"Bond"- Chapter Four

River Road
The Virginia Exhibit
A Lost Car on Spike Canyon
The Beneficiaries
Invisible The Morning After
Beautiful Shadows
Something Like Wonder
Try to Keep Up
A Series of Moments Between Clocks
The Unromantic REAL World of Gulliver's Travels
Meant for One Thing
The Lesser of Evils
Love and Nemesis
The Sinning Bishop
The World In Your Pocket
Higher Purpose
A Promising Look at Genesis
Not For The Ladies
Fooling Around and Falling In Love
The Tediousness of Tragic Love
Poetic Analysis for "The Trees"
Creation On Dub
Creating the Universe
Fast Acting In Small Doses
As Crazy As They
We Can Always Use More Utopia
A Little Church in Corinth
The Theory of Carl Rogers
Historically Speaking
Different Shades, Same Color
A Rose for a Funeral
Obsessed With Race

     Adam pushed the heavy door open gently and silently, but found Frally Winter staring at the doorway regardless. She was perched up on a stool behind the counter, a small blanket wrapped tightly around her shoulders, and her light blue eyes sparkled with weary moisture. There was no one else in the store, and she had probably been hoping for a customer to come in any second. Business was very slow when it rained in Palmer Ellis.

     "Good afternoon, Ma'am," he managed politely, checking the crooked wooden clock on the wall above her head to be sure it was actually after noon. It was about half past.

     She replied with a nod, looking down at a stack of boxes, wanting to move onto something else now that she had identified her customer. He had seen her a few times before on the street, but he had never seen her looking this unsettled. Frally Winter normally had a very comfortable, satisfied air around her, and wore brightly colored wool dresses that she unbuttoned to the sternum. Her hair, which was now pulled tightly back into a utilitarian knot, was usually braided or pinned loosely, showing off the dignified single streak of gray which ran its course through her dark tresses. That streak was now hidden.

     He realized he must be idly staring, and focused instead on the seed sack in his hand. He remembered that Mistress Irvine had asked him to speak to Frally about the payment.

     "Miss Winter..." he began, and was surprised at her quickness to correct him.

     "That's Mrs. He may not be standing here but that doesn't change the paperwork."

     It seemed like a lot to say after she had merely nodded in response to his initial greeting. He smiled with the best humor he could manage and continued to inquire about the seed. She seemed to be lightening up from whatever darkness he had noticed at first, and the thought of that overshadowed his momentary confusion at her remark. He knew nothing about a Mister Winter, but then again, what did he know about the townspeople anyway?

     She brushed a bit of corn dust from the hem of her heavy, dark blue skirt as she went to fetch him the seed. He admired a woman who would lift and carry things, because most in Palmer Ellis wouldn't. The value of a thing always went up with rarity, he supposed.

     "You seem troubled, Mrs. Winter," he had spoken aloud before he could stop himself. At first he thought she must not have heard him from her position, pulling seed sacks down from overhead storage. It was probably for the best.

     She plopped the heavy bags down at his feet and rose, looking him right in the face. The look in her crystal eyes told him she had heard him, and that she was not suspecting this observation to come so easily. She turned back to the counter and began adding up the order on a sheet of paper, sneaking glances back over her left shoulder to assure him she was not ignoring his comment. She spoke the math outloud to herself, scrawled a neat total, circled it, and then filed the sheet away in a stack.

     "The Witch Doctor is out walking around," she finally spoke, her tone serious but still conversational. "He walked by here...and it scared me the way he was looking at those layabouts. I bet he is planning to do something awful to them."

     "The doctor from the Vespers?" he asked, knowing that must be who she meant. He had never suspected that he was any kind of witch, but the people in town would know better than he. He had never seen the doctor, but had heard (and overheard) stories that made him very uncomfortable indeed.

     Frally nodded. "He's just walking around in the rain, mocking Eclisolus and testing his divine patience, no doubt. It chilled my blood when he walked in front of that window." She gestured to the big storefront window that was still dry and clean under the awnings outside. "There was still quite a bit of light coming through it to counter the shadows of the storm- praise Ecli- but when that witch stepped in front of it, I felt the cold dark of evil sweep through here. I had to get my blanket out."

     Adam let his eyes widen, and looked at the front window some more to avoid the frightening seriousness in her face. What sounded like well-rehearsed melodrama was actually her true feelings about what had happened, and what chilled him more than her story was her reaction. How can one person walking by- on the other side of a wall, even- make one grown woman feel so horrible?

     "You didn't see him, did you?" she asked, when he had not responded.

     Adam shook his head. "No, Ma'am. I have never seen him."

     Hoping the movement wouldnt frighten her, he pulled his pit-knife from his back pocket and sprung it open, moving it quickly to the sack of seed. He split the top with a wide cut and began pouring the first bag of seed into his grain tote. When this rain cleared up, it would be the perfect opportunity to go ahead and get Mistress Irvine's grass layed out. The soil would suck it all down nicely, and there would be no wind to blow it out of place.

     "How many years have you been working with the Irvines?" Frally asked, bending to cut the other bag with her own knife from the counter. Adam mused at her decision to use the word "with" instead of "for." "With" was actually much more accurate, though many people mistook his position as one of near slavery.

     "This is only my second season," he clarified, lifting the bag she had cut before she could do it herself. When all the seed had been transferred to his tote, he slung it back across his shoulders, grunting with the effort. He realized that the grass seed would become mixed up with the other grains he already had in his bag, but he had been carrying Klineoak, which would not grow in the muddy patch and would instead act as a sort of fertilizer for the grass when it began to break down.

     He was already stepping toward the door, thinking about his next planting project, when Frally stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. He felt a momentary flush at his nearly leaving, absent-mindedly, without even saying goodbye.

     "Your name is Adam, right?" she asked him, her hand sliding down his arm and then dropping down to her side again.

     "Yes Ma'am." He boosted the grain tote a little higher on his shoulder, where her hand had been. "Adam Love. It was nice to finally meet you today."

     She seemed interested in further conversation, but it wouldn't be dutiful of him to hang around and banter all afternoon. Mistress Irvine surely already had a complaint about his efficiency ready for Lile when he returned from Carsille.

     He turned to Frally one last time before pushing through the door and out into the rain. She was returning his sentiment about being pleased to have met, but he hardly heard her words. When she finished speaking and was simply smiling at him, he put one foot outside and offered her words he knew would make her feel better, regardless of how much he knew about good and evil.

     "Don't be afraid of the doctor, Mrs. Winter. You're such a good person, evil couldn't touch you with a fence-pole."

     He felt her quiet little gasp of joy as he stepped back out into the midday, shining with metallic rain rather than warm sunshine. The air smelled of damp wood and soil, and the pooled water from the street was beginning to climb against the walkway.

     The little girl in rags watched him as he walked past, her face never moving- just her eyes. He wondered what it must have been like for her to be sitting here as the "witch-doctor" walked by, and if she had felt the same dark evil that Frally had.

     It saddened him that a little girl should have to feel the true presence of evil when he, in his twenty-five years, never once had.