June has been the head leader of the Palm City Write Club for four years. During that time, she has coordinated writing related seminars and developed a massive campaign to encourage local writer’s to participate in ArtsFest short stories and poetry competitions and other writing contests. June is a published author of several novels and has been a selected winner of the National Novel Writing Month. June’s objective of her volunteer efforts is to encourage and support emerging writers of all ages in attaining their writing goals.
"Rocking is for the Old"
After a long week at the office, the high point of Judy’s week was attending the local flea market. The Saturday, when she had stumbled upon her beloved rocker, the frosty wind was stinging her rosy cheeks. As she raised her wool scarf higher, her leather boots crunched on dirt aisles dusted with Manchester’s first snow. The colorful tents gleamed in the sunlight. There were fewer vendor tables than usual and many were packing up early. Chilled, she too was about to leave when she halted in mid-stride. The sun reflected off an old rocking chair in front of a big tent labeled, “Estate Sale.” A woman wearing a red felt hat walked out and called back to her husband, “I’m leaving. Help this lady.” And as the woman passed her, she said. “Don’t buy that rocker.”
The tent’s entrance flapped in the wind as a burly man emerged. Wearing cut-out finger gloves and a scowl, he rubbed his hands to keep warm. “What do you want?”
Judy stroking the chair, “How much?”
His tone softened. “Oh, you’re interested in that rocker,”. “Look at those perfect curves around the woven cane seat. They round over the front sweeping into an upturned end finishing with a small scroll. The sign of a Bentwood.”
Judy retained a poker face. “But, what does it cost?”
He flipped the chair upside-down. “It’s embossed eighteen sixty-five.”
She clutched the dangling price tag. “One hundred and fifty dollars!” and turned to leave.
“Wait,” his gruff voice held her in place. “It was Hiram Brown’s favorite rocker.”
“Who is that?”
“Why…he was the first Mayor of Manchester.” He took his hand and ran it across the header. “For you—"
“It’s beautiful, but I can’t—"
“Seventy-five dollars.” The bald man contorted his face.
Judy echoed. “Seventy-five dollars. That’s still half my weekly income.”
“Eh, if you say so.” The man shrugged then grabbed Judy’s arm and directed her to sit, “Rock it. Smooth. Eh!”
When she touched the wooden arms, an intense serenity, a mystical force, overpowered her. Before she knew it, he had stuffed the rocker into the backseat of her car while she slipped her last bit of cash into his hand.
Arriving home, her neighbor Bob was walking toward his car, “Let me help you with that.” And before she could say I got it, he pulled the chair out of the backseat and headed back to the portico of the duplex. Her rental was on the left and his on the right. Once in her unit, he said. “Where do you want it?”
She pointed. “Right here will be fine.” As he lowered the chair onto the spot, Judy thought, he might be handsome without those thick, dark-rimmed glasses.
“That is one heavy chair,”
“Can’t. Gotta go. I’m late for dinner at my parents.”
As he left, she thought, nice guy, but no sparks. Oh well, at least he’s a helpful neighbor. She parked herself in the new rocker, sipped a cup of hot tea and escaped into a book. As a teenager, she preferred to curl up with a romance novel rather than attend high school dances. Even now she squirreled away in her apartment reading than hanging at bars with friends. Though at times, she felt isolated loneliness.
Darkness fell by the time she finished the last chapter of ‘Love is Everlasting’. She placed the book on her lap. “Wow, I wish I would meet a man like that.”
A knock startled her. At the front door she peered through the peephole. “Who is there?”
“May I use your phone?” a deep voice said. “My truck has broken down.”
“Try next door.”
“I did. No one answered. Please, miss. It’s awful cold.” He said.
She then remembered that her neighbor Bob had gone to his parents. “Well…okay,” as she twisted the lock with caution. There stood the most gorgeous guy she had ever seen. Mesmerized by his amber eyes she gestured to the yellow phone on the kitchen wall. “Straight back.” She watched him walk with that arrogant, confident strut often described in her romance novels. Was he real?
He lifted the receiver and spun the dial with a long finger. In a strange foreign accent, he said, “I need a tow. Wait a moment.” He twisted out the coiled cord to reach the counter where stamped envelopes with her address were stacked. As he bent over, she thought, nice tight jeans. After he read the address from the envelope, he hung up and smiled at her. Darn, he caught me staring. Say something. “Have we met before? You look familiar.”
