Excerpt from new series coming Fall 2018 – First draft, it’s still raw,
but you get the idea. 😉
Arlene Swanson stepped off into the dewy grass. She smiled knowing how much she loved the feel of morning dew on her bare feet as she made her way across the yard and into her honeydew melon patch. She’d been the county Honeydew Queen for ten of the last eleven years, until last year when Myrtle Camp grew the biggest melon and beat her out of a ten-year winning streak. She couldn’t allow that to happen again. She was so close to carrying the crown for a decade and now she’d have to start all over. She kept her honeydew patch separate from the rest of her garden patches. This one was the one that she took the most pride in, so it was close to the house. She stopped at the edge of her patch and enjoyed how everything glistened with moisture first thing in the morning. She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. It was part meditation ritual and part prayer before she stepped off into the fresh dirt. Last night’s dew was extra thick. Her toes sank into the soft earth as she made her way through the patch checking on each melon. In her hand, she carried a peanut butter jar full of alcohol. If she found any unwanted insects, she’d plop them into the bottle. She didn’t mind killing them, but she refused to use any kind of chemicals on her gardens. This meant she had to take her time making her way through each row and looking for intruders that could ruin a crop in a matter of hours. Squashing them with her hands could be time consuming and quite messy, so she devised this plan of embalming them, so to speak. She giggled to herself as she thought about putting some of the pests over on Myrtle’s garden. Myrtle wasn’t as completely organic as Arlene and used some pesticides, so the bug wouldn’t live long regardless. A frown crossed her face at the thought of losing her crown to someone who used chemicals. It wasn’t right. The contest should be based solely on organics. That was another reason she intended to win her title back. She was determined to get the whole county on board with organic gardening and she had a better chance and more pull if she continued to win Honeydew Crown each year.
A movement caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. She turned to see a small rabbit hopping through her melon patch. “Little bunny, you know good and well you’re not supposed to be in here.” She started walking towards it using her hands to shoo it away. “You get over there to the clover patch I planted for you and have breakfast there.” The small creature twitched its whiskers at her and hopped off towards the tree line where a thick patch of clover had been planted. It didn’t always work, but Arlene figured the best way to keep rabbits and deer out of her gardens was to plant them their own at the edge of the woods. She didn’t tend them, simply letting them grow wild, for the most part. Her whole yard was surrounded by wild gardens so the critters could help themselves. From time to time a young deer would make its way into her yard and main gardens, but for the most part the outlying gardens did keep quite a few animals away from her yard.
After she’d finished getting the pests out of her melon patch, she glanced towards the property next door. Mrytle Camp, her least favorite neighbor. There was a good hundred yards between the properties and a small wood line, but it was too close for Arlene. Looking down at the jar of bugs in her hand she grinned and stuck her tongue out towards Myrtle’s place. She looked at her watch, “Dangit! I’m late.” It was already past seven in the morning. Peggy and Bertie would be expecting her at the diner, but she wouldn’t make it on time.
* * *
Bertie and Peggy sat in the diner across from their bookstore slash tea shop slash quilt shop, sipping coffee. Bertie glanced at her watch, “Arlene’s late.”
Peggy looked up from the book she was reading and glanced at her own watch. It read seven-twenty-five. “She’s not late, we’re early. We don’t meet until seven-thirty.”
Bertie’s face pinched. “Yeah, but we’ve always gotten here by seven-fifteen.”
Peggy looked at her, “It’s not time to worry yet, so stop it.” She sipped from her coffee cup and put her nose back in her book.
Bertie sat quietly with a section of fabric she was quilting on. She would hand-stitch hundreds of squares and then hand-stitch them all together. Her work was beautiful, a true work of art. She’d won many quilting contests in their small town over the years. Some of the younger seamstresses used machines for their quilting. Bertie secretly thought it was wrong, but she rarely said anything, unless one of those quilts won a contest over her hand-sewn items. She glanced at her watch again but didn’t say anything to Peggy. She let out a huff as she turned towards the door and then refocused her attention on her square of fabric. After three times of the same routine, Peggy pulled her eyes away from her book and looked at her watch. It was seven-forty. Arlene was always punctual. A pang ran through Peggy’s chest as she got the eerie feeling something was wrong. A look of concern crossed her face. Bertie took note of it. “Are you having a vision or something?”
Peggy shook her head, “No, just a slight feeling that something isn’t right.”
The diner door opened and they heard the soft ting of the small bell over it. Peggy let out a breath, “There she is.”
