Life is but a Dream
Life is but a Dream
10-11 December 2014
They had been on the move for over a week. Constantly fighting against the dead and struggling to stay alive. Glenn was exhausted. Every inch of him was bone tired, and he struggled to keep his rifle in his hands as the group entered an old farm. The house was small. Too small for everyone to have a space of their own. It was more of a hunting cabin than anything else. It had 2 bedrooms which faced out onto a small porch. Rich and Carl took one, Darryl claimed first watch and Glenn and Maggie took the other room. It gave them some privacy, but not much. The others arranged themselves through the house, finding spots that would give them some protection from the elements and to get some well-earned rest. Glenn affixed an old tarp that he found to the window. It would keep out the elements and allow them to get undressed and clean up a bit.
They undressed in silence and washed up using a bucket they had found and water from a nearby creek. As they settled into their makeshift bed, Glenn held her, and began to sleep…..
From behind the door, a gruff voice half shouted “I’m comin’, goddammit.” Glenn shifted his pose, took half a step back and waited.
The door flung opened and a man was outlined in the door frame by the dim light behind him. He looked tough, in a stained t-shirt overlaid with an even more stained flannel. From behind him, Glenn could hear the sound of a television, and the faint smell of something unpleasant made him begin breathing through his mouth. The man stood there, not saying anything, sizing Glenn up with eyes that were slightly unfocused.
“Uh, Little Anthony’s Pizza”, Glenn muttered, holding the box up just a bit higher. The man glanced down as the box, and then back at Glenn.
“A Chinaman? Brining pizza?” the man slurred. Glenn inwardly groaned. This was one of the parts of the job he hated most. He had never dealt well with drunk people, and had dealt even worse with racist tough guys. Now here was the trifecta staring him in the face with his close set predator’s eyes.
“Uh,” Glenn began,” that’s $10.75.” He put on his best “I am a humble pizza guy” smile and waited. He still held the pizza level, just below his chin. The man reached into his pocket, and pulled out a crumpled bunch of bills. With his other hand, he grabbed the pizza, as he dropped the money on the unwashed floor of the apartment hall way. The man turned back into the apartment and Glenn heard him yell “Hey little bother! A Chinaman brought our pizza!” as he slammed the door in Glenn’s face.
Glenn stared at the door for a second before crouching to pick up the cash. As he stood, he counted the crumpled and greasy bills. All one dollar bills. All six of them. “Son of a bit...” Glenn began as the door opened again a crack, and an arm held out a ten dollar bill. Glenn could just make out a face behind the door. Younger, less threatening, but just as tough. Glenn hesitated for a second. The man waved the bill a bit, making it look like it had been struck by a sudden breeze. “Take it”, the man whispered through gritted teeth. It was clear to Glenn that the man didn’t want the other one to know that he was actually paying for the food, and leaving a tip. Glenn took the bill and folded it in with the others. As he slipped the cash into his pocket, he nodded his thanks, and the other man returned the nod. From behind the door, Glenn heard the first man yell, “See, little brother? I told you it was a Chinaman! We got us some chop suey pizza!” Without taking his eyes off of Glenn, the younger man called back, “Yeah, Mere, I seen him!” and slammed the door, again, in Glenn’s face.
Glenn turned and walked away from the apartment quickly. He nearly ran down the six flights of steps to the ground floor of the apartment building, thinking “Why do the assholes always live on the top floor?” He crossed the shabby lobby and exited out into the fresh sunlight of a warm October day in Atlanta. This was the part of the job that he enjoyed the most. He quickly located and hopped on his bicycle, an act that gave him a little flutter in his stomach. He had built the beast himself, cobbled together from a variety of makes and models that he had salvaged from around the city. Before the bike, he had no vehicle, and used the shop’s aging, wheezing van to make deliveries. Now he only used it when the weather would have ruined his ride and his delivery. If he could afford a car, he wouldn’t have to ride around on this bike. But if he did that, he couldn’t enjoy a sunny day in the city, weaving around traffic, dodging death at ever intersection. He supposed that this was the closest that he would ever come to genuine excitement.
