by Bob'n Along
Nothing brings two enemies together like facing another one together.
|“Ain’t going to happen.” Eddie Stevens sniffed, scowled at himself, and spit chaw at a grasshopper. “No-one will show today.”
Ellie May Stevens huffed. She avoided the man’s booted feet, juggled her supplies, cursed him and herself as she stumbled over her next step. Ellie knew better than to wait for him to help and pushed their screeching screen country store door open.
“Wait and see.” The couple had been married thirty dried up years. They were no more than squeezed and worn out love. Each knew the most intimate way to get under the other’s belt. They were polished absolute enemies held together by an old time religion refusing to grant them divorce.
“Wait and see.”
Ellie May flashed a vindictive smile along with her fist full of green at him. It brought the old goat lumbering to his feet, hand out, fingers twitching in demand. “Gimme.”
“Told you,” she said avoiding his grasp, continuing on her way into the shady depths of familiar apple barrels, scent of cinnamon and dusty tourist geegaws a traveling salesman had charmed her with. Eddie Stevens had never forgiven Ellie May. By then? It was just another brick in the wall built between them.
Neither one could see the other side. Ellie May’s sudden windfall of fluttering cash under his nose had done the trick. Intentional, teasing, sure to fire up his ire. “I been saving an’ you din’t even know it, did you, old hump. Now, it is time.”
“Hah,” said the mister half of the pair dressed in patched coveralls and pride. That is by force of habit what he always said when flummoxed. The country store was never open or closed, passerbys had to stop and ask.
The sound of rubber tires spitting gravel outside meant the possibility of venting and selling their versions of bruised emotions on one new innocents. “Ya’ll come on in.” Eddie Stevens grabbed his apron from its hook, the ‘proprietor’ label stitched boldly on the front giving him official standing.
Ellie May set the contents of the box down by the hardware section. She’d harvested it from Eddie’s promised garage sale that had never birthed more than a grunt. “Kin we hep you?”
They jockeyed for first place as a young family came into view and trapped themselves to the store keepers gaze. “Looking for antiques,” the young blossoming wife said, rubbing her swollen tummy. The toddler held at her side broke free towards the tourist geegaws.
“Look’s like we found some,” a square jawed giant cracked a smile, snatched his brood up in the air with one paw, handed the wailing waif back to its ma. “Just kidding, sir and madam, though you do look yourselves close to being some.” He began tearing apart his chosen victim, the contents of Ellie May’s hardware box, looking for loot. “How much?” He raised an old torque wrench like a weapon aimed at the pair.
“Too much,” growled the proprietor, The insult of seeing his long lost tool made for sale matched the worded barb sent his way. “Ain’t for sale.”
“How quaint,” the missus pronounced between open mouthed chewing on one of the store’s apples. “They want to bargain.”
“That’ll be a dollar for the fruit, missy. No free samples, read the sign.” Ellie May found herself in the strange position of siding with her husband against this foreign threat.
It was her who had to herd the toddler away from possible death. The child’s tourist geegaw, a twirly plastic flower blowing on a stick tumbled to the floor along with the tantruming brat. “You touch you buy.” Eddie Stevens pointed to a second handmade notation he’d scribbled below the first on the sign behind him.
The young family wasn’t used to distraction not working for them. The norm was to be hurried out of public display at any price. The warrior cry of the giant, of “I’ll buy it for a five buck,” went unheard. Their individual efforts to gain attention had split them apart.
Ellie May snatched the bill out of the young husband’s paw, “This will pay for the apple and toy, thank you very much. The wrench will be another twenty-five. Want a receipt?” The green disappeared into an ample dress fold where it was welcomed by her private stash.
Not to be outdone, Eddie Stevens lifted up his cherry pitter from the broken box, aiming it at the giant’s face and issued a hardy war cry, “Made in America 1873, owned by my grandma and handed down to me. Take a look at that son, if you are into such stuff.” His thumb hid the ‘made in China’ printed into the broken handle.
“Whole box for a hundred and ten dollars,” Ellie May didn’t want to have to bend over and clean up the mess. “And that’ll be another dollar for that pear your young’n is sucking on.”
Avarice lit up the giant’s face. “Done deal.” He forked over the cash, herding his young wife and kid towards the door. He’d seen her greed sharpened eyes eating at a ‘for sale’ bin.
Ellie May felt Eddie Stevens arm wrap around her waist as they stood behind the screech of the closing front screen door. “Still got it, babe.” The kiss on her cheek was an unexpected reward.
“We done danced pretty good, mister smarty pants.” Ellie May laughed as she was swept around the store floor. The green stash of cash went unnoticed as it danced beneath their feet to the receding sounds of rubber car tires grinding away at gravel.
It had happened in spite of Eddie Stevens prediction. The bricks in the wall between them came tumbling down.