'Florida feels like an ancient place or a video game level. The heat lays on top of you like glaze on a honey bun. Fields of cattails swaying autonomously much like cats. Salt water makes the atmosphere feel like its been washed thought some sort of autoclave. Overalls are worn un-ironically I want nothing more than to smoke a cigarette, drink a beer and listening to her play music, what a peaceful apocalypse, what a romantic reckoning.' Willis wrote pretentiously in his green note book.
He sat there, full of artistic revelry at his words. He brought the Balmain pen to his lips and stared out the windows of the bus trying his best to seem brooding and pensive to anyone looking. He secretly hoped they'd the Balmain pen he received in a gift basket at a wedding. He loved the Balmain pen, he claimed it wrote better, and it made his thought translate better on paper. He was a lousy writer and a pretentious twat and but he didn't deserve what was coming to him this evening.
But folks rarely get what they deserve in this world.
When Willis got to Louise's house he notice the scene a little bare to the sight of a wake. Only one car sat outside the house, and one in the driver way adjacent to the home. It was a small blue two level, with a massive wooden with a few chairs and a low wooden card table on it. The porch was raised and underneath, blocked of by criss-crossing wooden planks was a deep, and eerie area of thick plants that seemed to move in random spot. On the porch to women dressed in black stood facing the home, talking to someone inside. As Willis approached he saw Louise peek over one of the ladies shoulders, and with a look of surprised, she nearly screamed; "Willis!"
"There she is!" Willis said, putting his bag down, outstretching his arms. He noticed for the first time in a year, the deep cuts that made Louise face, her skin pale, and lightly moist from the sweat of a long hot day, she walked around the two morning women and hurried down the steps to embrace Willis.
"I've missed you." She breathed out. Her air smelled like jasmine and sweat and Willis dug it. Willis looked briefly at the porch to see the women putting on sun glasses and nodding to one other. He then noticed the strange wood underneath the house begin to jump and spaz with a little more frequency. Must be the wind he thought, must be crickets.
Willis buried his self in Louise auburn hair and breathed a deep relaxed breath. Louise introduced the two women has aunts, and then they were off. Louise explained that everyone left the repass early, her grandmother was beloved and the day had taken a toll on Louise so she kicked them out early. Willis asked if he'd be a burden to the healing, she shook her head and grabbed his face and said; 'You're just who i need."
They got him settled in a guest room, both of them feeling the certain pull in the air that he would not be sleeping there, and they went off with a six pack to the backyard to catch
“Are left overs fine with you? I got a whole mess in the fridge.”
“They’ll be fine. Aslong as we don’t have to eat today's kills.”
“Nah, these things so small even a little bity 22 rips em up to bad to eat.”
“Grisly las you are.”
Florida feels like parade through an ancient world Willis thought, watching Louise, in the black skirt, her hair tied in bun, a hunting rifle in hoisted up, aiming down the sight toward the garden her grandmother started when she herself was a little girl. Now that she is gone, and so is Louise's mother, her father, the perennial non-factor never even showed up to the wake as.
“Hear that?” Louise turned her head a tick in Willis's direction.
“You don’t have the ears for it yet, that’s alright, you’ll learn.”
She shoots Willis a sly smile and shifts her head back toward the tall green stalks and the vines, limbs and branches that tangled around her other like a tuft of steel wool. She had it all in her garden, peonies, hibiscus, tulips all lined with cattywompus, she was a surgeon with seed planting.
“Why are you so quite back there anyway?” She says, standing, hips cocked.
“Admiring the work of your green thumb.”
“Oh really, here I was thinking you were staring at my ass this whole time.”
It was a sight from any angle, but from the back she looked like distant waves, calm and longing to be painted Willis thought, wishing he could run inside and use his bailman pen to document the thought.
“Not this time.” He says, settling to say something vaguely, like he always does. Did.
Louise and Willis have never had sex. While Willis thought of Louise as truly beautiful,more than once having stared at her with lascivious thoughts, he never made a pass. And despite his flaws, numbered and vast as they are, Louise found Willis to have a certain kind of charm and way that made him very interesting. But passive interest is hardly cause for Louise's 'friendship' with Willis. Why she'd picked him for all this, was really a mystery even to Louise herself, serendipity maybe. Or maybe it was just happenstance and opportunity that gave way to their reunion.
I guess you'd have to ask her.
