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Bill O. farmer Bill O. farmer
Recommendations: 14

Old Love.


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She had a friend.

For starters; This was gleaned off the news briefs of my local newspaper. The original clip was barely 150 words. I fleshed it out to what is to try to recreate the events that transpired to make that old woman take out a shot gun on her neighbour. All he had intended was help with the garbage. The names have been altered, even the location. The story is my point of view.


Yeah, 65 and going, I had a pretty darn life living. I was here and there like most of them. Married me three wifies and an arms length of randy affairs sowing wild oats. When you are in the army much with a lotta things top secret, the military gets into your hair, affairs, relationships and all. You eat junk live junk. So you might say I was a junkie. You don’t get to live your life for yourself.


I walked around with a beeper much. With it strapped to your belt; you had to be there at their beck and call when it went off. And, trust me; you didn’t know what just hit you when the black gizmo strapped to your sides went off. It could mean the jungles of the Congo or barren dunes of the Middle East, icy caps of the hemispheres or jumpin’ out of  heights un-imaginable or just some dirty kidnap job involvin’ terrorist some where in the hood. To boil it down, we were all over hell’s half acre.


Well I retired, honorably for a guy who lived his life hunting and killing the supposedly bad guys. Crazy stuff considering the fact that the other blokes deem you as the bad guys too. And now runnin' a fitness shop down Fifth Street, I thought I had it all goin’ livin’ a peaceful life.


Down at the waterfront of Florida traits, I had myself a two bed roomed affair, too large for a loner. My grand kids didn’t come around much. It was me, Zorzi the cat and Hurff the dog. Zorzi was pretty much the indoor fella ‘cept for those moments when she got bored and decided it was time to rile Hurff out in the yard. Hurff being who he was, had this thing about being the only pet meant for me, chased her around all over the yard, up trees and onto the roof where she would look down at Hurff and kinda go like, ‘You gotta be kiddin’ me if you think you are ever goin’ ta catch me.’


The house was detached with a patio to one side to catch the mornin’ sun and a verandah up front all done up in white like most American homes are. A picket fence, demarcated the sidewalk from my yard. I gave it a white coating recently and it was gleaming you had to wear shades when the sun was at high noon just to look at it. I had the ocean for my backyard, a fancy view you looked as far as the horizon where ships disappeared to the other side of the world.


One noon, I was out there on my front porch rockin’ myself aways, whilin’ the time just to keep myself busy. The transistor blared a country from MXL 104 on the frequency modulator. I hummed along between fourty winks when a ten wheeler pulled into the road across from me. A moment later an old Buick all done up in red, under a white collapsible roof rolled over into a stop just behind it.


That was the first time I set my eyes on her. She might have been 74 for all my guess and it didn’t matter much any ways but you see she was to my new neighbor. I raked my mind as to when the old occupants had quit and came up blank. It’s a surprise how things changed that fast around here I mused raising my shades just a tard above my brows to peer more closely at her. The truck hands got busy throwin’ stuff outta the truck and stuffin’ them into the house. It was semi detached with a garage for a bonus. Like expected, most of the stuff went in there, cartons and cartons of it.


Two days later, and I hadn’t ventured to say hi, the interior décor team where on the grounds across the road with their make up kits makin’ the house livelier. Interestin’ly my neighbor lived all by herself. June, June Cummings, I would later find her names to be.


I ran the mile ‘round the hood weekdays to the Glades Sports Grounds ‘cept for Sundays when I would leave early for service at Graceland Pentecostal Church. This Saturday morning, having worked up a sweat, I made my final run home and just as I was turnin’ in into my yard I happened to glance at Ms Cummings' house and there she was haulin’ a garbage bag and it was a struggle from the look of things.


“Hi,” I said walkin’ across the lawn in her direction.
Startled, she whirled round her jaw dropping open. “Oh,” it was more a gasp to a reply. She clutched at her breast.
“Sorry,” I arched my brows. You know that up-down movement of the brow that is kind of … okay I can’t find the words.
“Ah, I was lost in my own world, you know,” she opened both arms like to embrace the spaces.
“Happens all the time,” I grinned.
She lifted a hand to the necklace around her neck and fiddled with it starrin’ at me, “You are the man from across…”
“The road?” I thumbed over my shoulder in the direction of my house. “Yeah! Thomas Brown,’ I extend my sweaty palm in her direction. “But you can call me Tom, my friends do.”
“Oh,” she extends her hand tugging off the black industrial rubber gloves before giving me a limp hand. “June Cummings. June if you like.”
“June is pleasurable,” With one arm behind my back, I bow and kiss the back of her proffered hand. And with that I lay the foundations of trouble. How deep I would later find out.