Arlene walked over to the table, flopped her big bag into an empty chair and plopped her backside into the remaining chair. She noticed Peggy and Bertie staring at her. “What?”
Bertie spoke first, “You’re late and Peggy was getting one of those premonition things.”
Peggy waved her hand in the air as Arlene turned to her and said, “I’m fine. You’re little gut feeling was wrong.”
“I didn’t say a word,” Peggy huffed out. “It wasn’t a gut feeling, it was more like a chill, anyway. Chills don’t always mean something is wrong.” She said as she stuck her tongue out at her long-time friend.
The waitress walked over with a cup of fresh coffee for Arlene and pulled out her little order pad and started writing. She didn’t need to ask what they were having as the women always ordered the same thing, but she had to have it on paper to give to the cook. He couldn’t see the front too well and had no idea who was in the diner ordering food.
Arlene looked up at her. “I want pancakes today.”
The waitress eyed her suspiciously as Bertie gasped and Peggy had a look of disbelief. “You’re changing your order?” Bertie stated as much as she asked.
Arlene looked at her and laughed. “I am.” She looked at Peggy. “Maybe that’s what your chill was about.”
Peggy shrugged her shoulders but a funny feeling washed over her. They were all set in their ways and rarely veered off course. Something didn’t feel right but she blew it off. It was probably because this was just something out of the ordinary. They had all talked about making some changes in their lives. Perhaps Arlene was just leading the way. She looked at the waitress, “I’ll have pancakes too.”
Bertie’s mouth dropped open, “Are you two going crazy on me?”
Arlene let out a huff, “Lighten up, Bertie. It’s pancakes, for one day. The world isn’t going to end because of it.”
The waitress looked at Bertie, “Are you having pancakes too?”
“No. I’m having my usual. Someone needs to stay sane around here.”
Bertie ate her biscuits and gravy while eyeing Arlene oddly as she inhaled her pancakes. She only ate sweets when she’d been working extra hard and it was usually at the end of the day, never first thing in the morning. Arlene had been awfully quiet all morning too. Bertie wasn’t the psychic of the bunch, but today Arlene just seemed off. She glanced over to Peggy, looking for some indication from her since she did have what they all considered some kind of premonitions, but she was enjoying her pancakes and didn’t seem bothered by the change in breakfast. She returned her attention to Arlene.
Arlene caught her staring, “You never saw anyone eating pancakes?”
“Well, you usually don’t have them for breakfast. What’s bothering you?”
Arlene put her fork down. “I’m just tired. Nanny goat has been sick and I was up half the night.”
Peggy raised an eyebrow, “You’re a night owl half the time and it never bothers you, so tell us what’s really wrong.”
Arlene grabbed her fork and pushed a bite of pancake around on her plate. “The honeydew contest is next weekend.”
Peggy reached out and touched her hand. “Are you that worried about it?”
“I am. I haven’t thought about losing in the past because I always won. Since Myrtle got it last year, I’ve been afraid she’ll out-do me again this year.”
Bertie looked up from her breakfast, “She has been boasting around town that she intends to keep the title.”
Peggy shot a look towards Bertie. Bertie crinkled up her nose, “Well she has.”
“Yes, but this isn’t the time to be bringing that up. Arlene needs our support and encouragement.”
Arlene stood up and grabbed her big handbag. “It’s okay. I need to go get the fruit stand open. I don’t have time to sit around here and pout about it.” She pulled a ten-dollar bill out of her back pocket and threw it on the table before turning and heading towards the door, her flip-flops making flop-flop sounds against her feet as she walked. “I’ll see you two later.”
Peggy looked at Bertie, “This was not the time to be the objectionable one and bring up Myrtle and her big mouth. Arlene has enough to worry about.”
“You’re right. I guess I thought it might rile her up and make her determined to win.”
“Well it’s not like it’s a contest of wits. She’d win for sure. The only thing she can do is hope she grows the biggest melon, since that’s the only criteria for this so-called queen thing.”
“You still think it’s silly?”
“Yes, but that’s beside the point. We need to keep Arlene’s spirits up, otherwise neither of us are going to want to be around her for a while.”
Bertie let out a sigh remembering how long it took Arlene to get over last year’s loss.”
Peggy stood and grabbed her cup of coffee, “I’m ready to get to the bookstore where things are normal.”
“Yes, I need to get to the office and tie up loose ends since it’s Friday,” Bertie replied as she grabbed her things. Both of the ladies threw a five on the table to cover their breakfast and coffee.