Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

Sweat has turned Quinn’s strawberry blond hair into wet tendrils curled around his company-logo baseball cap. His tan company shirt is dark with sweat all across the back. Pale blue eyes peering out from thick eyeglasses, he smiles in a little boy lost way when I meet him at the front door.

“So, what kind of roaches are you seeing?”

I look down at his thick-soled work shoes. “Are your shoes clean?”

“Well, probably not, but I thought since it’s not raining right now, I’d spray the outside first, then put booties on my shoes and come in.”

“That works. Stay right there and I’ll bring out the captive.”

He laughs. It’s a nice sound, and for the first time, I notice he has a deep dimple.

I return with a comatose brownish-red roach in a small plastic bowl with a tight-fitting cover. Lifting the lid carefully, “I think he’s pretty much dead.”

“Oh good. He’s just a field cockroach. We’re seeing lots of these now because of all the rain.”

For the next half hour, I see Quinn moving from window to window, knocking down new wasp nests and looking for fire ants. We had to call him once when ants had tunneled in under the house and were building a huge colony in the empty space under a big bathtub. None of us could believe our eyes. It’s one of those weird things that can bind strangers to each other, something odd we saw together. So every time he comes to the house, we reminisce about the day we saw Ant Metropolis under the bathtub.

Buck was on the land line and I was on my cell much of the time Quinn was here yesterday. We’ve been working for a long time to get the county to approve some safety and drainage improvements for the narrow, windy road that leads to our gate. There’s an old, abandoned pit covered with kudzu-like vines hidden by one of the three blind curves on that stretch of patchwork asphalt. No guard rail, and few folks know the vegetation disguises a fifteen foot drop. A young woman in a small car missed the curve  this past June. Luckily, a fence post from the property next to the pit slowed her momentum. The newspaper photo shows her compact car dipping slightly in front. It made me shudder to think how close she came. It made us redouble our efforts.

Anyway. The phone calls were hot and heavy yesterday and it looks like we’re finally making some progress. When I lay down my phone, I see Quinn looming over the grand piano, staring down into the strings as though he might be seeing the third wonder of the world. His translucent blue booties look like shower caps.

“Are you done?”

Quinn snaps out of his reverie. “Oh, yes. I love this piano. It’s amazing. It’s the one instrument I always wanted to learn to play.” He looks at his hands, sighs. “But they told me my fingers are too fat, that I could never play.”

“Sure you can.” I hold out my small hands with the fat knuckles. “My fingers are too arthritic to play, but I do it all the time anyway.”

“You know what my favorite room in this house is?”

“No, which one?”

Quinn points up the stairs. “It’s that guest bedroom up there. It’s magical. Perfect. The only thing missing are mints on the pillows and a little book, open so people can write about how much they love being there.”

He had been tapping on his phone with a stylus, but stops to look at me. “You guys are always so kind to me. This is my favorite call. And if I ever have a house,” he points upward to a largely empty room across a bridged walkway, “a room like that would be perfect for my acquariums. My fish would be so happy here. If I ever have a house. If I ever have a wife.” His voice turns sad. “I’m fat,” he says and holds up a hand to stop my protest. “It’s true. I’m fat. I’ve always been fat. Maybe someday I won’t be, but right now I am.”

His smile returns, beatific. “I go in that bedroom upstairs and think how amazing it would be to have a wife.” He glances over toward the kitchen. “We could meet up after working all day, and cook supper together. When I was in the Navy, I thought for sure I’d be married by the time I turned thirty, but now . . . I’m trying to accept the fact that it may never happen.”

My cell phone rings again. “I’ve got to get that one. I’m sorry.”

“No, no. Call me if you guys have any issues. I’ll let myself out.”

It’s true that Quinn is fat. His job isn’t exactly a chick magnet. He doesn’t even have a personal car right now, having given the one he had to his brother. But I believe in love. I believe there’s somebody out there for everybody. I just hope Quinn’s “somebody” finds him soon. He would be a damn fine catch.


Quinn isn’t my friend’s real name, of course. I’d never bare his heart in the clear.





2 thoughts on “Dead Bugs, Happy Fish and Longing for Love

  1. Reads like a short story, Beth.


  2. Gullible says:

    Special, as always. Have you put any mints on the pillow yet, or are you leery of luring new insects?


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