Friday, August 26, 2011
Today's muse: Thursday Tales
Today's prompt: Tale #74, picture prompt below.
Rules include: Minimum 55 words. Maximum 777 words.
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Frank Wilkinson’s chocolate lab, Buford, heard the rumble of the Ford’s engine long before it crunched the pebbles on his driveway. The dog lifted his head, slid his dark eyes over to Frank.
“Stay,” said Frank. Buford, dropped his head. “You just lay there. I’ll take care of this.”
Frank remained seated in his rocker as the car made it’s way up the long lane and stopped in front of the weathered porch. A man and woman stepped out.
The woman carried a fancy handbag, wore heeled shoes. Despite the heat, the man’s sleeves remained rolled down, buttoned at the cuff. He hadn’t yet loosened his tie.
Too old, thought Frank, well into their thirties. It was better when they were teenagers.
The man dropped his head a moment, his grin sheepish. “Yeah, I think we are.”
Frank got up from the rocker, took his time crossing the porch. “Where ya headin’?” He leaned against the weathered post at the top of the stairs, seemed to be settling in for a visit.
The man glanced back down the drive, pointing at nothing in particular. “We’re driving to Mason.”
“You visitin’ family there?”
“No,” said the man, “we’re looking at a house. My wife was transferred to the University. She’ll be teaching computer sciences. I’m teaching chemistry.”
Frank hesitated a moment while he processed that information. “I take it ya’ll don’t know much about milking cows.”
The man chuckled. “No, not much.”
“Too bad,” Frank muttered.
He gave them directions, waved off the man’s thanks. Made them promise to stop by for coffee another time, once they’d settled into their new home.
“Drive safe now.” Frank watched the car drive away, waited until it was nothing but a cloud of dust before he stepped off the porch to make his way to the old barn. Buford trotted beside him, his tongue lolling to one side, a stupid grin on his face.
As always, Buford took the lead at the barn door. The dog ambled through the barn, ignoring the indignant snorts of cows and goats. He glanced back when he arrived at the last stall.
“Right behind ya, boy.”
Frank followed the dog through the narrow space between the enormous stack of hay and the barn wall. Buford plopped down on his rump, his tail thumping in anticipation.
Frank waved his hand over a rusted nail hammered into the weathered board. The contented cluck of a hen could be heard in the distance, though no chickens were kept on the ranch. At Frank’s signal, Buford bounded through the narrow opening that appeared between the weathered boards of the barn, and raced down the concrete stairs, barking to announce his arrival.
Frank followed, his transformation already underway. Shoulders pulled back, spine straightened. Hands—once calloused and weathered, now smooth and manicured—ran through dishevelled locks, instantly grooming them into what his assistant called a Cowboy Banker look. She insisted it was sexy. By the time he reached the bottom of the stairs, Frank’s gait was no longer a meandering stroll, but rather a militant march. He strode about the cavernous room, barking out orders in a commanding voice.
Andrea, his assistant, approached him, pressed a mug of black coffee in his hand. “Good morning, sir.” He took a sip, all but wept with gratitude. Andrea made damn good coffee.
In his office, Frank sank into the leather chair behind his desk.
Andrea wasted no time. “You have a meeting with Security at noon. The President will call at two-fifty to be briefed before the Iranian Consulate calls at three.”
He cut her off. “I may have found a recruit for Intelligence.”
Understanding he needed to talk, Andrea dropped into one of the club chairs in front of his desk.
He told her about the couple he met. Andrea knew it wasn’t uncommon to recruit a half, as they called it, but it was a scenario the Company avoided. Statistics on failed relationships aside, the security risk was a logistical nightmare. Andrea could see that Frank wanted to recruit the woman. “You know, Harold has been grumbling about retiring.”
“Works with André in Chem.”
She watched Frank as he processed this information, could see the moment he came to the same conclusion. She gathered her notepad and walked over to the door. “I’ll call the White House, have them recruited as a couple, arrange for them to be briefed before training.”
Frank shook his head. “What would I do without you?”
“You’d go through your day drinking shitty coffee,” Andrea said, as she left the room.