbing the top of his head, which made his tongue hang out, drool and all. I laughed. “I’m going to need a bib just to pet you.”

I stood beside the car with Jackson at my heel and took in a deep breath. Even the air was different here. Gone was the smell of car exhaust, trash tossed along the roadsides, factory smokestacks spewing forth their poison for the cluttered masses. No, in this air I could smell the magnolia tree in the front yard, the peach blossoms and apple trees, the wildflowers that grew around the house. I could even catch the scent of that most glorious smell from my youth, honeysuckle. As a young boy I had traipsed through near meadows of it at my grandparent’s home, and here it was again, that sweet scent on the breeze as if to say, ‘Welcome to your second childhood. We have been waiting. ‘ If only I could have believed such a thing were possible.

I got my bags out of the car and began to lug them around to the back of the house. Here the house could truly be enjoyed in its splendor. A large porch wrapped around the back. On one end, a gas grill and one of those old metal porch swings. Not the kind that hung on chains, but that gained its swinging motion from metal runners like a rocking chair. On the other end of the porch sat a pair of metal chairs with a glass and metal end table between them. The glass was painted with roses looping around vines, reminding me of church windows. Beside the chairs was the back door, adorned with a wooden plaque with painted apples and peaches on it. On it was painted the words, “Welcome home. Friends enter.” I got the key out and let myself in. Turning back, I looked to see Jackson had stopped and was sitting at the foot of the steps. Probably trained to stay off the porch, I thought.

Setting my bags down, I saw that I had entered into a large room that served as both kitchen and dining room. On the left side was a wooden dining table, covered by a tablecloth decorated with images of apples in baskets. Four chairs sat around it, and a fake flower arrangement served as the table’s centerpiece. To the right was the kitchen area, tiled with, you guessed it, apple painted linoleum. A modern kitchen bar stood in the center, while along the walls were all the conveniences of a real home: refrigerator, electric range, a washer and dryer stacked on top of each other, sink, and cabinets. Looking out the kitchen window, I could see rows upon rows of peach trees, all blossoming pink. A small door led out the kitchen to this side of the yard, and as if in trance, I followed it out into the orchard. The scent of colors took my breath away. The trees blanketed the land, canopies of pink blossoms stretching far into the hills, making me feel as if I had just stepped out into an alien landscape in some other world. “Dorothy, I don’t believe you’re in Kansas anymore,” I whispered to myself.

Back inside the house, i inspected the kitchen, pulling out cabinet drawers and seeing what kind of things they kept around. Everything for the perfect kitchen could be found here, from silverware to cooking pots and pans, to steak knives, and pizza cutters, and all manner of cooking utensils. It seemed when they furnished the place they didn’t leave out anything. Hand towels and wash cloths hung neatly by the sink. Everything was cleaned and in its proper place. Off the kitchen an open door led into the small bathroom. It was cramped and in one corner stood a hot water heater. An old fashioned sink sat in another corner, a porcelain basin sitting upon a pedestal. The bathtub was the old style. It sat up on clawed legs and made me think of cowboys in these old westerns relaxing after a day on the range with a cigar in their mouth and their hats still on their head.

I returned to the kitchen and picked up my bags. I walked through the dining room and into a living room area. Here there was a real fireplace, a couch, couple of chairs, an old TV with a VCR hooked up. I noticed there wasn’t a DVD or blu- ray player. This didn’t surprise me. The TV sat in a homemade entertainment center, its top shelf lined with VCR tapes, mostly western movies and old shows. The bottom shelf held old fashioned board games for families to enjoy, checkers, parchesi, backgammon. Looking out the living room window, I could see the magnolia tree, and beyond it the artist village and gravel road. It instantly made me weary from my travels. I sat my bags down on the couch and looked back towards the kitchen. The tour of the house could wait. I needed a bath and I needed it now.

It took me awhile to get used to the tub. After all, for the past several years all I had taken were showers. Life had been so hectic, I was always in a rush, and I barely had time to stand still, let alone sit still in a bathtub. But here at Orchard House, there was no shower. Just this big claw foot bathtub. I almost had to force myself to stay in the tub, draping my arms over the high sides, and letting the warmth take me away. There was a half empty bottle of Bubble bath, so in this rare moment I poured nearly a fourth of it under the hot running water. I have to admit that it was relaxing, laying there in the luxurious warmth and bubbled splendor. I felt like I could nod right off. And nod is just what I did.

