0 comments

American Contemporary

 Cold Hand Luke—George Davis 

  Lucas Merryfield hasn’t always been a dullard, in fact, he was class president at Cumberland Falls high school, go Rams. Luke came from a long line of special people, a family with a talent for the dark arts, magic to be specific. However, Luke was never too interested in following in his family’s occult footsteps. His interest was in farming. He went on to the university to study agriculture, his goal to be a farmer like his father and grandfather before him. All he wanted to do was raise cattle, plant vegetables and live his life out of doors. However, love got in the way of his plans. 

  Lucas Merryfield hasn’t always been a dullard, in fact, he was class president at Cumberland Falls high school, go Rams. Luke came from a long line of special people, a family with a talent for the dark arts, magic to be specific. However, Luke was never too interested in following in his family’s occult footsteps. His interest was in farming. He went on to the university to study agriculture, his goal to be a farmer like his father and grandfather before him. All he wanted to do was raise cattle, plant vegetables and live his life out of doors. However, love got in the way of his plans. 

  He met Olive Newcomb at the university. They were in the same Freshman English class. It was love at first sight for Lucas ‘Luke’ Merryfield, not so much with Olive, she considered herself way above dating a ‘farmer.’ However, time was not on Luke’s side, after much grandstanding to gain Olive’s attention, to procure an audience with her majesty. He became despondent because of her rejection. By her repudiation, or because of it, he was more determined to gain her love. He should have been discouraged by her condescending attitude, but not Luke Merryfield. He knew adversity well. His family had been through rough times before, enemies like frost, heat, dry spells, as well as too much rain, produced spoiled crops. He wasn’t about to give up on getting a date with the campus’s prettiest girl. 

  Six months into his freshman year, she finally, with much reluctance, accepted his proposal to date. She didn't have any offers from prestigious, money family students in the past six months. 

  In reality, Olive was the most beautiful girl on campus in Luke’s eyes only. Olive was five-two, one-hundred-fifty-five pounds, thinning red hair, bright green eyes, set a little too close together, giving her face the appearance of an obese cartoon mouse. However, all that said, she did have a taste in the finer things of life, clothes, nothing off the rack for her, Armani, Dior, and Cassini. She wore expensive jewelry, a Lucien-Picard diamond studded watch and a diamond ring that sparkled like the Aurora Borealis on a summer evening. Luke’s appearance, by the same token, was jeans and plaid shirts sold at Walmart. Shoes from Goodwill and an $18 Timex watch from Target.  

  “Olive, won’t you go out with me. Please?” He had been seeking her attention for weeks. Her answer to him was a wrinkled nose, and a rolling of her eyes. “I will go out with you, one time and one time only. I don’t want a relationship with a…farmer. I am waiting for the right doctor or lawyer to come along.” Olive had high expectations for her Mr. Right, and it didn’t include Luke Merryfield. 

  “Okay, Olive, I understand, one date.” One date with this goddess will keep my heart beating for months he thought. I’m the luckiest guy in the whole world. 

  Luke chose The Bickford Inn located on Main Street in the small town by the same name, a coastal town thirty miles north of Portland, Maine’s largest city, and just over the Sagamore River bridge from Cumberland Falls. 

  Saturday night, The inn was festooned with Japanese lanterns, of many multi-colored paper covers, and banners celebrating the annual Old-Fashioned Days festival. The interior of the inn was newly painted a light cantaloupe with tan wainscoting throughout. The dark-brown carpeting went well with the walls and served to hide the coffee and other annoying spills. 

The mahogany balustrade and long winding staircase gave the inn a Victorian look. 

  “Right this way, please,” the maitre de led them to the rear of the dining room near the large bay window overlooking the Sagamore River. “This will give you a nice view while dining with us,” he said. The moon’s rays cast dark-gray ripples on the water’s surface, shimmering in its nocturnal glow.  

  “I’ll have the fried haddock with cheese sauce, creamed asparagus, baked potato with sour cream, a side of coleslaw and lettuce wedges with Russian dressing, and a Coke, not diet, regular, classic,” Olive said. Luke had a ribeye steak, mashed potato and peas with a steaming cup of fresh-brewed coffee. 