As he pedaled back to the shop, he thought again about a recent conversation that he had with his father. Glenn scowled slightly as he recalled the tense standoff between the two. His father never approved of Glenn’s decision to move to Atlanta. Their conversations since he moved were strained, and those were the good ones. During the last conversation, his father had made him an offer: come home within a month. He would pay to move Glenn back to Michigan, and then pay to put him through college so that he could, in his father’s words, become a productive member of society.
Glenn had hung up from that conversation feeling like a failure. He had not lived up to his potential as he struck out on his own. He had few friends, had a hard time finding good stable employment, and had no prospects for a personal life. In summary, he was a failure, as his father had predicted he would become. As Glenn rode through the secondary streets and alleys filled with the stench of garbage and urine and desperation, he dwelled on this fact. As he turned a corner out of an alley, he decided to call his father as soon as he arrived home that evening and
A SUV came out of nowhere and slammed into Glenn’s front tire. He slid on his belly across the hood of the vehicle and did a half roll, slamming his right hip onto the concrete. Pain flared across his hip, and he heard the tires of the SUV screech to a halt. He sat up; looking for blood and saw that his pants were torn, and the flesh underneath suffered some road rash. Gently he flexed his hip and his right leg and felt a dull, but not unmanageable pain. From behind him he heard doors open and the footsteps of the SUV’s occupants behind him.
He turned to see three people standing beside the car. Two men and a woman. The older man reached him first and knelt quickly beside him.
“Don’t move, son,” the man instructed him, setting a large but gentle hand on his shoulder. The man turned to the woman and said, “Maggie, get my bag from the back.” The woman, Maggie, ran to the back of the SUV and returned quickly with what looked like an old doctor’s bag. The man took it quickly, and opened it to reveal a supply of gauze and tape and first aid supplies. Glenn looked at the other man, who was pale and shaking slightly.
“He came out of nowhere, Herschel”, the man was saying near tears. “I didn’t even see him! He just came out of nowhere!” The man at Glenn’s side, Herschel, looked back at the man.
“Otis, sit in the truck. I’m going to check this man over and we will give him whatever help he needs. Panicking isn’t going to help us.” He stated simply. Otis got back into the driver’s side and through the windshield; Glenn could see him bury his face in his hands. Glenn began to stand up. “Hey, look, I’m fine. It’s not the first time that this has…” Herschel’s hand on his shoulder became firmer. Glenn looked into his face, and saw determination, mixed with what he could only describe as compassion. He smiled a bit as he withdrew some supplies form the bag and began to arrange them on the ground next to Glenn. “What’s your name, son? He asked in a fatherly manner. Glenn relaxed a bit and remained seated. “Glenn. Glenn Rhee.” He said into Herschel’s smiling face. Herschel knelt fully on the ground next to the fallen pizza delivery man and extended his hand. “I’m Herschel Greene, this is my daughter Maggie,” he said nodding to the woman who had moved directly beside him, “and Evil Kenevil there is my farm foremen Otis.” He said nodding toward the man in the SUV. Glenn raised his left hand in a greeting to them and grimaced as Herschel examined the wound.
It wasn’t bad. He used a set of forceps to remove some of the gravel that was imbedded in the skin. As he worked, he motioned for Maggie to kneel beside him and assist in cleaning the wound. Glenn looked away as they worked to clean and dress his injury. Just as they were finishing, Glenn heard more footsteps running in his direction. He looked up to see a female police officer, running toward them. Glenn groaned audibly. This caused Herschel to stop, look up, and rise to meet the police officer.
“What the hell happened?” she asked as she neared them. “Do you need an ambulance?” she asked Glenn. Glenn shook his head, and looked at Herschel.
