Short Stories

Chickens, Cats, Howling Dogs, and Fireworks: Elaine’s July 4th Weekend

This story is dedicated to my sister, Cheryl. Enjoy!

One hot, sunny July fourth afternoon in the year of two thousand and ten, Elaine just left Seattle in her brand new black Cadillac Seville. She cruised down Interstate 90, weaving in and out of heavy traffic on her way to see her new man Greg. She met him online a few months earlier, and he had invited her to Spokane for the holiday weekend. She was to meet his daughter, Lisa who lived in Spokane, and the drive there would take her four hours.

Although, Elaine looked calm, her stomach rattled like an old washing machine. Even after she gulped down a banana pineapple smoothie, her stomach churned in knots. Annoyed, Elaine sighed as she glanced at her rolex watch. Time seemed to tick by slow, it was only two o’clock. Greg wasn’t expecting her until seven so she leaned back in her seat and settled in for the boring drive.

Interstate 90 stretched for hundreds of miles. On each side of the highway, cattle grazed lazily in the hot grassy fields. Elaine took off her Raybun sunglasses and rubbed her hazel-green eyes. She yawned, stretching her mouth wide feeling tired from the long drive. She kept her eye on the road as she reached over, turned on the radio, and repeatedly tapped the tune button on the dashboard stereo. Finally she found her gospel station, and Kirk Franklin’s hit song, “Smile” boomed from the car speakers. Emotionally moved, Elaine bopped her head like a ping pong ball to the rhymthic beat then the song went off and the disc jockey came on.

Elaine squirmed in her seat, and sweat trickled down her face. She reached up with one hand and swiped the straw hat she was wearing off her head. With long cinnamon brown fingers, she raked through her curly red auburn hair, and with the other hand she steadied the car keeping it straight on the road. Elaine was full figured, attractive with expressive hazel-green eyes. Despite her plumb figure, she wore dresses, and big hats with style.

However, her friend, Greg was completely opposite. His idea of style was casual. He often wore loafers with faded jeans, and he would throw on his favorite corduroy sports jacket over a plain white shirt. Hardly Elaine’s idea of a stylish, well-dressed man. She was spoiled. Her deceased husband, a pastor, used to wear silk doubled breasted suits to work or church. Needless to say, she missed his impeccable style.

Before long, Elaine saw the sign to Spokane, Washington. She had fifty miles to go, and again, she glanced at her watch. It was now six o’clock in the evening, and the sun was morphing into an orange ball of fire. Dusk was settling on the horizon so Elaine pulled over. She parked on the side of the road and turned on her GPS. She typed in Lisa’s address then she pulled out onto the highway.

Thirty minutes later, she was on Chicken Coup Road. Beautiful red brick homes on manicured lawns decorated the newly paved street. Elaine searched for Lisa’s house looking for the number 455. As the paved street narrowed into a dusky dead end, Elaine’s face contorted into a gremlin-like frown. Straight ahead she noticed a barb wired fence wrapped loosely around an old wood shabby house. The house tilted to the side was propped up on cement blocks. Elaine parked her Cadillac and turned off the ignition. She blinked her hazel-green eyes in amazement and shook her head.

“Surely this isn’t it,” as she tried to convince herself. “This can’t be it. I better call Lisa. Maybe I passed the house by mistake.”

Elaine snatched her cell phone out of her Coach Handbag and dialed Lisa’s number. The phone rang for several seconds and the ringing vibrated like a buzzing bee. Finally a woman anwsered. “Hello, this is Lisa.”

Lisa sounded warm and inviting, and Elaine breathe a sigh of relief. “Hi Lisa, this is Elaine. I’m on your street, but I can’t find your house. Where are you?”

“At the end of the road,” Lisa chuckled.

“You mean the brown wood house with the barb wire fence?”

“That’s right,” Lisa clarified. Elaine’s heart sank. She couldn’t believe it. She drew in a deep breath and used her musical voice to tried to sound cheerful. “I’m right out front. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Great, I can’t wait to see you!”

“Likewise.” Elaine hung up and started up her car. She drove up the dusky road to Lisa’s home. On her right, five rusty cars in need of repair were parked alongside the road. There were two red Toyotas, two copper brown mustangs, and a four-door silver gray Honda. Little brown and black chickens raced hither and yond up and down the road. Elaine noticed chickens scurrying back and forth on the porch.

Elaine scowled and shook her head. “This place is full of chickens! I can’t do chickens!”

Elaine parked her vehicle, shoved the door open, and gradually eased out. With her handbag on her shoulder, she smoothed out her white cotton dress. She reached in her car and grabbed her suitcase. She dropped it on the ground breathing heavily. She slammed the car door and locked it. Then grabbed her suitcase and started toward the house. Her eyes watered from the smelly white chicken poop splashed on the ground before her. She gagged, almost fainting from the putrid, rotten smell.

Suddenly Greg emerged from the house. Chickens scattered everywhere trying to get out of his way. He ran down the stairs. When Elaine laid eyes on him, she cringed at the sight of him. He wore a plaid red short-sleeved shirt tucked in dirty brown dungarees and his bulky orange rubber boots were caked with dried mud. Strands of salt and peppered hair peeked from underneath his Mariner’s baseball cap, and his piercing blue eyes looked like large buttons on his dusky face.