  Little conversation passed between them. Luke, fascinated by Olive’s beauty just stared at his date. He couldn’t imagine a beautiful girl like Olive here with him tonight, a dream come true.

  Olive was too busy eating to talk. When the dessert menu was produced, Olive ordered Tiramisu, and apple-pie ala-mode. She said she wasn’t that hungry. 

  “You know, Luke, believe it or not. I have enjoyed myself tonight. This inn has great food. Not that I was that hungry, but it did taste good, what I ate.” She ate everything and picked at Luke’s discarded fat and gristle that he had left on his plate. 

  Luke, so enamored with his date, couldn’t answer, just stared at her, lost in romantic reverie. 

  “I might just break my rule for dating farmers,” Olive said. “Will you bring me back here again, Luke?” He was beyond ecstatic. “Yes, yes I will, any time you desire, Olive.” 

  The evening ended well for Luke. He got to date the girl of his dreams, and she offered to date him again. He was on cloud nine with Olive’s desire to date him again. It was ecstasy. 

  The two dated for three months, eating often at the inn. Luke was in love. If there was anything he liked more than dating Olive Newcomb, it was farming. To Olive, farming was one of the lowest of the low professions. That made Luke sad. He wouldn’t give up his first love, horticulture, even for this dreamy girl, and he hoped he would never have to make that decision. With that in mind, he thought, maybe he could convince her a good farmer can make as much as a doctor or lawyer if he runs his farm responsibly. 

  Two weeks passed, and Luke had not seen, nor heard from Olive. She might be sick, or worse, she may have quit school and he would never see her again. When all appeared grave, Olive called him.

   “Olive, where have you been? I’ve been worried sick.” She loved men who fell at her feet, groveled in the dirt for her affections. “I’ve been around…I went back home. My mother was sick. Why would you be so affected by my absence? We aren’t going steady or anything, Luke.” She continued, “I am free to date others, while I perceive you to be a one-woman man.” She is so right, Luke thought. I am a one-woman man, and that one woman is you, Olive Newcomb. In Luke’s mind, he saw Olive as his prize to obtain. She would make him very happy.

  They dated three more times, dining at the Bickford Inn. On the last date, Luke asked her to marry him. He got down on one knee, at the booth where they had eaten their first dinner together. 

  Before she ordered her a herculean spread, he showed her the diamond ring he had been saving his money to buy. Olive wasn't impressed. The ring’s solitary diamond was too minuscule for her taste. However, she did acknowledge his seriousness. Reluctantly, and because Luke had a good taste in eats and eateries, she accepted. 

  “Now, Luke, get up off your knee and let’s order dinner. I’m hungry,” Olive said. Luke was ecstatic over Olive’s acceptance of his proposal. He couldn’t sleep that night. He tossed and turned, stared at her picture. All night long he yearned to hug her and kiss her. Her beauty was beyond his ability to put into words. 

  On a Saturday night in July, Luke and Olive were married in a small church off campus in their senior year. The ceremony was simple, with a college classmate serving as best man, Luke paid him $65 and rented his tuxedo. Olive had a cousin serve as bridesmaid, at the cost of $50, she was less expensive than the groom’s attendant. Luke didn’t have many friends, just the neighbor a mile down the road. He was always too busy on the farm to make friends, working days after school from sunup to sundown. Olive, because she was too pretentious, never made many friends. She couldn’t find any on her intellectual plane, she said. So, in desperation, she asked her third cousin, Melvina Goodman to act as bridesmaid. The cousins were never close, hadn’t seen each other in four years. Her cousin only accepted her request because Olive promised to give her a fifty-dollar gift certificate to Walmart.

  After the wedding, Olive moved into the farmhouse and immediately began to complain. “It’s too old fashioned. It needs modern updating. We’ll order new drapes for the living room, Luke. Those old lace curtains will have to go. They’re torn and stained yellow. We’ll need new furniture. This stuff is older than Methuselah’s donkey. Oh, and that picture over there, the one with the old man and woman will have to go.” It was a portrait of Luke’s mother and father. Since he was head over heals in love with his new bride, and didn’t want to upset her. He took down the photograph and stored it in the attic. 