“He’s helping out, officer” Glenn said simply. She stared down at him, sunlight glittering off of her badge and polished name tag that read “Lerner”. She looked at Glenn and then back at Herschel who was using an alcohol wipe to clean his large hands after he removed his exam gloves. Another police officer jogged up as Officer Lerner waited for them to give any information at all. “Everything okay, Dawn? He asked. Glenn looked up at him. “Hanson” his nametag read. Officer Lerner nodded slightly at her newly arrived comrade. “Yeah, looks like it. These people, “nodding at the occupants of the SUV, were just helping this guy out.” Hanson looked down at Glenn, then at the SUV with the slight dent in the front quarter panel, and at Glenn’s battered bike. “Really?” Hanson asked Glenn. Glenn nodded and said “Yep, officer, that’s right. Fixed me right up.” Hanson looked from Glenn, back to the vehicle and gave a mild shrug. “Okay, works for me” he said. He looked back at Glenn and said “Slow down!” And then back to the shape of Otis in the front seat of the SUV and, a little louder, “Slow down!” He turned and walked away, with Officer Lerner following. She looked over her shoulder at them one last time and walked quickly to keep up with her partner.
Otis, seeing this, got out of the truck and approached Glenn as he stood up. “Jeez, Mister, I’m really sorry. I didn’t even see you there and when those cops showed up, I knew that I was gonna get into it for sure.” He said pumping Glenn’s hand. “They coulda taken my license and then I couldn’t work for Herschel or go out on ambulance calls or…” Glenn cut him off. “Ambulance calls?” he asked, “you’re a paramedic?” Otis stopped talking like he suddenly lost power. Herschel stepped in and said “Otis is one of our finest emergency medical technicians. He would be anyway, if he could stand the sight of blood” he said smiling. Otis shuffled his feet and looked downcast. He muttered something about not reporting him to the cops and shuffled back to the driver’s seat. Glenn looked at his slightly wrinkled bike. The front wheel was a bit bent, but it was fixable. Herschel followed his gaze and said “Can we give you a ride somewhere, since we seem to have put yours out of action?” Glenn shook his head and said, “No, that’s fine, you’ve really helped out a lot already.” Turning to Maggie he said, “Meg, thanks a lot for your help, too. I really appreciate it.” She smiled a broad, sunny smile that seems to be amplified by the beauty of the day. “It’s Maggie, and the least we could do since we tried to kill you.”
Glenn smiled back at her, and he once again felt Herschel’s hand on his shoulder. Glenn hated to have to look back into the face of the man, and away from Maggie. Herschel gave his shoulder a squeeze and once again extended his hand. “Glenn, sorry to have to meet you this way. I hope there are no hard feelings” he said gently. Glenn shook his head, with the remnants of the Maggie inspired smile on his face. Herschel continued, “If there are, I own a farm just off I-85. If you feel later that the police need to be involved, I will certainly understand.” Glenn felt his hand gripped again by the man, and Herschel turned to walk back to the SUV. Maggie followed, and gave a smile and a wave over her shoulder. Glenn returned both, as he picked up his bike and the SUV pulled away.
The bike was ride able, barely, back to the shop. The crash had ruined an otherwise good riding day, but Glenn didn’t let that bother him. He was still remembering Maggie’s smile and wave as she walked away. He would most likely never see her again, but he would at least have the memory of a pretty girl smiling at him. The shop was quiet as he wheeled the bike behind the counter. “Little Anthony” Paparo sat behind the counter, close to the register, reading the New York Post. He had moved to Atlanta nearly three decades before, looking forward to spending nearly snowless winters in the Deep South, but his New York roots ran deep, and the Post was a testament to that fact. He glanced up as Glenn wheeled his damaged bike into the small storage area behind the counter.
“Glenn!” he boomed. Little Anthony boomed a lot. He moved his large frame from the creaking chair behind the counter to waddle over to Glenn. “Jesus, kid…you look like the walking dead! What the hell happened to you? Get mugged on that last delivery?” Anthony was inches from Glenn, studying his face, and torn clothes, and probably looking to see if he was high or if he could smell booze. Like he could tell through the cloud of garlic he carried like a blanket…
“I’m fine”, he said, “I just took a spill.” Anthony stood and stared for another moment, breathing garlic and coffee and unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes all over Glenn. Anthony shrugged and turned back toward his seat. Glenn grabbed the well-worn broom and set about sweeping away the accumulated dirt in front of the shop. He enjoyed this time alone, almost as much as his bike rides. Thinking of the bike made him think of Maggie, and eventually, the conversation with his father. He would call his father after work tonight to discuss the deal he had proposed, and then Glenn’s time in the south would end.
