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John was waiting in his barn for the new rep from Omnivore. Intermittent gusts of wind were driving the rain into the barn, splashing the piled carrots and beetroots. With the pitchfork, John shovelled some of the vegetables out of the wet. Then, putting the pitchfork aside, he stood back and grimly surveyed the scene. The weather wouldn’t put the supermarket rep – what was his name, Lesley-something? – in a good mood. That meant trouble.
The wind blew. John huddled in his anorak, stamped his feet in his gumboots, wondering what concessions the new rep would demand. The last one had been a gouger, driving the price for carrots so low that it hardly covered the cost of manure. But at least his demands had just been financial. The one before that…
“Hel–lo!” called a woman’s voice from outside.
Christ, the rep – and a woman, too! John straightened his anorak and hurried out of the barn. There stood an attractive blonde woman dressed in a stylish raincoat and – of all things – high heels! Hurrying up, John swept out his umbrella to shelter her from the rain. “Sorry about the mud!” he said, “I’d have told the rain to stop if I’d known you’d be dressed like that!”
The woman laughed, exuding a tangy kind of perfume that reminded him of something. “I like to see farms in their natural state,” she said. “Part of the due diligence, you know.”
John did know. In the past, the due diligence had sometimes extended to his wife and daughters – even, when he was younger and slimmer, to his own trousers. He shuddered at the memory.
Lesley, however, was talking so quickly and charmingly, about parsnips, beetroots, potatoes, that he forgot his fears. She had had a passion for vegetables as a young girl, helping her mother peel them in the kitchen, later becoming vegan, even starting her own veggie restaurant.
The restaurant sounded interesting. If John hadn’t been so busy with the farm, he would have liked to have done something like that himself. “How did it go?” he asked.
“Oh, fine at first,” Lesley replied. “But then I had my relapse!” She giggled.
John stumbled in the mud, inadvertently splashing his guest. “I’m so sorry,” he said, fumbling to produce a handkerchief, “Let me wipe that,” reaching down for her legs, “No, perhaps you…”
In his embarrassment, he forgot to ask about the relapse. But Lesley volunteered the information a few minutes later. “I discovered my inner carnivore!”
John wondered what had happened.
“I was helping my guest to… carrots, I think it was, and he was leaning over the counter to point out which ones he wanted, and suddenly, holding the fork, I just couldn’t stop myself…” She looked at him, almost hungrily.
Despite his rising alarm, John found her strangely attractive. Those compelling eyes, the strong teeth! He could give himself entirely to a woman like that.
“Anyway, he was overweight – rather fleshy,” Lesley laughed again. “I’m sure he could spare it!”
“Nonetheless,” she continued, “they keep me away from livestock, that’s for sure!”
She was decidedly odd, John thought to himself – attractive but odd. He would share an edited version of events with his wife later. And perhaps a less-edited version with Bill. Anyway, at least she hadn’t mentioned concessions. “You should be safe here,” he said, trying to humour her. “We don’t have a horn or a hoof or a hair of a hide across the whole farm.”
That made Lesley giggle, and she was calling him, ‘my literary farmer’ as they finished their rounds and made their way back to the barn. Safely inside, John brought her back to the mound of carrots and beetroots he hoped Omnivore would accept. Did she have any more questions?
Lesley walked up to the vegetables, and bent to examine them. A couple of loose carrots were lying a little away from the rest, and she tapped them with a polished toe. She did have just one request.
“What is it?” John asked, trying to keep the smile on his face.
“I do like to play farmer once in a while,” Lesley said, with a grin. “May I?” She indicated the pitchfork leaning against the wall.
“Certainly,” John said with relief, handing her the implement.
She exclaimed at the weight of the pitchfork, although John noted that she hefted it well. “We’ll hire you as a farmhand,” he said admiringly.
Lesley laughed. “Could you just start me off – those carrots there…?”
“Sure,” said John, turning his back to her as he bent to fling them onto the pile.
Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette
|The Dreaming Fire|
|Louisville's Silent Guardians|