  “Don’t you think we ought to wait until I sell some produce before we buy new furniture, Dear?” His bank account was dwindling faster than water in a boot with a hole in the heel.

  “I can’t live here another day with this old rotten stuff, it’s stained and smelly. We have to order new. Today, Luke, today.” 

  “All right, Dear. I’ll bring in the Sears catalog from the outhouse.” “Outhouse? Are you kidding me? Doesn’t this farm have indoor plumbing? I won’t sit down on a wooden plank with a hole in the middle for love or money.” 

  “Well, Dear, I’m going to have a toilet installed just as soon as we get some extra money.” 

  “You’d better come up with that money by tomorrow, or I’m leaving. I won’t use an old-fashioned privy.” 

  “Okay, Dear, I’ll call the plumber this afternoon.” 

  “You had better.” 

  Luke called the plumber, and he installed a new toilet. The furniture store delivered the new furnishings, and Luke had the entire downstairs repainted and new carpets laid over the old pumpkin pine boards. It now looked more like a Manhattan in-town apartment than a farmhouse. 

  Day after day, Olive nagged Luke about something. Her expensive plans had drained his bank account. He was already three-thousand dollars in debt, and he was sitting on a failed crop. It was a bad year for plant growth, little rain, and violent wind storms with hale the size of walnuts falling, raising havoc with his crops.

  There was no pleasing Olive. She was one of the most insufferable people on God’s green earth. Luke, after six months of marriage, was looking at his beautiful bride in a different light. No longer was she the queen of the acreage. She had become the witch of the plantation. He still thought his wife was the most beautiful woman in all the world even though she had gained thirty pounds since their wedding day. But, remember, Luke’s first love was and still is, farming, one of the things Olive hated with a passion. “Luke, you need to sell this old ark, and we need to move to the city where there is some life. I’m tired of being stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, no friends, no one to talk to. It’s a bore, I tell you.” 

  The one thing Luke was not willing to compromise, his love of the farm life. He married Olive Newcomb for one reason, and his plans for her would not fail. She didn’t love him; he understood that. Olive could never love anyone besides herself. She agreed to marry him because she thought his farm was worth thousands of dollars, and she could convince him to sell it. What she didn’t consider was his love of farming. He would never sell this place. She was an unwilling prisoner to agriculture. 

  “Don’t you miss your wife, Luke,” Bill Sanderson, Luke’s neighbor asked. 

  “She’s been gone, what, two months now?” 

  “Three.” 

  “You’ve never heard from her?”

  “Oh, I wouldn’t say that, Bill. But I’ll manage. I got me a new Guernsey milker.”

  “But, Luke, a milk cow can never take the place of a wife.”

  “Oh, I don’t know about that, Bill. This new Guernsey might turn out to be a great provider.”

  “Well, I knew Olive wasn’t cut out to be a farmer’s wife. It’s too bad though, I know you loved her.” 

  “Yeah, I miss her, Bill, but she’s still near, right here.” Luke put his hand on his chest over his heart.

  Over in the stall near the door, the new milking cow lowed a melodious, mournful tune. She was new to the barn, only been here three months. She was a strange looking bovine with red hair over her eyes, and if one used one’s imagination, they might think that poor cow was sad, she appeared to be crying perpetually.

  “Oh stop your complaining, Olive, you moo too much. Don’t you ever give it a rest?” 

  Olive, the newest addition to the farm, hated to be milked. She kicked over the bucket and lowed loudly, and fought Luke’s placing his cold hands where, she felt, they didn’t belong. After all, she was a lady of good breeding. 

  “Olive, of all my cows, you are the most obstinate, but you are also the most beautiful bovine I have ever seen in my life. And, even though you don’t produce much milk, and you eat your weight in hay every day, I still love you. Good night, Olive, sleep tight.”

  Ladies, if you meet a farmer who loves his occupation more than he loves you, don’t marry him. You could end up being milked by this man who is an udderly poor judge of the female sex. 

October 29, 2021 15:58

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

0 comments

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.