“No, miss. I’m new in town.”
“Call me Judy.”
“Judy, they say it’ll take twenty minutes. I can wait outside.”
Bewitched, her legs weaken and common sense left her. “Oh, no…it’s below zero. I’ll get coffee?”
“That’d be great.” He plopped in her beloved rocker as if he belonged. The chair fit him perfectly. She imagined him in her future as they sat side by side reading. Snap out of it. Get the coffee.
She put down the coffee cups, tucked her brown hair behind her ears and talked incessantly. After their second cup, she realized she didn’t know anything about him and asked. “Where is your accent from?”
A long loud honk startled them. He jumped up and said, “That must be my tow.”
“Already?” She jumped up to get a pen. “Let me give you my number. Well, since you’re new in town and—”
“No need, I memorized it from your wall phone.” He then winked, flashed her a smirk that caused her to flush, and darted out to the tow truck.
She stood dazed before rushing to the window in time to see him pull away. Later that night she lay awake and reflected on the handsome man with rough-hewn features, olive skin, long black hair, and a thick mustache. Where have I seen him before? Darn, I forgot to get his name.
In the morning while viewing herself in the mirror, her hairbrush clattered into the bathroom sink. Her puffy eyelids drooped, almost closing her eyes. It must be from too much wine and not enough sleep. She picked up the brush, sprayed her hair, grabbed the house keys from the entry table and stepped out the front door.
Bob was standing at the adjacent doorway. “Good morning,” she said. A hint of a smile lingered on her face as she reminisced about Mr. Dreamy.
“Good morning,” he said.
Bob, wearing gray sweats, appeared even less exciting when compared to Mr. Dreamy. And not wanting him to intrude on her pleasant recollections, she scooted down the porch steps. "I’m late. Got to catch my bus.”
A few nights later, she heard another knock at the door. She flung it open, “I thought you forgot—”
“What?” Bob stood in a brown pullover, and pleated slacks holding a large, flat box and a bottle.
“Oh, I thought,” she paused as she eyed the bottle of wine, “Um, I thought you were someone else.”
“Did I come at a bad time?”
“Oh, no. What’s up?”
“I thought you’d like to share a pizza.”
“Sure, come in.” Bob poured the Chianti and they ate, talked and laughed for hours. While he talked, she thought, still no chemistry?
Weeks passed without a call from Mr. Dreamy. Disappointed and discouraged Judy sunk into the rocker and started to read a dog-eared page, you know, the good stuff, but was interrupted by the telephone ringing. Fumbling to get to her feet, she grabbed the receiver. She recognized the accent. “Oh, you’ve been out of town.” That is the reason he didn’t call. In a nervous pitch, she asked. “Would you like to come over for home-cooked meal tomorrow night, around six?” He agreed. She hung up and stared at the phone for a second before releasing an emotional outburst of excitement.
The next day Judy gave her employer a lame excuse to leave work early. She dashed to the florist for a bouquet and the bakery for fresh bread. Afterward, she went to the butcher where the curved glass case was filled with an assortment of meats with higher prices than she had expected. She fumbled through her wallet counting every bit of change as the butcher upon hearing her plight gave her two steaks for the cost of one. She thanked him and proceeded home.
Once home she covered the kitchen table with a white linen tablecloth and laid on top the bouquet and two white candles. Shedding her work clothes, she showered, curled her hair and painted her face for the evening. Throughout the day she would get a rush and excited feelings about Mr. Dreamy. I got to find something sexy. She thumbed through the closet for the right outfit. Something that makes me feel feminine, sensual. Something that will make him lean in and pull my lips to his. After trying on many different outfits, her rejects were spread across the bed. Then tucked in the back of the closet hung a black cocktail dress with the price tag still attached. It had a scoop neckline with a lower scoop in the back, a bodice, and flare chiffon skirt. She tried it on. Perfect.
When the clock struck six, she lit the candles and stood not to wrinkle her dress. When the clock struck seven, she thought he must have gotten tied up. When it struck eight, she wondered if he was in an accident. When it struck nine, she blew out the candles and flopped onto the bed sobbing.
Later, a loud banging roused her from her sleep. She eyed the clock. It was midnight. She rose and smoothed out the wrinkles from her dress. That better not be him at this hour.
Yet, once she opened the door and gazed into his amber eyes, she melted. She wanted to stay mad, but he charmed her, “All day I’ve thought about your home-cooked meal.”