Hours passed. Glenn used the shop’s van to make a few more deliveries, and collect a few parking tickets along the way. The fresh memories of the crash settled a bit as he went about his daily routine. Make a pizza. Deliver a pizza. Clean the bathroom. Deliver a pizza. Mop the floor. Deliver a pizza. Routine, unchallenging, unchanging. At about 6 PM, Anthony went upstairs to his apartment above the shop for dinner (spaghetti. Seriously?) and to watch Wheel of Fortune. That left Glenn alone to ponder the empty shop and to plan the conversation with his father.
Then the phone rang.
“Little Anthony’s”, Glenn said, cradling the receiver into his shoulder and grabbing an order pad. For a second there was silence on the other end. Then a voice, a female voice, said “Is this Glenn?” For a moment he was stunned. He didn’t know any women, and if he did, they wouldn’t be calling him here.
“Yeah,” he managed his mind a blur. Another pause, and the woman said, “It’s me, Maggie.”
“Who”, he said a half second before he realized who it was.
“How many other Maggies tried to kill you today?” he could hear the laughter in her voice as she answered. He dropped the pad and the pen back onto the counter and said, “Yeah, hi. What do you want?”
“Customer service isn’t your strong suit, Glenn.” She said, laughing again. “I want to place an order.” Glenn looked at the clock. Just after 6:15. The shop closed at 8. If she wanted a delivery, out to the damn boondocks this late….
“Uh, we generally don’t deliver out that far…” he began.
“Yes, you do,” she interrupted, “It’s on your website.” Dammit. The website. That’s how she found him. He was wearing a Little Anthony’s t-shirt when the crash happened.
The website was the one concession to post-Ronald Regan technology that Anthony had made. He realized the earning potential shortly after Glenn explained it to him and showed him a mock site he had set up. It was one of the things that he was really good at, and planned on telling his father that in just a few short hours.
“Okay, you’re right,” he said, picking up the pad again.
“It’s not for tonight,” she said. “We’re having a barn dance on Saturday. Daddy doesn’t go in for Halloween, so this is a way to have a Halloween party without having a Halloween party. We want you to cater it. Usually my mother would balk at the idea and do all of the cooking herself, but considering the circumstances, and the fact that my mother would draft all of us to help, and the fact that pizza and pasta is better than some of the traditional barn dance fare….” He stared at the receiver in his hand. A catering job? In four days? Anthony would love it. And he would get to see Maggie again.
Glenn smiled, as he put his pen to paper, and began to write.
After he hung up the phone, and looked at the long list that the Greene’s wanted for the party, and their cost, he sprinted up the steps to Anthony’s apartment. Normally, this was forbidden. Anthony had clear rules about who was allowed to bang on his door, why and for how long. Glenn typically never ignored those rules, but this was a different story.
From behind the door, a gruff voice half shouted “I’m comin’, goddammit.” Glenn shifted his pose, took half a step back and waited.
The door flew open, and Anthony filled the frame.
“What? Is the shop on fire? Were we robbed? Are you high?” Anthony took a step toward him, and Glenn stopped him by pressing the order pad into his fleshy chest. Anthony took it, looked at it, looked at Glenn, looked at it again and a smile broke out on the older man’s face. “Jeeeeeesus….” He muttered. His eyes floated down to the total for the bill. He looked back at Glenn, still smiling, and said, “Start cooking, kid…” And Glenn did.
Saturday came quickly. Glenn was bone tired. Between the massive catering order for the Greene’s and the usual day to day work around the shop, he had little time to relax, and no time to call his father.
It took nearly an hour to pack the van with the food, and all of the supplies that the Greene’s would need to keep the food warm. Gallons of gravy, stacks of trays filled with meatballs and lasagna, pizzas by the dozen, cheese, and lunchmeats, and rolls flown in from New York…filled to bursting. Glenn slowly wound his way through the city and onto the highway. He drove slowly, dreading the thought of a toppled tower of pizza, or a spilled flood of gravy. At one intersection, he hit the brakes a bit too hard and heard the crash of something toppling over in the cargo area behind him. He hopped out and was relieved to see that it was just a box of plastic forks, and all of the food was still intact.
