A Chili Reception (previously, Connection)
March 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
I compiled all of the Connection posts into one story. I edited it a bit and made it more of a story. Even if you’ve read all of my posts, it’s worth it to check out what I changed in this story.
I got some feedback from classmates yesterday, so I’ll be doing another draft of this later this week, but for now, here it is!
A Chili Reception
Sandy stirred her bowl of steaming-hot chili. As she absently pushed the spoon around, she imagined Maddie and Rose turning up their noses and fleeing the table, leaving their dinners uneaten. Her husband then would get up, corral them back, and playfully cajole them to at least try his latest culinary concoction.
“This is delicious,” Sandy said, her eyes still fixated on the contents of her bowl. She realized she hadn’t said that to her husband in a long time, not that his cooking wasn’t worthy of compliments.
“Glad you think so,” Dorothy replied. Her large-rimmed glasses moved with her raised eyebrows. “It’s from a friend of ours we had last week, isn’t it Harold?”
Harold looked up. ”Yes. Melissa, I think.” He spooned another bite. “Delicious.”
“Oh, so you do get visitors out here?” On the way in Sandy hadn’t noticed any other houselights.
“Every so often,” Dorothy said. “Though not as often as we’d like. It’s dangerous out there. The woods are full of wolves, you know. Still, they always bring such good food with them–the people, not the wolves.”
Sandy found it sweet that people as old as Dorothy and Harold still made new friends and had dinner parties. The last time she and her husband had been to a party was before the kids were born.
“Sorry I didn’t bring anything.” Sandy always tried to be a good guest.
“Oh don’t worry, dear. You’ll do just fine.”
* * *
Sandy knew Dorothy was a nice person the minute she saw her at the airport. She just had that grandmotherly look–like she could have been the model for someone illustrating Little Red Riding Hood. What bouncy white hair she had, what shimmering blue eyes, what gorgeous liver spots. Sandy respected Dorothy for accepting old age with dignity, unlike those old women who dyed their hair blue.
Sandy had had a rough day, so it was comforting to finally meet someone who had a speck of empathy–unlike those businessmen who ogled her as she gave her presentation and that pilot who couldn’t manage to get her plane to the airport on time, and that flight attendant, or whatever she was, who “didn’t have the power” to schedule a new flight for Sandy.
Dorothy also had had a rough day; she told Sandy so when she introduced herself. Her daughter’s flight had been delayed as well. As Dorothy drove Sandy to her house, Sandy quietly marveled over the fact that good people still existed in whatever dinky town it was where she had landed. After a drive through a barren landscape, they arrived at a one-story farmhouse. As they stepped inside, Sandy was greeted by Cocker Spaniel or, rather, a lump of fur pawing a bone on a rug in the hall. It looked to be a chicken bone, about the size of a human finger. The dog lifted its head in acknowledgment.
“Hello dear,” a voice called from down the hall. Harold appeared. Like Dorothy, he wore large bifocals and although his hair was graying, it didn’t show signs of thinning. ”And hello,” he said to Sandy as he held out his hand. His grip was rough and firm. “I’m Harold.” He didn’t seem surprised at her being there.
“Nice to meet you,” Sandy said. “Your wife invited me to stay at your home for the night. I hope that’s okay.”
“Oh, of course. My wife is just like that. We have plenty of food and room for you.”
Dorothy put her hand on Sandy’s elbow. “Come with me. I’ll show you where to put your things.” Dorothy led Sandy down the hall. They passed a study and a dining room on the way; Sandy noticed that a table for three was already set. ”Here’s your bedroom, dear.”
“Thanks, Dorothy.” Sandy placed down her bags and hung up her coat.
“Mom, please.” Dorothy smiled. “There’s a bathroom the next door over if you need to shower.”
“Thanks, uh, mom.”
Sandy went to the bathroom and freshened up. She thought about her children getting ready for bed. She hoped her husband was handling the girls okay. Maddie always put up a fight before getting into her pajamas. She wondered if they were missing her. Her husband had been finding himself the go-to parent now that Sandy had been taking more frequent business trips. Whenever she returned, he always had another horror story of some trouble that the three of them barely avoided. He played it off like it was no big deal, but that was just to stop her from having another fit.
“Dor– uh, mom!” Sandy called down the hall. “Do you have a phone I can use? My cell’s not picking up any reception.”
“Sorry, dear. Our phone isn’t working.”
Sandy’s husband would probably assume that she was held up somewhere; he always stayed so calm in these situations. He probably wasn’t even trying to get into contact with her. Sandy’s hands were shaking. She opened up her pill bottle and swallowed her last one. She must have used them all up over her stressful week.
Sandy walked back down the hall to the dining room. She could smell food cooking. “So sorry about the phone, dear,” Dorothy said from the kitchen.
“That’s all right,” Sandy replied. Who doesn’t have a working phone? she thought as she sat down at the end of the table. “What about your daughter? Don’t you like to stay in contact with her?”
“Oh yes, we have her for dinner every so often.”