For the next several weeks nothing serious transpired between us. I kept to my turf and she kept to hers except for, “Hi June!” “Hi Tom,” from across the road. It was no man’s land. You tore up or down the no man’s land on foot, on a bike or in an automobile and we were both comfortable. I seemed to be the one crossing the land on to her side of the turf more. Not looking for gossip but usually to help with the garbage. It wasn’t long before I narrowed it down to a ‘T’. Knowin’ exactly when she would need the next emptyin’. I sometimes made random checks to ensure she wasn’t havin’ somethin’ putrefying in the bin anyway.  My efforts at ensuring her well being shed a different light on me; a romantic one. I couldn’t tell if it was the red/black valentine sort of thing for sure but I did start to notice things.


Her garbage went up a notch yet she was not entertainin’ guests. Flaming red lipstick made a show. Rogue on her cheeks, done up nails and starched up clothes and the works, hair bands for pony tails; don’t worry that she had grey streaks and lots and lots of them on the crown.


I started getting the overall feeling I was being watched. Once when I made an impromptu appearance, she opened her front door, filled it with her frame and stood there watchin’ me aways come up the drive, her pelvis jutting out abit as she cast more weight on her other foot and one hand on a hip. I knew that kinda pose. Back in my heyday, that meant, ‘hey look here.’ A smile played on her face I had to ask; “Mmh, what’s amusin’?”
“Nothing,” she jerked her head to one side the smile broadening.
“Surely, must be somethin’.” I stopped and looked straight and deep into her eyes.
She colored up droppin’ her eyes.
Oh men, I went inwardly.
‘You goin’ out?’ I ventured looking her up and down. She was all dressed to the nines.
“No.” she looked up and quickly dropped her eyes, her hand flying from her waist quickly to the necklace. Today it was pearls, with matching ear pins.
“Sure?”
“Yeah.”
From the confines of the house, Celine Dion’s ‘Power of Love’ filtered through.
For a moment I looked at her askance before asking; “Guests?”
“Only you.” She saw me looking past her to the interior and she looked over her shoulder. “Only me,” she corrected herself.
“Some music.”
“Mem’ries,” the fidgeting with the pearls intensified.
I looked long and deep into the sea blue of her pupils, a smile slowly but surely spreadin’ across my face. I wondered what memories they where but ventured not to ask.
“I wouldn’t want to interrupt,” I said turnin’ around.
“No it’s okay,” June quickly replied taking my arm and stopping me and quickly dropped her hand again. “Well am just …” she waves her hands over her head and drops them heaving a sigh.
“Aha?” I half turn back.
“Nothing.” She heaves another sigh, and gets this far away look like she wanted to distance herself from the next words which sprung outta her lips. “You wanna come in for cuppa tea, coffee maybe? Its long overdue.”
“We-e-l-l …,’ I turn and look around us searchin’ for a way out of this predicament, ‘…I ‘preciate the offer but can we make this another day?”
She drops her eyes to inspect some thing down at my feet. “Please. Won’t take a minute if you don’t mind.”
I reach forward and put an index under her chin and lift her head, “Don’t do that.”
“Do what?” she frowns lookin’ at me.
“what you were doin’ a moment ago,” I reply.
“A moment ago?” she laughs.
“Yeah a moment ago, yeah.”
“Just knock it off,” she replies heaving a sigh. “do I take that for a yes?” She steps aside to let me in.


The coffee wasn’t bad and I kept to my feet from soup to nuts like I woulda left a smudge on the cushions. She was a chatter box, more out of nervousness to anythin’. “Do you want this, do you want that, may I get you this?” were an endless stream. I kept my cool and left by the back door.


“Do you mind if I made a request?”
“Sure, shoot.” I reply tying a cord around the neck of the large black polythene with the garbage. And laying out a new one over the lips of the bin and spreading it within.
“You can cool off on the garbage, I can handle that.”
I stop what am doin’ and look up.
She simply cocked her head to one side and sagged onto one foot. Nodding her head. “Hey,’ she playfully waves into my face, ‘you heard me.”
“Well, I got no problem with handling …”
“I know,” she cuts me off layin’ a hand gently on my forearm.


That day I went home with a lot of stuff goin’ through my head. The last bit of the conversation kept replayin’ on my mind. I decided the best thing was to lay low. Get out of her hair and that kind of stuff. If she could handle the garbage, why bother.