They'd met on a college tour of South America, Willis possessed no real interest in travel and went only as an attempt to pounce on girls drunk with the excitement of being a stranger in a strange land. He essentially spent 5,000 (of his parents money) to get laid. Louise was an architecture major, seeing great artistry in buildings and sculptures, and her family were some kind of southern new money, so they frequently paid her way on such adventures. They met through mutual friends and started what seemed a legitimate companionship. They drank and rode bikes in Ciudad de Asunción. Went boating in the Rio Negro. It was in The Chaco the Willis watched Louise throw a blade and kill a rather large Agouti.
The knife was a scrimshawed with a outline of Florida with a skull and crossbones inside as if it were a star to mark Tallahasse. That was the first time I was introduced to her affinity for killing rodents, she spoke then of her grandmother's prized garden (that was featured in the Lafetye County newspaper 12 times in ten years.) and how it was under constant threat of rodents. How her grandmother taught her how to hold a rifle, how to squeeze, not pull the trigger, how to aim the sight a centimeter under and to the left of every small target, and most importantly how to kill with a single bullet, never injure, you wouldn’t want one of God’s creatures to suffer the pain of walking around with a blood spurting, smoldering bullet hole in them, to end life, quickly and sufficiently with well place, always fatal shots.
After the trip ended they vowed to stay in touch. And a few weeks later an email came into Willis's inbox and he felt a surge of glee like the type a dog feels when the dog bell rings. “Louise Rossana LaPomeret” was the sender. The email was long and full of tangents and she ended it with ‘xoxo’ that Willis admittedly thought too much about.
Willis wrote back trying to seem debonair and scholarly, after all he had made such a big to-do about literature and art while they were on tour that he couldn’t send her hap-hazard words. So he crafted his messages with the diligence of an origami master, and she did so in kind. And they talked like this frequently ,becoming embedded in each other's day. They enjoyed their puesdo-intellectual talks, and they enjoyed knowing that after a hard day at work, they'd have a few pages in their inbox waiting for them.
Sometime after Willis received an email from Louise saying that her long sick Grandmother had passed away. Willis sent his condolences and Louise, much to his surprise, sent him an invitation to the funeral and a few days in Florida. Willis jumped at the opportunity, asking for a loan from his brother and purchasing a plane ticket that same day. He'd land at Gainesville airport and take a, train followed by a shuttle followed by a cab to Mayo. He'd be late to the funeral, but just in time for the repast that was held at a house that the dearly departed left in a will to Louise.
"Why does you garden attract so many lizards anyway?"
“it’s the strawberries.” Louise spoke in an errie rehearsed tone Willis only faintly thought eerie.
“Stawberries huh.” Willis spoke. He then got up and made his way off the porch but before his loafer could hit the grass Louise whipped around, and with a grin that could make the sun blush said “Shoes off.”
“Shoes off?” Willis said, noticing Louise bare feet, they were good feet, plump and pale and with a small blue and black bracelet ornamenting her left ankle. If I was one of those foot fetisherz-ers, Willis thought, he’d be in a real moral bind looking at the grass shoot between her toes, the perfect contrast.
“Yeah, shoes off. Grandma’s rule. Walkin’ around here with your shoes on and you’re liable to step on a snake. And looks like you’ve put on some pounds since Spain. You step on a snake and its curtains for the poor critter.”
Willis laughs a laugh somewhere between a man laughing at a precocious kid and a man laughing at an article in the paper to get someone’s attention.
“You realize the irony of saying that with a rifle in your hand and two dead... what were those called again?
“Skinkers. And there's no irony I need to get.” Louise said matter of fact-ly. She was now completely facing Willis who was sitting on the porch steps undoing his shoes, to realize his dress socks that Louise would have surely admired if not for the fact she was entering a monologue.
“Snakes don’t do nothing to this garden cept keep it safe, keep it protected. Like they done for centuries, mellinias. Grandma respected the snakes, she had a theory that, you know how we all was allegedly amphibious hordes that sprung from the water up on dry land? Gran used to say that when all the other amphibians was trudging out the water on their weak legs, trying to to figure out how to run and climb and dig, snakes didn’t feel the need to grow legs. They knew it would only get in the way of learning other things, like hunting. She used to say snakes were the missing link between us and the million years life spent underwater. They were the only thing connecting us back to what we used to be.”