Part 4: Call Me The Breeze

“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.

Torture Me

Torture me

Within my caged innocence

Where devils make pleasure a mockery

Of the grand design of love

Drink from me

This very lifeblood that cries your name

In rivulets of crimson sorrow

To your moist waiting lips

Possess me

Completely, my love

Be the one

Who makes me sweat your name

Torture me

Make me plead

To be more like you

And more like me

Until we can’t see

Where one stops

And the other begins

Torture me…

Part 2: Twyla 

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Part 2: Twyla

Everywhere you looked there were baskets and bushels of fruit. Apples, peaches, oranges, lemons, grapes…you name it. If it could be grown in America it seemed to be under the roof of Orchard House. Walking down an aisle that had to include at least a dozen different varieties of apples, I saw a little girl, Twyla I presumed, at a table in the back. She sat on a stool like an eight year old bartender, mixing up a new batch of her lemonade. Spread out on the table were assorted lemons, a sack of sugar, and what appeared to be her creation in a bottled form. She, being the good little salesperson, saw me coming and perked right up. “Hey there Mister, want some lemonade? First cup is free.”

“Yeah your mom told me you made it yourself.”

The girl giggled and beamed proudly. “She will like that,” she grinned. Then she leaned forward in a hushed whisper, “She’s not my mom. She’s my grams.”

I turned back around to the doorway to see if the woman had followed me through. She hadn’t.

“Well, little miss,” I said, “She looked young enough to be your mom.”

“Oh she’s not an old gram. She’s only fifty. You probably aren’t far behind.”

I laughed out loud. You got to love the honesty of children. She was right of course. At forty-five, I guess I wasn’t that far at all.

She poured me a cup of her concoction and handed it to me. I took it, and without hesitation drank the contents down in one gulp. It was very good, probably the best I had tasted. “This has got to be the worst orange juice ever,” I exclaimed, to which she frowned. “But for a lemonade it is absolutely the bestest.”

She smiled brightly. “Thank you mister.” Then she frowned at me as if she were a parent admonishing a kid. “But I think you should know, ‘bestest’ isn’t a real word.”

“Yeah I know. But it is the best lemonade I have tasted in many a year.”

The saleswoman in the girl saw her opportunity. “Would you like to buy a bottle?”

I feigned surprise. “What? A bottle?”

“Um..Yeah.”

“No I won’t buy a bottle.” Then I gave her a wink. “But I’ll take a case if you got it.”

Twyla’s grandmother looked very surprised when I came walking out of the fruit stand with a case of her lemonade in my arms. She laughed.

“My, I thought she had it in her to sell, but she has clearly outdone herself.”

“Mam, Twyla makes the best lemonade I had to overlook my disappointment in Orchard House.”

For a moment her smile faltered. “Disappointed? What disappointed you?”

“Well,” I confessed. “The sign at the end of the road said Orchard House, and I guess I just thought it was a hotel or bed and breakfast. Some place I could kick back my heels and forget the things I have to do for a while.”

Now she smiled. “Well technically, this here isn’t Orchard House. The actual house is up around the bend on the backside of the orchard.my husband and I converted into just the sort of thing you are looking for.”

“Wow, well I guess it’s not a real disappointment after all.”

“Nope. And it’s empty at the moment and ready for visitors. Only sixty-fivedollars a night. “

“That sounds very reasonable. Indoor plumbing?”

“Sure is. You got a full bath, kitchen, dining room, den, two bedrooms downstairs, two more on the upper level. And like I said, it’s empty so you can sleep in any room you like.”

“Can I see it?”

“Sure can. Just go out to the road, take a right, head around the bend and you’ll see it. It sits up on a little hill looking down on the orchard on one side, the road on the other. “

I pulled out my money and paid the woman for the lemonade. “Okay, yeah I’ll go take a look.”

“Really there’s no need to drive. You can just step out back and see it on the hill. Twyla, show this nice man the house.”