I took to going on my runs, hittin’ the road on a fast trot and givin’ her no leeway in the time and attention I had given her afore. I wasn’t being nasty, but just tryin’ to give her her space back. I quit sittin’ under my verandah at the front, got busier doin’ nothin’ particular indoors, raked the leaves off the lawn with a little more attention than was necessary. It wasn’t long before I kinda forgot about her anyway, she just faded. Life is funny, smile a lot and folks go, what’s the reason for the sunshiny face? You go around with a grumpy face they will whisper behind your back, “You ever see him smile?”


***********


About two weeks went by with an occasional wave here and there. One day she took me by surprise. I was out back tendin’ to a nasty wasp sting on my forehead when I heard the door chime go. Cursin’ and swearin’ like a sailor at the wasps, I trudged through to the front. It’s the mail man probably, I thought throwin’ open the front door. What I found there left me gapin’.
“Oh, come in,” I stepped back to let her in without thinking. “Forgive me that am bare chest and furious with the wasps,” I say in apology.
“Ah …” she seemed to be thrown of balance with the mention of the wasps. “What about them?” she ducks through the threshold.
“Oh, the wasps? Darn things.”
‘What were you doing riling them …’ she shakes her head from side to side, more on the sunny side, “…up?”
“See this?” I lift my palm off my forehead where a lump is forming. “The darn thin’s stung me.”
She bursts into laughter.
“And this is no joke. I could be wearin’ this lump for a week to come.”
“Oh sorry, dear,” she tries a straight face.
“What did you just say?” I turn around to face her. We had gone as far as the centre of the living room.
“I said …,” she suddenly drops her voice and snatches my hand which is on its way back to kneadin’ the lump; “…I wanna peek at the place they stung.”
We were so close our body temperatures were blast furnaces. I push my head back a little; she narrows her eyes in mock diss-approval. I actually caught her lookin’ at my lips.

“Mind if I look at it?”
“it’s nothin’ worth the bother.” I try to downplay the sting.
“Listen who’s talkin’.” For a moment there she peers into my eyes and not botherin’ with the lump. “Sit down.”
It was a command. I narrowed my eyes, my defenses up. This is my house, my territory, my turf, something in me protested. But I searched for the nearest high table, the dining, and perched myself on it.
“Now what?”
“Relax! Unwind.”
“You some sorta  therapist or what?” I reach over and snatch a T-shirt off the backrest of a dinning chair. I pull it over my head and stick my hands through the sleeves. She chuckles in reply as she takes position directly in front of me.
“A therapist of sorts, yeah.”
Liar! But I don’t say it aloud.


June takes my head in both her hands and before I realize what just hit me. Her lips went over mine in a full french kiss.
“Hey!” I suddenly shove at her in disgust. “Watch your footin’ ‘round here.”
“Oh, come on, Tom.”
“I think you better leave, now!” I got off the table and walked towards the front door. If I was behavin’ like a teenager suddenly alarmed by a girl then she was this sixteen year old with this ragin’ hormones.
“Tom, will you please…”
“No!” I lift my hand at her cutting her off. “You got me in a middle of somethin’ June and …”
“Hear me out, will ya?” She pleads from her position at the dinning table. She hadn’t moved an inch. She started wringing her hands, almost wrenching them off. “I just…”
I held the door open and glared at her. I wipe my lips on the shoulders of the T-shirt.
We stare at each other for lack of words.
It was with an effort that June walked towards me stoppin’ right in front of me. She  looked directly into my eyes. I avoided hers in return. “Do you mind if I explain?”
I looked out to the road in silence, the door still held in my other hand, wide open.
Noticin’ the determination in my attitude, June squared her shoulders and marched out. As soon as she got past the threshold I slammed the door behind her and turned the latch, threw in the chain for good measure. Through the translucent glass I noticed she was rock still on the porch.


I huffed off to the back and turned the key in the lock too afore returnin’ to the livin’ room. I gathered a handful of the t-shirt and swiped at my mouth one more time in disgust. Pacin’ up and down; I started walkin’ from one end to the other and back past the window each time. For a moment I looked across the road and I saw June, skirts gathered in her hands as raced across her yard disappearin’ into her house.


********


I pace some more when suddenly the phone jingles on its hook besides the front door between the door and the front living room windows. I have been thinkin’ about relocatin’ it to a more central position and had no time for it. The first thought that hits me is, it’s her! I look through the window in the direction of June’s house and let it ring. I walk across the room makin’ a beeline for the corridor down to the bedrooms a when I suddenly veer off towards it.


