“I am old. I do not care. Now, get on off my property.” Clementine tapped her foot. One thing she couldn’t abide by, and that was some man telling her what to do.
“Miss Clementine, I’m just doing my job. Now, come on.” He stepped from foot to foot, fiddled with the pen he held, cleared his throat.
“Don’t tell me to come on. You go on, that’s what I’m telling you. Get that ass of your’n back down my road.”
The man sighed, fished a phone from his pocket and dialed.
Clementine crossed her arms over her chest and waited. She could wait. She could wait a hundred years. I am old, she thought. I am old and I don’t got to listen to nobody. Nobody gets this old what can’t tell off a man when needed.
The man was saying, “…no, haven’t tried that. Uh huh. All rightee then.” He put the phone back in his pocket, looked at Clementine and said, “Miss Clementine, can I have a cup of coffee and one of your biscuits and we’ll talk this over.” He smiled at her, one side of his mouth going all crookedy.
She cocked her head, studied him, then made up her mind. “Fine. You come on in and we’ll talk about it.” She turned heel and marched back to her house, listening to him shuffle behind her. She wanted to laugh, but then all her hard work would be for naught. She had them all scared, had them all in the very palms of her hands licking like hungry dogs.
At her door, the man wiped his feet good, and Clementine approved. Some didn’t. Some just came on in and tracked up her clean floor, then she’d set out to fussing and send them on their way. The man stood with his hat in his hand, turning it around and around. He had nice hair, all thick and wavy dark. Reminded her of…He said, “Thank you for the kindness, Miss Clementine.”
She felt hot, a little faint. Right then she knew she’d be nice to him, this young man. She took biscuits, homemade blackberry jam, fresh butter, sugar, cream, two cups, and the pot of coffee, and set them on a tray. She picked up the tray to carry it to the table, and the man stepped forward as if to take it from her. She snapped, “I got it! I am not weak. Huhn. I can out work a man half my age.”
He smiled, said, “I’ve no doubt, Miss Clementine.”
They sat at the table together. She poured his coffee and he added two sugars, cream, and this made her heart push in. She busied herself buttering the biscuits and slapping on lots of her homemade jam. She put three on his plate and his eyes widened. She said, “Eat them.”
He said, “With pleasure.”
She fixed herself two, since she’d already had breakfast.
After they’d drank their coffee and ate the biscuits (she’d watched him chew, watched his jaws working, the muscles in his face tensing and releasing), she folded her hands on the table and waited.
He said, “Miss Clementine. Is it okay with you if I check your electricity meter? We have to keep a count so you’ll be billed properly. I’d be much appreciative.”
Clementine acted as if she were thinking on it hard, then she said, “Yes, you may.” Then she reached out and touched his hand, and thought, Oh, if only his hair wasn’t so much like Aaron’s. She wanted to run her fingers through it, tug at it. Her old body right then didn’t feel old, but young and ready. She hoped he couldn’t see what she felt. She added, “You come back anytime you want, hear?”
He smiled with good strong teeth. He smiled and Clementine wanted to faint. He smiled like Aaron, but this man was too young and she was too old and dammit all the world wasn’t fair. Dammit all she hated her wrinkled skin, her saggy breasts—oh, if he’d had known her before. Oh, if he could see her from the inside out, her full and burning woman’s heart, instead of this old woman before him. He said, “I appreciate that, Miss Clementine. Thank you. And for the hospitality, too.”
They stood. She watched him walk out of her door. Listened as he did his work. She didn’t hardly use any electricity, never had that much use for it. Maybe she’d use more, and wondered if that meant the man would come back more often. Silly talk, she thought. Old silly woman without a lick of sense.
When he walked down her road to get in his truck, she watched him again. The long stride of his legs, the width of his shoulders.
”Dammit it all. I am old. I am old and I am tired of it.”
When nothing left of him but dust from his truck, she went inside and cleaned up the kitchen. The water was warm and slippery…