Orange macouns

Note: Chuck Wendig posed a prompt for a 1000-word story. Pick 3 apples from a given list and write. My apples were: Macoun, Orleans Reinette and Golden Pearmain.
Please feel free to comment and I would greatly appreciate any constructive writing critiques. This is only my second story and I want to learn!

Orange Macouns

The box of orange macouns was for her. The plain, cheap box belied their opulence — a heady mixture of sweet, moist coconut doused in orange liqueur, perched on a delicate orange-laced wafer, encased in ripples of the darkest chocolate. For as long as he could remember, the near-secret treasures had been sold by an old woman as dark and furrowed as her confections.

Thirty-five years ago they had been her favorites. He could still see those delicate lids descend over sea green eyes, as that ripe mouth cupped half of the sweet, and she held it, letting the chocolate slowly melt on that tongue, and he could hear the soft moan of decadent pleasure.

Orleans Reinette. Last night she appeared, standing still and silent across the room, apart from the blare of TV sports, country music and the packed commotion of J-Henry’s on a Friday night. At first he thought she was a gin-soaked dream from his past. He downed another gulp as he watched her slide through the crowd and the smoky haze.

Did she even know who he was? Back in the day, Gordon “Golden” Pearmain was every bit the golden boy of Pearmain Township. He was the star athlete, the heir to his daddy’s wealth, and the fellow every girl wanted to be with. He sampled them all, like someone taking bites out of each chocolate in the sampler box. He had lingered over Orleans, because even back then he knew she was special. But when her family moved on he didn’t waste any time before plucking the next flavor.

Daddy’s money was long gone, in a series of bad decisions and worse economy. Before his heart gave out, the senior Pearmain had salvaged a bit by selling off assets. Golden, who had never had much of a head for business, or anything else beyond high school sports and parties, now lived in what used to be a rental house, the last intact property of the empire.  The lawyer his daddy had the foresight to retain for Golden kept him afloat enough for gin and cable TV. The girls, like his once lush head of hair, had disappeared with everything else.

Orleans did recognize him. Reaching his table, she stared at his face for a while with those impossibly green eyes, before saying, “Golden?” He didn’t know what he said, but she sat across from him and smiled and chattered as if no time had passed and he still had muscles instead of paunch. She was travelling and staying at the motel on 47. She didn’t stay at the table long, but as she stood she rested her hand on his and suggested that they meet at the motel. 5 pm, Saturday? He articulated something that indicated it was a date, and she drifted out of the bar much as she had appeared. He ordered another g&t.

At 3 pm that Saturday, he walked back through town from the candy woman’s trailer. Heat was coming off the old buckled concrete sidewalks in waves. As the heat rose the humidity pushed down. Sweat trickled into his eyes. The arm holding the bag of macouns swiped across his forehead, and the smell of the chocolate and orange entered his senses like a drug.

He angled to the little park next to the courthouse and thunked down on the slats of a bench under some shade tree. He wondered if the macouns were still as good as he remembered. It wouldn’t do to present them to Orleans if the old woman had lost her touch. He reached into the bag and grabbed the box. The swelter had already slumped the candies. He selected one, and his hot fingers slid through the chocolate and squished into the filling. It was too messy to bite, so he shoved a whole one into his maw, chocolate smearing his lips and oozing down his chin, catching on the beard stubble that it was too early to have.

Despite the deleterious conditions, the macouns were as good as he remembered. Better maybe. He gobbed another.  He sucked the melted chocolate off his stubby fingers, wiped his face with the back of his hand and wiped it on his slacks.

He shoved the box back into the bag, and, with a little discomfort, he stood up. Time to head home to prepare for his big night. As he walked along, a car here, a truck there, would give a quick honk, and the driver shout a “Hey!” Golden waved back, like he had just caught a touchdown pass and the fans were on their feet.

Ken slouched out from J-Henry’s and said, “Hey Golden!” and held the door open for him. Golden hadn’t planned this stop, but it wasn’t a bad idea, a little g&t to work him into fightin’ form.

He left an hour later, feeling fine but he knew he was cutting it close. He double-timed home, jumped into the shower, letting the hard spray on his skin take him to where he wanted to be tonight. Shave. Aftershave. Hair. Teeth. Deodorant. He tried jeans and a shirt, then his light suit, then back to the jeans. Grabbing his watch, he saw he was late. No problem, he’d be at the motel quicker than he could call.

The heat from the closed car made him instantly sweaty again, so he revved the a/c. He wiped his face with his palm and his palm on the seat. He made good time, and just as he swerved into the parking lot he remembered he had left the macouns at the house. Damn. Oh well, maybe if things went right tonight they’d be back there for some…sweets. He smiled.