Slowly, turned onto I-85, and using the GPS pointed the van in the direction of the farm. He left the radio off. The long road and the time in the car gave him time to think. He still intended on telling his father about his plan to come home. He wanted to tell him that he had made a mistake and would accept the offer of college. The local college had a great computer program and he looked forward to refining his skills in that area. Then he would get a job, put in the required 40-plus hours a week, make some money, buy a house, and have a family…all of the things that would make his father happy.
Flashing red and blue lights broke him out of his thought cocoon. He glanced down at the speedometer. 80. Shit.
He pulled to the side of the road, put the transmission in park, and shut the engine off. He flipped on the interior light and sat with his hands on the steering wheel. Using the side mirror, he could see one cop walking up the driver’s side, and another coming up along the passenger side. The cop on his side was lean, and walked with an air of authority. The other was stocky, and moved like he was owed respect because of his badge.
He turned to greet the officer on his side. Under his large hat, the thin face wore a slight smile. Glenn looked at the name tag. Grimes it read.
“’Evening. I’m Deputy Grimes and this is Deputy Walsh of the King County Sheriff Department, “he said nodding to the deputy on the passenger side. “Any idea how fast you were going?” Glenn kept his hands on the wheel and turned his head to greet Deputy Walsh and turned back to Deputy Grimes.
“I was over the speed limit, sir. I’m making a delivery down on the Greene farm and got a little ahead of myself” Glenn said. Grimes looked at him, then at Walsh and leaned around a bit to see the piles of food in the van.
“License and registration, please” Grimes said, extending his hand. Glenn nodded and said “Registration is in the glove box, and I’m sitting on my license.” Glenn usually tossed his wallet on the dash when he drove, but in the rush to get on the road had neglected to do so. Grimes said simply “Go ahead”, and Glenn reached under his ass with one hand to get his wallet from which he withdrew his license and handed it to Grimes and then opened the glove compartment to get the registration. He saw, out of the corner of his eye, Walsh shift and lay his hand on his sidearm. Slowly, Glenn pulled the registration out and handed it to Grimes. The deputy examined both documents and then said “Should we run him in?” to Walsh. A steel sliver froze in Glenn’s stomach. If he blew this job, he would be paying for it for months. Walsh looked at him for a moment and then at Grimes.
“We should for not offering us a slice”, she said smiling. Grimes broke into a large grin and handed the documents back to a very obviously relieved Glenn. Glenn dropped them on the passenger seat.
“Slow it down, son. You have all the food, so the party can’t start without you”, Grimes chided. “Yeah, slow it down. All that sauce in there, it’ll look like a slaughter if you get into a crash”, echoed Walsh.
“Thank you officers, next time you’re in the city, a slice is on me”, Glenn said as he started the engine again. He slowly rolled away with the two deputies returning to their car in his mirrors.
About 40 minutes later, after having turned around twice because he missed the road leading to the farm, Glenn stopped the van in front of the farm house. The front door opened and Herschel strode out onto the porch with his had raised in greeting. Glenn smiled and waved back.
“Find the place okay? Herschel asked. Glenn told a slight lie and said that he had no problem at all. Herschel smiled. “Great. Just pull around to the barn. It’ll be easier to unload there.” Glenn followed the short road back to the huge barn.
It was lit from within and had strings of lights around the building. Herschel met him as he got out of the driver’s seat. From the barn, a figure emerged, silhouetted by the lights. It was the foreman, Otis. He saw Glenn and Herschel and moved toward them to help with the unloading. Glenn already had the doors open and was loading trays onto the cart that he brought. He didn’t really expect any help, and had planned to make it as easy on himself as possible.
“Glenn, you remember Otis. Otis, you remember the boy you tried to run over.” Herschel teased. Otis looked sheepishly at the ground and moved to help Glenn. Herschel said “Glenn, why don’t you let Otis take care of that. You’ve had a long ride, and I’ll show you around while you get the feeling back in your legs. Don’t worry, “he chuckled “it won’t have an impact on your tip. I’m taking it out of Otis’s pay.” Otis looked up, mouth open and laughed a bit when he saw Herschel smiling. Glenn placed a tray of food on the card and turned to follow Herschel as Otis continued to unload the van.
