Amos Dunwoody Harrelson had never spoken a word to me in the sixty-seven years I’ve known him. We grew up together in Laverne, Ohio. And trust me, honey, sixty-seven years of knowing Amos Harrelson is a very long time.
Sixty-seven years of spilling ice-cold milk down the back of my dress in the school cafeteria. Accidentally-on-purpose, mind you.
Sixty-seven years of stealing my third-grade homework and running over (and over and over) it with the black tires of his shiny new Schwinn bicycle before slipping the pages back in my notebook again.
Sixty-seven years of sitting behind me at weddings and funerals and community potlucks, finding fresh ways to torment me every time. Like when he dropped a cockroach down my back at Ada Louise Archer’s wedding to that dreadful fellow from Burlingham, the one she would later catch in bed with the principal’s wife. But that’s a whole other story.
Let’s just say that I’ve had a few words over the years for Amos Dunwoody Harrelson. None of them I’d care to repeat in polite company. And he deserved every cussword.
But as for him speaking to me, Amos had never uttered a peep, polite or otherwise. At first I thought he was just shy. Then I figured he must be embarrassed by his own shenanigans. One time I actually caught myself in a kindly mood, wondering if he had something wrong with his esophagus or his tongue, or his tonsils had somehow outgrown his palate. But he never seemed to have trouble talking with other folks, so I gave up that idea. Finally I took after Rhett Butler and frankly, my dear, didn’t give a d—
Anyway, you get the picture. So when a smiling Amos Dunwoody Harrelson showed up on my front porch last Sunday afternoon in a suit and tie with a bouquet of flowers in his hand, you might say I was a teensy bit surprised. But when he opened his mouth and said, “Miz Foster, I come over to bring you these” – well, you coulda knocked me over with one of Ada Louise Archer’s feather boas.
Naturally, after sixty-seven years of dealing with Amos, I took a few obvious precautions. I admit I was tempted at first to drop the bouquet to the porch and stomp on it for all I was worth, in case there was a black widow or tarantula lurking inside. But I realized that might look somewhat churlish if this were, miracle of miracles, a genuine peace offering. Plus, knowing Amos, there could well be a paintball among the stems ready to splatter my legs with indelible ink.
Stomping on them was out. But I did give the flowers a vigorous precautionary shake to dislodge any lurking vermin.
Nothing. And Amos was still smiling.
That only made my eyes crinkle up and my eyebrows twist down even more.
But I’m a good Southern church-goin’ lady and I still know my manners. So all I said was, “Why, thank you Amos.” All the while my head was spinning circles, wondering when something big and hairy might jump out at me, or maybe this time my dress would catch on fire. Most of all, though, I was wondering how I’d never realized Amos had such a fine deep voice.
It was the kind of voice that made your female insides sit up and take notice, if you know what I mean. The kind of voice made for belting out gospel songs and maybe rocking some down-home Southern blues. A voice that swept into my ears and through my head and had me suddenly half-dizzy and wondering if maybe I’d been wrong in the way I’d been thinking about Amos Dunwoody Harrelson for sixty-seven years. With a voice like that, I could forgive him for anything. Well, almost anything. It might take a few more sweet sentences to make me forget the incident with the cockroach at Ada Louise’s wedding.
“Would you like to step inside and –”
Was that really my voice? Yes, yes indeed. I was inviting Amos in. “Maybe for an iced tea?”
“I’d like that. I’d like that very much, Miz Foster.” Amos was still smiling, twirling his hat in the fingers of both hands now, all nervous-like.
I jumped back half a step, purely out of habit. But no rotten-egg smell engulfed us. Nothing exploded or caught fire. No hairy-legged arachnids dropped to the porch floor in a venomous cascade.
Once Amos was firmly seated at my kitchen counter, I jammed the flowers in a jelly jar and splashed in some tap water before pulling the cold pitcher of sweet tea from the fridge and pouring him a glass. I took a deep breath as I handed it across the counter to him. Having the counter between us gave me a second-wind of confidence, you might say. Plus I was anxious to hear that voice again.
“So, Amos. Tell me a little about yourself.”
His gaze flitted everywhere around the room like a sparrow searching for possible hawks before his eyes finally landed on my face. And stilled.
“Actually, Miz Foster—”
“Liz,” I interrupted. “Please. Call me Liz.”
He nodded, his eyes briefly taking flight again. He lifted the glass of iced tea. Took a sip. For once, I didn’t jump out of the way, anticipating a deluge. Gently, he set the glass back on the counter.
“You see, Liz, I came by kinda hoping you’d tell me a little about you. We’ve known each other for sixty-seven years, after all. And it just occurred to me – somehow or other we’ve never really talked. Much though I kept hoping to attract your attention all that time.”
If you enjoyed this story, hope you’ll share it! And just hit “sign up” below to get more free stories and news about upcoming books from Abby Rice!