Eying the pile of feed she had laboriously drug helter-skelter onto the floor and seat to keep it from getting spoiled, she again had second thoughts. She watched him grow and grow in the rear view window as he did a tired jog up to the passenger door.
It would be helpful, if one decides that one just MUST pick up a hitchhiker, to have ROOM for him before making the offer. Motioning for him to open the door, she leaned across the alfalfa pellets, rolled oats and cracked corn to raise the lock button. She would have to move a good 600 pounds of feed to reach the handle from where she sat.
Swinging an exceedingly small pack into the bed of the truck, he opened the door in an economical continuation of that same motion. His eyes grew slightly wider as he took in the piled sacks, then, placing one hand on the roof, he lithely moved onto them, curling into a human knot to get his head and shoulders below the roof line. Folding his legs in a roughly lotus position, he deftly shut the door.
She could see NOTHING past his body. Noting his bluish, gloveless hands, she cranked the heater as high as it would go.
"I can drop you in the next town. I have to pick up some bags of salt." She bit her lip. Drat! What did I have to say that for? Where would four 50 pound sacks of SALT go? "Where are you heading?"
"I'd settle for someplace warm with an opportunity for honest toil, at the moment."
"I see. Well, now that we have the "Me, Jane, you Tarzan" bit out of the way, would you like to stop at the Chinese restaurant for a bite to eat while we figure out where you can find your ideal soft landing place?"
"What? Oh, yes, I need iodized salt for the weather vane feeders."
"There are other restaurants if you don't like Chinese food."
"Anyone local hiring? I prefer to work outdoors."
Alarm bells went off. No money for a meal... but not willing to take charity, she decided.
"I don't know of anything off hand, but I can sure use some help unloading this feed if you'd consider trading the labor for lunch. It will put you off on a side road instead of in town, however," she finished helplessly. Whatever ARE you up to? You don't know anything about him. If you take a drifter home with you, what does he have to lose? He'll be warm and fed, and you will have a hard time putting him out afterward if you couldn't even drive by him.
"I don't think I've ever eaten a Chinese. They're quite small, aren't they?"
Surreptitiously checking her cash as they entered and were escorted to a booth, she decided he'd have to become acquainted with the hors d'oeuvres platter later.
She headed to the rest room after the meal, not spotting him when she went to pay. She felt curiously let down, instead of relieved. Maybe he's in the john.
When she exited, he'd re-stowed the grain sacks. The four bags of salt should fit, leaving him with as much room as he'd had before.
Unloading had never gone so rapidly. He set off across the creek with two bags of salt, one on each shoulder. I wonder if he's a weight lifter. He makes those 50 pound bags look as substantial as sacks of potato chips. She headed up to the house to make a few phone calls to see if anyone needed a good hired man. Maybe I can deliver him someplace safe before dark.
A soft rap on the door announced the end of the unloading. She waved him in as she continued her conversation with a local cattleman who needed a shed re-roofed following a recent wind storm.
Lowering the phone, she inquired, "Do you roof?"
"Tin and wood, shingles or shakes."
"Sounds like an interesting dance to learn the steps of." Playfully, she offered him the phone, but he shook his head. Get a grip. You're not dating him. Briskly, she spoke into the phone, "When would you like him?"
Intense black eyes. Holding his gaze, she asked, "Is 6 a.m. too early for you?"
"Do you have the supplies on hand?" ...
"Would you be willing to help him haul hay?"...
"Can you drive a tractor?"
"He'll be there." She hung up, then looked him over. Long black hair was gathered into a pony tail that had been hidden by his coat.
"Would you like to shower? I can wash up your things while you get cleaned up, if you'd like." My nose will be ever so grateful if you say "yes". She was embarrassed to feel her nose twitch, and watched, appalled, as his eyes glinted with humor as if he'd read her thoughts.
She pointed down the hall. "Third door. Just set out anything you'd like cleaned."
Instead of starting down the hall, he opened the door and exited, quickly returning with his pack. Soon an impossibly large pile of clothes appeared outside the bathroom door.
Using cold water so he didn't get a nasty surprise when he showered, she started the load with double the normal amount of soap, then dug out some of her father's baggiest pants and a black oversized sweatshirt she generally wore with a good six inches of sleeve rolled up, and deposited them outside the door.
He exited while she was loading the dryer. The legs of the pants she always thought were so big hit him mid thigh. She burst out laughing. His long black hair hung loose around his shoulders, and the sleeves were just slightly too short.
Eying him appreciatively, her wayward tongue commented before she could stop it, "You sure clean up nice."
"Clothes make the man."
A startled bark of laughter burst from her. "So I've heard." He could play the lead in a movie, even in rags. It's a wonder he's such a hard worker. Most good looking guys are pretty good at getting others to do their work for them. "Where are you from?"
"Oklahoma." His voice and his eyes hardened.
"You were heading east."
"I'm coming from Kansas."
"Oklahoma is south of Kansas."
"So it is," he acknowledged, the humor returning to his eyes.
"Where did you plan to spend the night?"
"Do you have a plat map?"
Rustling around, she produced last year's edition. "Oh, now what did I do with the new one?"
"Is he in this one?"
"Yes. He lives on a century farm."
Raised eyebrows greeted her remark.
"When one family has owned a place continuously for 100 years, they can get the designation, "century farm".
Holding out the book, he said, "Show me."
As she discussed the distance and landmarks between the two farms, the dryer dinged. "Your clothes are done."
Unbidden, he headed into the utility room and removed his possessions, returning to the bathroom. Definite star quality. I've got to get him out of here.
"If I leave now, I can make it to work by 6," he said, giving her a wry smile.
She formed an "O" with her mouth. "I was just so tickled to be able to find someone who wanted to hire you, I didn't think about how long it would take you to get there using shank's mare."
Turning his body the directions he would go the same way a honey bee dances directions to its hive mates, he repeated from memory the route she'd showed him in the plat book. It looks like a tribal dance. "Right?"
"Uh, I wasn't following the route; I was just admiring the scenery."
Impulsively plucking her body from the chair, he began the dance again, holding her at arm's length before him, facing the same way he was, turning her as he recited the land marks. Her heart thudded so loudly, she couldn't concentrate on his words. "Right?"
Flustered, she pulled away. "I guess I wouldn't make a very good worker bee. I'd never find the flowers."
Ducking past him, she headed down the hall to the spare bedroom. "I'll take you, I guess. Let me clear off the spare bed."
She stopped, turning slowly to face him. She raised one eyebrow in question.
"Who lives in the old house by the barn?"
"Nobody. It doesn't even have water or heat."
"Who owns it?"
Picking up his pack, he slid it on, opening the door. "May I?"
Mother, May I? Frowning, she silently nodded her head. His feet would have hung out over the edge of the bed, anyway, I bet.
Staring into the campfire, Despina frowns at the unbidden memory. Some people are so pathetic, they can't even manage to have a romantic interlude in their DREAMS!
"You're awfully antisocial tonight. A penny for your thoughts," muses Paul Peter. "I'll bet a dollar they have nothing at all to do with desert flora and fauna."
His eyes are really blue! "What?" she asks in confusion. "Flora who? I don't remember which one she is."
Soft laughter greets her remark.