“Um…it’s too late for dinner.”
“But not for dessert,” he grinned that smirk, she had dreamt about for the past few days, and there it was.
“Well, I’ve some apple pie?”
“It’s a start.” He strutted through the doorway.
In the morning, she swung her arm over to hug him but touched only cold sheets. She slipped out of bed, snatched her silky robe, and ambled into the living room, but it was empty. Her heart sank when she saw his truck was gone. Disappointment turned into embarrassment as her grandma’s words shouted in her head, why buy the cow when you get the milk for free.
After dressing, she glanced into the hallway mirror. Her face seemed years older with creases around her eyes and along the corners of her mouth. The wall clock chimed. Oh crap, I’m late again.
On the bus into city Judy recognized the woman with the red hat in the back and approached her, “I love the rocker your husband sold me.”
The woman’s eyes flashing with anger, “My husband sold you that Bentwood?” Squeezing her eyebrows tight, “He shouldn’t have. It’s cursed.”
With her right hand she touched her forehead with two fingers, her heart and both shoulders then spit. “The owner of that chair dealt in the black arts. It’s rumored that if you make a wish while rocking, it’ll come true, but at a cost.”
“Mr. Hampton, the rocker’s owner, became prosperous and wealthy, but died in his thirties appearing twice his age.”
The bus brakes screeched and the accordion doors hissed. Judy said, “Oh, that’s my stop.”
The woman called after her, “Beware! Evil resides in that rocker.”
Night after night as Judy longed for her lover, she wondered if what the woman had told her might be true. She sat in the chair, leaned back and pushed the floor with her toes. While rocking, she closed her eyes. I wish he would knock on my door again. As if in response, she heard three raps at the door, jumped out of the chair, and opened the door. There he stood. His amber eyes peered at her with such intensity she blushed. He pulled her to him with a firm kiss and carried her to the bedroom.
The next morning, he was again gone from her bed. Judy was not upset this time because she knew she could wish him back whenever she wanted. Marching into the bathroom she felt in control. Yet, the reflection that glared back from the mirror startled her. Oh, my god! She saw a face riven with lines of age and hair streaked with silver. Is the curse true? Boy, do I need a cup of coffee.
She sauntered to the kitchen coffee maker and to press the on-button, but the pot was full and a hazelnut scent rose to her nostrils.
A voice came from the living room. “I made the coffee,”
Startled, she walked toward the voice. He sat in the rocker with his legs stretch. She said, “I thought you left.”
“Why would you think that? I’m never leaving.”
“What do you mean?”
His eyes bored into hers. “I’m staying right here.”
No longer mesmerized she asked, “Who are you?”
“My name is Ingrid Cold. I am from Mesopotamia…you know it as Iraq.”
All her instincts shouted he’s crazy. She pulled open the front door, and then, pushed out the glass storm door. While standing outside, she held it open. “You must leave.” Shivering from the icy gusts of wind, “Please, I’m late.”
He slithered out of the chair and his heavy boots clopped toward her. The white of his eyes and amber iris turned black. “I’m a human miscreation, the demons of human thought and desire. You’ve summoned me with a wish. I’m not going anywhere.”
Terror engulfed her, “Get out!”
Once outside his hand grabbed her neck with such force her back hit the storm door so hard the glass cracked. She hung like a rag doll. Her heart raced when he moved his face in closer. His foul breath stunk of death. “You’re mine,” he said.
What frightened her most was not his powerful grip, but his vacant eyes. Tears coursed down her cheeks, and with his hands around her neck her voice was barely audible. “Please, please, let me go.” He was unaffected.
Emotionally detaching herself from what was happening, she gazed upward at the sky and recited, “The Lord is my shepherd…I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
He laughed and said, “Your Lord cannot help you here.”
Bob came outside and stood behind him pressing a kitchen knife to his throat while yanking him off her. He dragged him down the walkway and pushed him into his truck. “Don’t you ever come back here if you know what’s good for you.”
Bob rushed back to Judy’s side. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, thank you. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t come out.”
He returned the hug, “You’re safe, now.” Bob whispered in her ear. “I’ve loved you from the moment we met.”
Judy squeezed him in a tight embrace.
The following evening Bob knocked on her door. “I saw your favorite rocker and a large box of books in the trash. Are you all right?”
Judy, looking her youthful self again, “Yes, would you like to go out for dinner?”