“Back for more pie, eh?” Curtis whistled through his teeth.
“No,” Judy said, holding her fresh-baked pie. “I thought I’d bring a pie as thanks for last time.”
“What is it?” he licked his lips, though that could have just been to get moisture to his mouth.
“Mmmm,” Curtis slid his dry tongue over his lips again. “I’d take a taste of your cherry any day, little girl! HAAaaa~!” His laugh turned into a wheeze and then a wet cough. Judy had a lovely grandfather who was always a gentleman in the presence of women. She had thought that it was just the era, that all men raised then learned to treat women the same way, but this man was dispelling all her illusions.
“Are you all right?” she finally asked.
“Fine,” he coughed. “Fine. Just get me some water with that pie.”
Judy looked for some bottles of water around the kitchen, distilled water in the fridge, anything she thought an old man should have to keep healthy. She eventually decided that there were none and decided to use the tap. “Here. It’s from the tap. I don’t know if you had anything else, ” she said, offering the drink to him. She waited for some kind of response, but he merely nodded his head as he took the glass. “I’ll go cut up the pie.”
Judy had an easier time finding the pie slicer. It was old, silver, with a flower design. Perhaps it belonged to his wife. Given the abruptness of their first conversation, she hadn’t asked Curtis much about his family or personal life. She hadn’t seen her sitting out with him, so she and the neighbors all assumed he was a widower.
When Judy cut into her pie, red cherries oozed out. The crust was golden and resisted a little against the slicer before flaking apart. Curtis’s pumpkin pie was good, but Judy’s pie could win awards! She took two plates out and gave him the second slice that hadn’t fallen apart.
Curtis’s hand shook as he blew on the forkful of pastry. He chewed, slowly, swallowed, then put his fork down on the plate. Judy waited eagerly for a reaction as the man licked his lips.
“You know, my wife was a terrible cook.”
This was not the response Judy was hoping for. Judy smiled, taking a few deep breaths. She reminded herself that he probably didn’t have long to live and strangling him wouldn’t be worth it.
“Oh? I didn’t know you had a wife.”
“Sixty-two years. Loony as a cuckoo bird, that one. Couldn’t read anything without her glasses and she’s dyslexic to boot. ‘Curtis,’ she’d say to me. ‘Why do we have something called “bear slices” in the pantry?’ An’ I’d tell her, “Nonsense! Those are pear slices, you old bat!’ We’d argue like that for fifteen minutes and then hobble to the bedroom and make love. I’d be her papa bear and she’d be my little Goldie Locks.”
Judy tried to erase that image from her head. She put some cherry pie in her mouth. The cherries were delicious, just a little overripe, but the texture tasted bad today, like loose skin. The thought of old people sex was affecting her palate. “What happened to her – your wife?”
“She died,” he took another bite of the pie and made a face. Judy bit her lip, trying to be civil.
“I mean, how did she pass?”
“Pass? Oh. Ovarian cancer. Doctors gave her a year. She lived five months.”
“For what?” bits of crust flew from his mouth. He pointed his fork at her. “Did you give my wife cancer?”
“No. I just… I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Maaah! I didn’t lose nothin’! She’s dead!” He didn’t seem at all worried about his wife dying. All manners and protocol told Judy that she should be horrified by this, but she also felt a bit of admiration for him. Curtis didn’t tip-toe around death. Her family used to mourn every little thing. When her grandfather died, she wasn’t even sure whether anyone was genuinely sad for his passing or they just felt like they had to act sad. It was a horrible thing to think about them, but…
“Gad damn it!” Curtis cried. His pie fell to the ground.
“Don’t worry. I’ll get you some more pie.”
“No. Sit down.” She did as she was told and folded her hands in her lap, just as she’d always been taught. Curtis, cherry filling on his shirt, sat with legs spread out wide and his hands tucked under his belly.
“You know, if my wife heard me say the Lord’s name in vain like that, she would have flayed my hide. Got in the habit of sayin’ it like that fucking Dan Aykroyd guy.”
“That was the movie. ‘W’ere on a mission from God.’ You know?”
He sat for a minute, smacking his gums and staring into space. Just as Judy was about to say something to break the silence, Curtis opened his mouth. “Gad, I miss that crazy bitch.” He sighed, coughed, then closed his eyes. He looked like exhaustion had come and scooped everything out of him in an instant.
“Are you all right?”
Curtis bowed his head. She thought it was a nod.
“Well, perhaps I should be going, let you get your rest. I hope you enjoy the rest of your pie.”
“Goodbye. Don’t bring pie anymore. I’ll bake.”
“Bye, Curtis. Have a good evening. It was wonderful seeing you again.”
When Judy got home, she screamed into her pillow.