Herschel showed him the property. It was stunning. The older man explained that it had been in his family since about the time of the Civil War. That boggled Glenn’s mind. He had never stayed in one place too long, after leaving his family home in Michigan. To have a place to call home, and actual home, made him a little misty eyed. As Herschel pointed out various features of the farm, Glenn noticed a figure emerge from the trees close to the barn. It was dressed in a dirty, torn suit, and walked with a shuffle. Glenn could barely make out what appeared to be rotted flesh on its face, as it shambled toward a small group of young women hanging decorations from the barn. It raised one rotted hand and grabbed one of the young women, a pretty blonde who screamed “JIMMY!”
Herschel stopped talking in midsentence and spun around toward the source of the scream. He visibly relaxed as he turned back to Glenn, who had exhaled a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.
“My youngest daughter’s boyfriend. Guess somebody had to slip in a little Halloween,” he explained. Glenn looked back to where a now laughing group of young people were tossing a zombie mask back and forth, keeping it away from Jimmy.
“Come on up to the house,” Herschel said. “We can settle the bill and you can be on your way back to Atlanta.” Glenn nodded and fell in step beside Herschel. He would be a little sad to have to drive away from such a lively party and such genuinely nice people.
The two men climbed the steps to the porch, and entered the house. Glenn was again struck by the sense of something solid and tangible here on this farm. Herschel led him into a beautifully apportioned dining room and offered him a seat as he disappeared to another room for his checkbook. A dark haired woman poked her head out of the adjacent kitchen. She smiled warmly as he saw Glenn seated at the table and approached him with an outstretched hand.
“You must be the boy Otis tried to kill. I’m Annette Greene,” she offered. Glenn stood quickly and grasped her hand in his. Herschel reentered the room and Annette scolded, “Herschel, aren’t you even going to offer this boy something to drink?” Herschel looked at Glenn who said simply “I’m fine, thanks.” Both men sat down, and Herschel looked over the bill quickly. He frowned a bit and said “There’s no delivery charge.” Glenn looked a bit stunned. He had written up the bill as usual, breaking down a long list of food and supplies. Anthony didn’t like delivery charges. He thought that it made people less likely to tips his deliverymen.
“Delivery is free of charge, sir. It says so on our menu,” Glenn thought that sounded stupid as soon as he had said it. Herschel looked back at the bill and then back at Glenn.
“Well that may be true for local deliveries, and for small orders, but it just wouldn’t be right for me to overlook that in this case. How does an extra ten percent on the bill sound? Fair?” To Glenn it sounded more than fair. Ten percent would cover the insurance on the van for almost half the year. Herschel wrote out a check, tore it from the book and slid it to Glenn. “I hope you don’t mind, but I added a little something extra for your tip.”
Glenn looked at the check. A little something extra? It would pay his rent for the month. He began to hand the check back and started to say “It’s too much”, when Maggie walked into the room.
She was radiant. She was dressed in a simple dress, but it made her look like she glowed. Glenn stood as she entered the room and smiled at her. She returned the smile, a vision that would remain with Glenn for days afterward.
“Meg,” he said, still smiling, “it’s nice to see you again.” She rolled her eyes slightly at the joke and said “You look better when you’re not bleeding.” Glenn flushed a bit and turned to Herschel, holding the check up slightly.
“Well, thanks again, and hope that you have a great night.” Maggie’s smile faltered slightly.
“You’re not leaving, are you? Stay for a bit and enjoy the party,” she said. Glenn looked down at himself. He was dressed in a pair of khakis and a polo shirt. Everyone else was wearing “party clothes”. The men in shirts and ties, the women in dresses.
“Uh, I uh…” he began. Maggie turned to Herschel. “Daddy, surely we have something that we can loan to Glenn so he can stay for a bit and fit in?”