Since the girl had made a new friend in me, she grabbed my hand and led me out the back door of the store. Sure enough, it sat up on a hill not far off, and I could tell from here it was just the place of solitude I was looking for. Nearly surrounded by fruit trees, I could imagine myself walking through the orchard gathering my thoughts and trying to plan what was left of my life. Sifting through the wreckage left behind by Ashley I was going to need the solitude.

Twyla squeezed my hand. “You okay, Mister?”

I looked down at her and smiled. “Sure. I was just lost for a moment.”

“I got lost once,” she offered. “But Jackson came and found me.”

“Who’s Jackson?”

She pointed to the house. “See there in the yard? That’s Jackson.”

Because of the distance it took me awhile to see what she was talking about, but then I saw it. A big brown and white dog lying in the grass.

“He comes with the house,” she told me. “He don’t bite or nothing. “

“That’s good.”

“Unless you bite first,” she added with a smile.

“Swell,” I said. “Well, I guess I’ll take it.”

She let go of my hand and ran back into the store. I could hear her shouting for her grams with glee in her voice. “He wants it! Now gimme my dollar, I sold it.”

I laughed. Twyla was going to be a force to be reckoned with in the business world one day.

By the time I got back inside, the matronly woman had a key in her hand. “Twyla tells me you’re going to stay. How many nights you be needing?”

I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I was winging things and not thinking beyond the moment at all. “Go ahead and set me up for a week. Got no place I need to be until then.” I didn’t want to tell her I had no place to be at all. That home didn’t exist for me anymore. It’s odd when there is no way back from where you came. All you can do is stand still or move forward when every bridge behind you is burning. I figured this was as good a place as any to stand still.

“That will be three hundred dollars,” she said. “I knocked off twenty-five for your disappointment.”

When I saw her knowing smile, I grinned and thanked her. I opened my wallet and counted out the cash. Noticing credit cards peeking out, she informed me, “We do take cards, if you prefer. We ain’t so far out we only know the color green.”

“Oh. Ok. I didn’t know. Yeah, let me pay with my card then.”

I took out my credit card and she handed the cash back to me. “We also like the color gold,” she chuckled, and it reminded me of my own mother, sitting on her back porch and telling Ashley all my boyhood horror stories. I didn’t mind the memory of my mother, but I could do without the image of my ex in my old Arc Angels t-shirt.

She handed me my receipt and got me to sign for the charge. “You should have everything you need up there already. Clean towels and sheets. There is a washer and dryer in the kitchen so you can clean your clothes and stuff. If you need anything, there is a phone on the wall. Local calls are free and our number is posted beside it. There’s no food in the frig, you will have to stock that yourself. Umm, let’s see, what else?”

I tucked the receipt away in my wallet and was already looking forward to a nice long bath. I had some soap left over from the last hotel and a new bottle of shampoo from where I stopped off at the shopping mall in Bedford.

As if reading my mind, she said, “There may be some soap, but probably no shampoo. And in case Twyla didn’t mention it, we have an old Australian shepherd who stays at the house. His name is Jackson, but he stays outside and won’t bother you. Got some dog biscuits in the cabinet if you want to give him a treat from time to time though. Other than that, I think you are all set. If something happens and you lose the key, just give us a shout, either here or on the phone, and we’ll bring you another. Twyla and I have to head out soon, but my husband Raymond will be here to help if you need anything. He’s out in the orchard with the workers right now. “

“I think I’ll be okay. Thank you.”

“You enjoy it up there. Generations of my husband’s family have lived there. Lot of history and good times behind those walls. Hope it will be good for you too.”

I smiled, thinking I really could use some good memories to outweigh the ones that had been less than kind here lately. “I’m sure it will be a pleasant experience,” I told her and headed for the door.

“Oh wait, here’s a basket,” she called. “Be sure to pick you some apples while you’re there. Personally I like the red delicious, but Twyla is all about the granny smith.”

I took the empty basket and thanked her again. I waved to the little girl in the back, who true to her grams word had just taken a bit of a green apple and was waving back. Going out the door, and looked back, wondering if all this could be a mirage. After a lifetime in the city, Orchard House seemed like a dream. I had no idea how dreamy it was about to get…

Part 3: Welcome Home

“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.