It’s been a while, but I’m back writing, and it feels nice. This is part of a larger project but why not post it, huh?.
The scythe wasn’t as heavy as Rita had assumed and she walked with the steam-bent snaith across her shoulder comfortably, the blade pointed down behind her back. She had kicked off her heels on the walk to the equipment shed and she walked on the soft, cool grass. The dampness of the night was soothing on her bare feet, though she consciously made sure that the comfort didn’t douse her indignation. She inhaled deeply though her nose.
The night was silent, except for her soft foot falls, and bright. Their summer home was on top of a small nap, dark, except for a few soft lights in the dining room. The light glinted off the two cars in the drive. The house was some kind of modern Tudor-inspired monstrosity. Two years ago she would have called in new-money bullshit.
Neil was silhouetted in one window. Watching her.
The tuberoses evening bloom smelled sweet and rich. She padded up the driveway and then veered toward the overly-manicured cottage garden Neil had insisted on. More bullshit, she thought.
Without braking her easy stride, she readied the scythe with a shrug and swung it in a perfect arc, just like her aunt and uncle had taught her in Portugal. The tuberoses were the first to go, she struck them in the middle of the flowers, white pedals fluttered in the moonlight. She grunted with effort and cast another harvesting swing and she took the plant near the ground.
She continued. The blooms of the Purple Splendour looked almost black as they tumbled onto the grass. Rita twisted from the hip again with the scythe, her black dress clung to her with sweat. More rhododendrons were felled. They had joked about how gristly the fistful of bonemeal the woman at the garden centre has suggested sounded last year.
Still holding the nib, she rested the scythe blade on the ground and looked at her work. The garden was done now, except for the three young Japanese maples.
She headed toward the car in the driveway. Looking up at Neil in the window, she threw the scythe onto the pavement. The blade’s clang splashed violently. She saw him take off his glasses and pinch the bridge of his nose. Her clutch was on top of the Volkswagen where she had left it, she picked it up and took out her keys and got in the car.
Rita swerved around the scythe in the driveway as she sped down the long driveway.
Steadying the wheel with her knee for a moment, she pulled her thick black curls into a ponytail high on her head. She caught a glimpse of the maples in the driver-side mirror. She remembered a hatchet in the equipment shed, and some salt. But Rita figured she had made her point.
Neil hadn’t bothered cleaning up the razed garden that morning. He just had to leave and maybe get something to eat. When the neighbours asked, he’d just blame it on kids from town. They trashed a park gazebo, so this would fit their M.O., and perhaps he could spin it as magnanimous that he wasn’t pursuing charges. It really didn’t matter to him. He’d pay the gardener and let them take care of it. Or maybe the gardener would take care of it and then he’d pay them. He wasn’t sure, but however it worked, it would happen.
He pulled his car into the gravel lot in front of the diner. It wasn’t a fancy place, but it was on the way to the summer home and he knew it well enough. He had told Rita that he had come here for years with his father before he had passed. It wasn’t true, exactly. They had been by it. But it did get Rita to agree to stop in so often.
The air smelled crisp, with a hint of barnyard from miles away.
He went in and sat down. The vinyl booth-seat creaked a little, but it wasn’t cracked anywhere. The eggs weren’t over-medium, they were still over-easy. He decided he’d do the waiter and just eat the eggs as he received them. He added a little hot sauce.
The toast was delicious. And the coffee.
He took his time with his meal once the eggs were finished; cold eggs were inedible. Neil looked around the dinner, the red Formica tables were neat, the unoccupied chairs, covered in thick upholstery with a brown paisley pattern (was it paisley? Something like that.) were tidily tucked in. Some diners ate quietly, but there was a murmur of conversation here and there. The ceiling fan wobbled. It all wasn’t un-charming.
One of his fellow patrons made eye-contact and quickly, but without urgency, looked away. Her lipstick had pressed off onto her coffee cup and water glass. She pressed her fingers into her temple and read a paperback on the table. She had large eyes, but her glasses and bangs hid much of her face. But clearly, she was attractive. Distractingly so. Like the audience of a film was supposed to pay special attention to her. Neil resented the implication and decided he would just mind his own business.
He sipped his coffee.
“Reuben, dressing on the side?”
Neil looked at his watch, it was 11:44, and then at the sandwich proffered by the waiter. He agreed that it was indeed a Reuben with the dressing on the side.
“Yes,” he said with a nod.
The waiter placed it down. Neil moved his plates around on the table. It was the bread was crispy and buttery, he assumed they fried it on the griddle-top for a minute. The sauerkraut was bright and funky. He dipped it in the Russian dressing which helped the slightly dry meat. It was better than the breakfast he had just eaten. He mostly ignored the fries. A few bites in the waiter returned.
“Sir,” the word was drawn out, “did you order that Reuben?” The tone implied the question was rote.
“The one with the dressing on the side?”
“This one that I’m eating?”
“Well, yes,” the waiter’s indignation was crumbling into confusion. Neil took a small bite. “No, I did not.”
The waiter blinked. “Then why are you eating it?”
“It looked good.”
“But you didn’t order it.”
“I thought you were offering it to me,” he said with a slight shrug.
“Why would I do that?” the waiter placed their hand on their chest. The woman across the diner was watching and listening, and Neil noticed. He worried all of a sudden that this was her sandwich. He almost blushed.
“I assure you, couldn’t possibly know,” Neil finished the piece he was holding. “But I’m going to pay for it.”
“But it’s still not yours, you can’t just eat it,” the waiter shifted their weight forward.
“But I am eating it,” he picked his napkin off his lap and wiped his fingers. “And of course I’m going to pay for it.” He began to stand and the waiter shifted their weight.
“No no no,” Neil cut him off. “We’ve now moved on to things that aren’t my problem.” He took out his wallet. “So here’s what is going to happen. I’ll pay for this one, then your people in the back will prepare another Reuben and I’ll pay for that too.”
The woman watched, her fingers still on her temples.
The entire diner had watched him leave. In his car, Neil felt too full. He patted his stomach and looked in the mirror.