I snatch the it off  the hook and hold it to my ear in silence, for I wanted to hear from the other end of the line first to know who is callin’. Just then glass pane blasts through in shards and smithereens. I cringe, in reflex, narrowing myself to fit between the window and door.
There is another bang from outside. The glass is blasted inwards this time I dive for cover, keeping away from the window. Jesus.
My heart starts pounding, as I make calculations on what is unfolding. My mind goes on overdrive as I try to recall which bad guys out there from my past could have traced me to me this locale.
The third round comes through, and that’s it. From the punches the panes are receiving, I know it’s a shotgun of sorts. The first two rounds could be accidental, but if the third is still directed at my house, then who ever it is, is here for real business.  I scuttle back towards the wall below the window. The shards of glass are digging deep into my feet and palms.
With my back pressed to the wall, I peer out through the window just as June Cummings racks up her pump action and crosses the road in the direction of my house. Unbelievable.


I chuckle mirthlessly as the I warm to the old feelin’s of the warzone.
“What ever it is you want from me, June Cummin’s,” I mumble under my breath, “don’t awaken the demons in me.”
The next round comes through the door into the cabinet across. While she is still reloading, I dive across the room for the corridor. Am bleeding now.
“Of what benefit is this to you?” I shout over my shoulder.
“I think you are better of dead,” she replies, “you coward.”
Oh, now I am a coward.
“Coward? Over what?”
“You think yourself a man, ah?” she is talking back, the curtain parted with one hand and the gun in the other. “Show your sorry arse.”
“You ain’t seen nothin’, June, of guns and deaths.”
“Sod off!” The fifth round blasts through ripping a picture of me in a Green Beret and camouflage somewhere in the Congo Basin to shreds. To her it’s coupe.


I stopped carrying weapons on my person long ago. It was a difficult thing to get used to, but trustin’ God in entirety for your safety is a story for another day. There was no point in rushin’ to the bedroom or cabinet somewhere to pick a gun anyway, so I chose to play it out. With count of five, I knew she was out of rounds; unless she had them stuffed in her pockets.
I stayed put in the corridor and peeping from time to time to ensure she didn’t have aces up her sleeves. Just to be sure I yell; “The way you are reactin’ to this whole thing, you were going to ride me like a stolen bicycle!”
“I what?”
“You heard me.” I peep and she has this look of total horror on her face as she peers in through the broken pane. She fumbles with the gun her hands trembling with rage. She upends the weapon and racks it hard. The spent shell catwheels out of the chamber. She jabs at the jagged ends of the panes to clear the way, Shoves the barrel through and … I duck as the blast tears through the plaster along the far wall of the corridor.
“That’s for calling me a bitch.”
My ears buzz.


“Why don’t just go home and sleep this whole thing off?” I yodel from the confines of the house.
“Sleep it off, sleep it off? Wait till I get more rounds for your sorry pathetic a…”


The keening of sirens starts from afar off and keeps getting louder and louder; one, two, three cars all converging to the scene.


“Count this your lucky day, Mr. Thomas whatever-you-call-your-self,” she yells above the wail and the screeching of tires somewhere out in the street.


“Drop your weapon, ma’am.” A bull horn echoes around the street.
I heave a sigh, lie down on my back and start picking shards of glass from my palms. Jesus do they bleed.


************************


The medics wheel me out on a stretcher. The lights from the police cruisers flash like disco lights to unheard music. The antiseptic is biting but at least the worst of it is gone.
“Yo, Tom," Sergeant Mark Duncan calls out walking alongside the gurney, “the old lady sure did try to bring it on.”
“Awakening the old devil, she did try.” I grin like I just had a picnic. “Thank God the hardware was no more within reach.”
“That will make a great testimony come Sunday.”
“It’s already around the bend.”
“Sure,” Sergeant Duncan turns and looks in the direction of June. Just as the medics prepare to hoist the stretcher into the ambulance, Duncan waves the cops holding June over. The street is abuzz with onlookers and passersby.


“Ma’am, am a little curious.” Sergeant Duncan is all serious arms akimbo. “Did you know the kind of guy you were taking on?”
“Thomas what-ever-he-calls-his-name.” She is still simmering underneath, though mellowed somewhat.
“Yeah, yeah Thomas what-ever-he-calls-himself. Point is he is ex-Delta. Special Weapons and Tactics.
June eyes me like I just morphed.
‘In his heyday, he could take on an entire army and bring it down to its knees…he is dangerous!”
“Was,” I correct Sergeant Duncan as I lock eyes with June. “No longer. Just a lamb now.”
“I wouldn’t take that for the truth, if I were you,” Sergeant Duncan stresses his point at June. To the cops: “Get her the hell outta here.”
To me: “You pressing any charges?”
“Nope!”
“How sweet!” To June; “And he ain’t pressing charges.”


The cops get on either side of June and lead her away. She turns to look at me one last time as I get wheeled into the ambulance. I wave.
The wailing of the ambulance drowns all else as the doors shut and we take off. I heave a sigh.


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