A Midwestern writer in multiple forms: plays, poetry and fiction www.stacypost.com
Bits of orange rind clung to the dampened sidewalk. Imogene stepped from the house and headed toward the pond where she spied her flattened willow basket and scattered pears. The fruit had been a gift from her new brother-in-law, a peace offering for taking her beloved sister, Louella, away.
“Why couldn’t I go with them? I want to be free of this place.” She kicked the ground, wishing the war had ended differently for her. Her betrothed, Johnnie, had run off with someone else. Sent it to her in a letter.
Under the Willow tree, Louella’s dog, Rascal, whined. Well, it was Imogene’s dog now.
Imogene trudged closer, stopping to pick up the basket and the pears. “Rascal, what have you done?”
Rascal, a mutt spotted with gray and white tufts, whimpered. Had it happened a week ago, the Willow would’ve concealed his hiding place in speckled green and yellow impressionism. But the leaves now speckled the ground. November’s chill didn’t hide Rascal’s breath as it puffed between branches.
Imogene spied a ravaged apple in the grass. She frowned. “I was saving those for pie.” She set the basket down and placed her hands on her hips. “What are those card-playing ninnies going to eat for dessert now?”
Rascal remained under Willow’s protection.
Imogene lifted the branches and scooted under the tree. She waved Rascal aside so she could plunk herself down in his spot out of the wind. “Not going to run away too, are you?”
Rascal moved over. His whimper more question that fear. Once Imogene was settled, he placed his snout in her lap.
She patted his head but paused. His snout was covered in pomegranate seeds. “Looks like you’ll be sleeping outside until all that fruit passes. Don’t think for a minute I’ll let you into the house.”
Rascal yawned. His tail whapped the ground in happy strokes.
“I haven’t forgiven you.” She stroked his neck, felt something sticky under her fingers. She sniffed them cautiously only to smell banana. “You ate the bananas too? Don’t you know how hard it is to have fresh fruit this time of year?” She rubbed her hands on her gunnysack apron. “No pudding for you!”
Imogene leaned against the willow and closed her eyes. Even though it was chilly, she didn’t mind. The dog was warm against her thigh. The cold suited her better than the swelter of summer heat.
“Just once, I’d like things to go my way.” She lifted her hand and rubbed the trunk, remembering Johnnie. Their initials, carved in a heart, were now out of reach, but she knew they were still there.
“Someday, you’ll meet a dog you’ll want to impress.” She opened her eyes and focused on Rascal’s snout. She plucked pomegranate seeds off one by one. “And what will she think of your scraggly mess?”
Rascal woofed and panted. He leaned in to lick her face but she turned to avoid his slobbery kiss. “Not me, you fool. Someone else.”
Rascal just stared, waiting.
“There is the new donut shop in town. Maybe I can pick up donuts for dessert? That would be different, wouldn’t it?” She scratched his shoulders and then tickled under his chin. “That donut guy is kind of nice. In an older guy way.”
The wind tossed branches aside like a curtain. Bitten apples bobbed in the pond. Two pomegranates clung together as if sharing heat.
“I’m guessing they run out of donuts before supper though.” Imogene didn’t know what to do with her loneliness. Her sister had been at her side for so long, the sudden vacancy made her feel desperate.
“How would you know what a donut tastes like?” She furrowed her brow. “You’re such a strange dog to eat fruit.” She plucked a pear from the basket. “What’s wrong with these anyway?” She held one up to her nose. The only thing she could smell was tangy dog saliva. “No one’s going to eat these now.” She debated using them anyway but then chucked them into the water. She watched them splash and drift. “I could offer them fruit punch and lead them out here?”
Rascal cocked his head and raised a brow.
“Can you make me a deal?” Imogene was already thinking about the ladies coming over for cards later, how they would cluck about Imogene needing a man and how the house just wasn’t the same without Louella to help keep it running. And how could Imogene manage without a man around?
Rascal sprang to attention.
“If those ladies start giving me a hard time, I’ll let you inside. Then you can do your business. Are we agreed?”
Rascal woofed and then rolled onto his back. He wriggled, waiting for Imogene to scratch again.
Imogene laughed at the thought. “They’d be desperate to leave. And then we’d both have the rest of the evening free. Wouldn’t we?”