“Does she live nearby?” Sandy wished she had thought before she asked. Dorothy was waiting at the airport for her daughter; if she lived close she wouldn’t have to fly. Luckily, Dorothy didn’t respond. Probably too busy with the cooking.
Sandy looked around at the neatly-decorated eating area. Paintings of farm animals graced the walls, a chandelier hung above her, and there were orange and red placemats in front of each of the four chairs.
“Dinner’s ready!” Dorothy called out to her husband. She set down a salad in the center of the table. “I hope you’re hungry.”
Sandy was hungry, but she still wasn’t quite sure why these people had brought her into their home. She ate her salad as Harold and Dorothy exchanged stories of the day’s events. Dorothy cleaned up the plates and brought out bowls of chili.
* * *
Sandy continued to stir her chili around. I’ll do just fine?
“Being with young people makes us feel young again,” Dorothy said. “The closer we are to them, the more we enjoy life.”
“Quite true,” Harold said. “We bring them into our home, into our lives, and into our bodies.” He licked some chili from his teeth.
Sandy must have misheard.
Dorothy and Harold exchanged a look, and then looked at Sandy at the same time. Sandy set down a spoonful of chili that was en route to her mouth. Sandy had the feeling that dessert was out of the question.
“Is there something eating you?” Dorothy asked.
“You both have been so kind, really. And you have a lovely home here.” Sandy stood up. “But I don’t think I can stay here.” Sandy thought back to when they were driving in. How far was the last house?
“What’s going on?” asked Dorothy. “We haven’t finished filling you up.”
“Please, sit down,” Harold said. “I’d ate for you to go so soon.”
“No really, I think I need to go to bed. I’m pretty tired from the plane ride still.”
“But if you go to bed, you’ll miss Melissa’s lady fingers!”
“Weren’t those from Alice?”
Sandy didn’t have time to listen to them argue about whose fingers they were going to be dining on. They were just stalling before they could cut up her fingers. “I think I need to leave.” Sandy rushed to the bedroom.
She locked the door behind her and slumped onto the ground. She thought of her husband and children. How long would it be before her husband would even think there was something wrong? Before he would assume the worst? Sandy was an independent woman, and her husband had become independent now that Sandy was hardly ever home. Would they even miss her? Would they survive without her motherly embrace?
Sandy froze. She heard footsteps coming down the hall. Her heart raced. They were coming to finish the job. She curled into a ball and the noise stopped. It was her shaking hands tapping against the door.
Sandy tried to get a hold of herself. These people were 60 years old. They weren’t crazy. Crazy is as crazy does, after all, and Sandy hadn’t seen them do anything crazy, right? Sandy took a deep breath. They were nice enough to have me into their home, they’ll be nice enough to drive me to a hotel. She wouldn’t be able to sleep in this house with these could-be crazy people. Even if they weren’t, she was too worked up to sleep now.
Sandy slowly got up and collected herself and her things.
Back in the dining room, Dorothy and Harold were still sitting. “I would really appreciate it if you could give me a ride to a hotel,” Sandy said.
Dorothy lowered her eyes. “I’m sorry, it’s too dark for us to drive. I never did like eating carrots.”
Sandy’s hands were shaking again. “I need to go. Back to the airport. Need to get to a phone. I’ll walk if I have to.” There was no way that she could stay. Because there was always the possibility they were mad. They were going to chop her up in her sleep.
Dorothy stood up. “Where are your brains, dearie? You can’t possibly leave. There are wolves out there!”
They’re making excuses, Sandy thought. Just trying to get me to stay so they can cook me in the morning.
“It’s just, I can’t sleep here. There’s just too much…going on.”
Harold walked over to Sandy and grabbed her arm. “You can’t leave.”
“I’m sure we have some pills to help you sleep if you’d like.” Dorothy walked over to her husband and Sandy.
They wanted to drug her. That’s how they got the others. Sandy’s heart was racing. Paranoia or not, she was not imagining things now.
* * *
The phone rang twice before Cole was able to get to it. “Hey Maddie, Rose, quiet down for a second okay?” Cole answered the phone. “Hello?”
“Hello, Mr. Livingston?”
“This is Sgt. Donahue of the metropolitan police force. Your wife is Sandy Livingston, correct?”
“Yes, what’s going on?” Sandy was sometimes late coming home from her business excursions, but he’d never had the police involved.
“I’m sorry to say, Mr. Livingston, but your wife’s body was found. There was nothing that could’ve been done.”
* * *
Before she could hear the knock, Dorothy’s Cocker Spaniel barked at the door. Dorothy answered it.
“Oh hello, Melissa. I hope you brought more of your delicious chili with you!”
“Unfortunately not this time. I just wanted to come by and see how you were holding up, after the police were here and everything.”
“Yes, we’re doing just fine. It was a silly thing to happen, though. Some people just don’t appreciate hospitality I guess. If that woman had only listened to us and not gone running out the door that night, she wouldn’t have met such a terrible end with those wolves.”