He sauntered up to the front desk and asked for Ms. Reinnette.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Golden. She done checked out at 5:30. You missed her.”

He drove slowly back to J-Henry’s. At his usual table he nursed his g&t and stared at where she had been the day before.

Trailer

The term hand-me-downs evokes images of your older sibling’s clothes and toys. I live in an unintentionally hand-me-down trailer.

I met J in Cincinnati, training for what ended up being The-Job-From-Hell.  Four months in and I was about to quit, even though that would mean no unemployment benefits, no job in sight, and therefore imminent homelessness. Yes, the job was that bad. (Our training group had fifty people, a year later not one remained with the company.) Fortuitously, J learned of hundreds of jobs coming near her home in rural Kentucky.

The bathroom, before moving in.
Before moving in.

She owns an ancient farm house, and land with a vacant trailer. The old trailer had been empty for years but filled, to the ceiling in some rooms, with detritus of all kinds. Wasps were everywhere, building nests. The paneling under a couple of windows was buckled and black with mildew. The floor and sub-flooring was ruined. The yard was a field, hip high, and J warned of snakes and nests of stinging insects.

I could stay there for free while I got on my feet and pay rent when I became solvent. I jumped at the chance, albeit with trepidation, after learning I was hired.

When I arrived the junk had been cleared out, the wasps knocked down and the yard mowed. There was new sub-flooring and vinyl sheet flooring. It was still an old, beat up trailer but much less scary. I felt badly that she had spent any money to get it to livable conditions since I’d start out freeloading. She assured me it was a good thing. The trailer was going to ruin sitting empty, and this gave her reason to do some basic maintenance. She should have been renting the trailer for years, but finding and dealing with renters is such a hassle. Her life had been a stressful mess, and she just wasn’t getting around to renting it. She said that, as long as I paid the utilities, having me living in it for free wasn’t costing her anything, and that having someone responsible live in it was doing her a favor. Besides, in a few months, with the new job, I would start paying her rent.

And that is what happened, at least for a short while. After eight months at the new job I was laid off. Once again I am no longer paying rent. I’m doing what little I can to help out around J’s inadvertent commune.

The trailer has its idiosyncrasies. When I moved in I discovered that it is not level. It tilts to the front. With each torrential rain it tilts more. The bed frame at its head is propped up with two inches of books to make it level with the foot end, with no books. The toilet is now so off level that I have to shut the water off at the base with each flush, otherwise it continuously runs, and my water bill triples. The rain drips in from a few windows, the paneling dark with what I hope is mildew and not killer mold. There are no window screens, and with all of the bugs outside and me having an indoor only cat, I can’t open the windows.

waspMy Facebook page features a Critter Count. The first morning I woke up here, I opened my eyes and saw a 5-inch long centipede crawling up the bedroom wall. There are spiders, spiders and more spiders. Cellar, hunting, brown recluse, black widow and an unknown monster spider that was so big it looked like a tarantula or perhaps an old Volvo. The daily average of wasps and hornets is three. Ants. Gnats. Beetles. This is an entomologist’s dream. Outside there are even more awful, biting things; so, I stay inside. Then, of course, there are the mice.

The trailer is all of that and more. I grumble. It isn’t where I’d thought I’d be at this point in my life.

martiniHowever, there is not a day that goes by where I am not literally struck still in my tracks with wonder and appreciation. I have a roof over my head, and that roof does not leak. I have a lot of space to myself — three bedrooms, living room, large kitchen and full bath. It has a gloriously functioning air conditioner and central heat. I have plenty of hot water and the pressure is good. I even have a washer and dryer. Everything in the kitchen works and I’ve resumed my love of baking bread. Every Sunday I share the baking results with J. It makes me happy.

The trailer is located east of nowhere, in some holler, isolated even for around here. It is quiet. The surround is beautiful, often jaw-droppingly so. Deer, turkeys, and all sorts of wildlife wander past my windows.

J is the perfect neighbor. She doesn’t show up unannounced. We talk. We like each other. We respect each other’s space. And of course, she’s the perfect landlord.

I can’t convey how grateful I am. I’m truly blessed with this place. I am as poor as can be yet I have an abundance of riches. I shudder to think where I’d be without it, and that could happen when my unemployment runs out and I no longer can pay for the utilities.


WordPress and Ben Huberman, through The Daily Post, offers daily writing prompts for bloggers. This is my first go-round with that and the subject was “hand-me-downs”.