Herschel looked at Maggie, and then to Glenn and rising from his chair, said “I’m sure we can find something that we can use,” and left the room again. Maggie beamed. To Glenn that was worth more than any tip he could have received. A moment later, Herschel returned with a light blue shirt, a red tie and a tan jacket. He ushered Glenn into a downstairs bathroom where eh changed. When he emerged, he was redressed. The shirt was a bit big in the neck and the jacket was a little loose in the shoulders, but he wore it well.
Maggie took him by the hand and escorted him out to the barn and the party. Tables and chairs were arranged around the well-lit structure and long tables of food were arranged around the perimeter of the area. Dozens of people were already enjoying themselves, with music playing and laughter, and the dance floor filling. Glenn poured two cups of punch for him and Maggie and they found a seat at a table near some other people their age. Glenn was introduced and Maggie did her best to make him feel welcome.
After a short time, Glenn began to relax a bit and started to enjoy himself. He was totally out of his element, but Maggie was always there, next to him, with her arm in his as he found himself engaged in multiple conversations. They laughed and ate and before he knew it, nearly an hour had passed. The music stopped for a minute as Herschel appeared, dressed in a dark suit, with his wife beside him. All eyes fell on him and all conversation stopped as he began to speak.
“We would like to thank everyone for coming tonight. Even Jimmy,” the guests snickered at this, “Having you in our home is very special to us. We welcome you and we thank you for helping us make this even something that we look forward to and cherish year after year. I’d like to propose a toast to all of our family, and friends, and our new friends, “Herschel looked directly at Glenn when he said this. Everyone raised their glasses as Herschel and Annette returned to their seats and the music resumed.
The dance floor quickly filled. The music was wonderful. It was a mix of jazz and big band classics. Glenn had no idea that people still enjoyed this type of music. He had grown up in a home where music was always played, all kinds. He enjoyed it thoroughly. Maggie tapped him on the shoulder.
“Aren’t you going to ask me to dance?” she asked. Glenn looked at the dance floor and then back at her. He stood, extended his hand and led her onto the dance floor, just as the slow song ended. Of course. It was replaced by the well-known saxophones of Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”. Maggie laughed as he hesitated and pulled him onto the dance floor. Glenn struggled to keep up with her energetic dancing and found himself laughing in spite of the frantic pace. They spun around each other, Glenn attempting to make it look like he knew how to dance, and Maggie adjusting to his ever shifting style. As the last note played, they fell into each other’s arms, laughing as the other dancers milled around them.
Glenn led Maggie back to the table and they sat, for a moment before Glenn sprang up to get more punch. As they drank, Glenn noticed that other tables were looking in their direction, smiling and nodding as they sat close to each other.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Maggie said as they finished their punch. They stood and walked from the barn into the dark. The night had cooled, and Glenn slipped his jacket across Maggie’s shoulders as they walked. They were silent as they reached an old well, and Maggie sat on the edge with Glenn beside her. As they sat, listening to the party in the barn, Maggie slipped her hand in Glenn’s. He squeezed it gently, feeling the warmth of her smooth skin against his.
“Daddy likes you,” Maggie whispered to him. He turned to face her. Her face was slightly upturned and she smiled slightly. “So do I.” Glenn’s heart froze. For a moment, neither of them moved. Neither of them breathed. Then slowly, they moved toward each other. Their lips met, just as the first drops of rain began to fall. Glenn blinked as the sky opened up and they broke their kiss.
“Glenn! Maggie!” a voice called out to them. It was Herschel, standing in the door of the barn, his form casting a long shadow on the ground in front of the barn.
But it wasn’t Herschel.
Herschel was dead.
Glenn sat up and blinked. The rain had come in through the tarp that was covering the window. He heard Darryl call their names again. Glenn stood up and waved out the window to let him know that they were alright. Darryl waved back and resumed his place on the porch, standing watch. Glenn reaffixed the tarp and slid back under the blankets covering him and Maggie. He looked around the small room that they were occupying, checked that his rifle was close by and snuggled against her. The rain had dampened her hair a bit and he used his hand to smooth it away. He looked at her for a moment, kissed her cheek. She sighed a bit and spooned up against him.
“Not now,” she muttered, I’m not in the mood…” Glenn laid his head beside hers and let sleep over take him once again.