“She sounds like an interesting woman. I would have loved to meet her.” Willis says in somber tone. His shoes off sat neatly on the porch steps. He steps onto the sun baked grass and feels hippyish and holistic and in some way new. Even though he still had his socks on, even though his skin wasn’t touching this old earth.
“She was.” Louise nods. Something dances behind her eyes, she looks down toward the grass, leaning a sliver of her weight on her rifle that is barrel down, in front of her. Whatever thoughts she had rest their works when Willis walks past her toward the garden.
“So strawberries?” Willis says, his eyes squinting whilst they scan the garden for them.
“Yeah, lizards love strawberries.”
“Guess it’s a good chaser for spiders.”
“What else do you grow here that’s edible.”
“Well Gran was partial to all sorts of veggies.”
“Yeah over there peppers. Got some radhies in the back by the fence. Oh and cabbage. Damn granny loved cabbage.”
They move around the yard in silence for a little while, each inspecting things, like they were in a museum waiting to be yanked to tears by a painting, waiting to be flooded with meaning after seeing a clay sculptures of two men wrestling.
After a moment, the silence is broken with a;
“I guess the dandelion are edible as well.” Louise slyly said, looking out the corner of eyes with a vulpine smirk.
“Fuck you I’m not eating a dandelion. I’m from the city but if you think one of your country girl tricks is going to get me to put anything from this garden in my mouth without first being steam washed you’re high as I want to be.”
Louse gave a laugh that sounded like she had a punctured lung.
“Dandelion wine you fool.”
Willis was interested..
“A lot of people, gardeners, well and people in general hate dandelions. And I get it, invasive species, common dredged, not incredibly visually appealing. Kinda like you.” Louise spits, Willis snickers.
“But in Finland they call dandelion the butter flower. For its buttery taste.”
The dandelion has many foreign names, in Sweden its called the Worm Rose, in Italian its call -piss-a-beds, because of its Diuretic properties. But neither of them know this, nor does it matter because they are both in positive spirits, Louise more so than Willis, and in the house she shows him the fridge with 2 plain, unmarked bottles. Willis can see the faint white paper still gripping to the adhesive on the bottles. Inside the bottles is a honey yellow warm looking liquid with miniature flecks of something floating around.
Willis asks; “Did you grandmother make bottle these?”
Louise nods absently.
“These must be her last two bottles she ever made.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Louise grabs them, exams them for a tick. Then says, in her voice, that’s humbly steeped in accent but elevated by wise female charisma; “She want us both to have one.
And so they drank the wine out of the bottles and listened to records and talked like used to, in Spain, half flirty, half like old war buddies. Eventually the day turned into a hurried night with the sounds of cicadas and crickets formed the natural orchestra.This was intimacy, and not the sexual intimacy that can muddle the self and feels transparent. They drank until Willis head spun, Louise noticed his face reddening and speech becoming slurred and walked him to the guest room, setting him down on the bed, removing his shoes, and stroking his forehead.
"Hey come on, do I have to sleep in here all by myself, I can't lay with you in your bed for awhile."
"Hmm not tonight lover." She sighed sadly.
"Alright, hey,' he said grabbing her hand, and kissing it. "I'm sorry about your grandmother, but I'm happy she brought us back in the same room."
Another sad sigh, but this time with a smile.
"Me too Willis."
As Willis slept, he felt a deep discomfort. Surely it was because he'd missed a chance to sleep with Louise, but he'd get another, he didn't return to New York for another 3 days, they still had time.
Louise was knelling down in the back yard, tapping the ground with two finger. The car from earlier in the pulled up to the house. Willis hears the car door shut. Louise is rolling rolling around the lawn making noises that are only vaguely human. The front door opens. Willis hears the screen door close, he moves to get off of the bed. Louse's body is now having spasms on the lawn. One of the women from early comes to the back to check on her, caressing her face. Willis gets out of the bed, places his feet on the ground, narrowly avoiding stepping on a snake he doesn't notice. He stumbles to the living rooms. The second hears Willis's uncoordinated foot steps and hides in corner outside of Willis's vision. Louise wakes from her trance and her eyes, like her aunts, are now yellow and reptilian. Willis is struck over the head with a club and dragged out to the backyard. Louise un-hinges her jaw. Willis's comes to with half his body in Louise body, he begins to scream and strikes Louise hard before he is retrained on either side by the Aunts. They don't stop the screaming, instead Willis's mouth is invaded by snakes. He's done before too long.