The house was what one would think of when asked to conjure an image of a farmhouse. It was a white two-story structure with faded and chipped white paint. The house had a covered front porch with two large wooden rocking chairs positioned to look out over the lawn stretching toward the road. The main door was open and through the screen door came the muffled sounds of cheering from a television set. I knocked on the screen door. There was a pregnant silence and I was about to knock a second time when I heard shuffling. I was greeted by an elderly hunchback woman in a cotton dress with a floral pattern and pink slippers that made a scuffing sound when she walked. Her white hair was pulled into a bun and she wore an oversized pair of glasses. A twang of disappointment hit me once I recognized how feeble she was. There was no way this woman, or her husband, could deliver the wood. The old woman pushed open the screen door a few inches to talk to me.
She said, “Can I help you?”
“Yes,” I said. I thumbed over my shoulder at the firewood. “I would like to buy some firewood but I don’t have a way to haul it.”
“Oh,” she said. “That’s no problem. My son can deliver for an extra ten dollars.”
“That would be great.”
She pushed the door open farther and said, “He’s at work right now. But if you want I can take down your address and number. He’ll call you to set up a time.”
I nodded and she motioned for me to enter the house. She led me through a darkened living room lined with overstuffed brown leather furniture and brown carpet and cheap imitation wood paneling. The walls were covered with old and worn photos of people I assumed were family members. The room was illuminated by the faint sunlight trickling through the sheer curtains and the glow of a television airing a daytime gameshow. I followed her into a brightly lit kitchen with an old Formica topped table with worn red vinyl covered chairs. A napkin holder sat in the middle of the table along with a small notepad and pen. She handed me the latter two and I wrote down my name, address, and number, being careful to print it neatly so it could be read easily. I was used to scribbling down things only I could decipher. When I was done I handed her the note pad, reached into my back pocket, retrieved my wallet, and thumbed through the bills.
“You never mind that,” she said. She looked at what I’d written, squinted, and simultaneously said, “You pay Charles when he delivers.” Her expression changed into one of surprise as she read the notepad. “Oh!”
“Is there a problem?” I stowed my wallet in my back pocket.
The old woman looked at me. “You moved into Karen’s old cabin?”
“She was my mother.”
She made a clucking noise and shook her head. “Was a shame to hear about her passing. Your mama was a nice lady. Used to stay and drink a cup of coffee with me when she placed her order.” She waved her hand dismissively at me and smiled with a touch of nostalgia. “We’d gossip about those peculiar characters down the road from her like a couple of school girls.” (more…)