Excited to see Elaine, Greg broke out into a wide grin. He snatched her suitcase out of her hand and dropped it on the ground. He wrapped his thick arms around her shoulders, squeezing her tight. “You’re so dirty!” She cried out, wrinkling up her nose. She pushed him away. He smelled like an old musky towel.

“I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “I was doing repairs around the house. I know I smell bad.”

“That’s an understatement,” Elaine flippantly mumbled under her breath. Ignoring her comment, Greg grabbed her hand.”Come on, let’s go inside,” he said.

“Okay,” Elaine replied looking wide-eyed. As they walked up the stairs, the wood creaked and moaned. Once they reached the door, two howling dogs greeted them. One was a white toy poodle and the other a brown lab retriever. The canines took turns out doing each other with their loud howling. Irritated by the noise, Elaine slapped her hands on her plumb hips and violently cursed. “You two bitches shut the hell up, right now!”

The dogs immediately stopped howling. Startled, they took off down the stairs, whimpering to themselves, as they disappeared across the yard behind the chicken coup. Greg roared with laughter. “Elaine, I think you hurt their little feelings.”

“They were making too much damn noise! I couldn’t hear myself think,” Elaine giggled getting tickled. Greg laughed and opened the door. He motioned for Elaine to follow him in. She did so with great caution taking one step and then peeking shyly around the door. Greg grinned wide looking like a Cheshire Cat. “Don’t worry, it’s safe,” he assured her waving her in.

Elaine walked inside and to her dismay, three black cats ran up to her. They whined and cried which grated on Elaine’s nerves. Her nostrils itched and she sneezed. One cat edged closer and rubbed his head against her bare leg. Elaine’s eyes begin to itch and tear up. She sneezed repeatedly, scaring off the cat. The cat screeched and leaped in the air. It landed in a nearby chair, and stared at her with glaring yellow eyes. “Creepy,” she mused. Elaine looked at Greg. “I’m allergic to cats. I can’t be around them,” she informed him.

“Oh dear, I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I’ll get rid of them.”

“Thank you,” Elaine coughed. He scooped up the cats and disappeared down the hall. Elaine sneezed repeatedly and her eyes itched like hell. She rubbed them hard until they turned tomato red. Now fighting an allergic reaction, Elaine grabbed her Benadryl from her handbag. She twisted off the cap and popped four pills into her mouth. Then she grabbed her inhaler, screwed off the cap and took three puffs.

A few minutes later, she was feeling better. Elaine found a chair in a corner in the hallway and sat. While she rested, Greg’s daughter, Lisa showed up in the hall. She was barefooted with her red hair tangled into a messy mop, and she looked trampy in her see-through yellow top and ripped jean shorts. When she smiled, her grill was missing two front teeth, and her voice was dry and raspy from smoking. “So you’re the special lady in my dad’s life. Glad to finally meet you.”

“I’m happy to meet you too,” Elaine sneezed. ” Thanks for inviting me to your home.”

“You’re quite welcome. Are you all right?”

Elaine dismissively waved her off. “Oh, it’s allergies. “I’m allergic to cats.”

“Oh too bad,” Lisa pouted, poking out her bottom lip. She ran across the hall to the closet, and swung the door open. She grabbed a box of tissue, tossing it to Elaine. “Here take one.”

Barely catching the box before it landed on the floor, Elaine grabbed a tissue, and blew her nose like a fog horn. Lisa’s violet eyes stared back at her with amusement, and Elaine felt her cheeks getting warm. She quickly apologized. “I’m so embarrassed! Please excuse me. My behavior is horrible.”

Lisa cracked up laughing. “No worries. I hope you feel better soon.”

“I will.” Elaine said with a flushed face.

Greg stood in the hall, giving Lisa an icy glare.”You should’ve dressed better! You looked sloppy!”

Lisa rolled her eyes heavenward and whirled around. With her back to her father, she sashayed down the hall. “Elaine, come with me,” she hollered back. “Let me show you where you’re staying.”

Elaine hesitated. She eyeballed Greg looking to him for permission to follow Lisa. He looked perturbed as he watched Lisa walked away from him. He threw one hand up and gestured.”Go ahead. I’ll deal with her later,” he said.

Elaine didn’t say a word. Instead she inhaled deeply and reached for her suitcase. She went after Lisa and caught up with her in the living room. Eaine checked the place out. It was spotless. A pleasant surprise that Elaine didn’t expect. However, Lisa’s decorating taste left alot to be desire. Elaine didn’t care for her country-styled taste or out-dated gray furniture. As they moved throughout the house, Elaine secretly admired Lisa’s chestnut hardwood floors.

When the two women arrived in the guest room, Lisa hurled her petite body through the wood door. Once inside, she waved for Elaine to follow her in. The room, smelling like fresh lemons, was roomy and quaint. The room was painted in a bright fluorescent pink, and oil paintings of farm animals hung on the walls. Against the far wall, sat a queen sized maghoney wood framed bed draped in a red comforter with fluffy black pillows scattered on top.

Elaine dropped her suitcase in the middle of the floor and sat on the bed. She squinted from the bright pink paint while rubbing her hands over the cushiony comforter. Taking note of the soft texture, she mumbled. “This is so nice, thank you.”

“I’m glad you like it,” Lisa warmly smiled. “In the bathroom, you’ll find towels in the vanity closet.”

“Thank you,” Elaine said as she continued to checked out the room. Elaine gasped, stiffening up when she noticed a dead beetle on its back in the far corner. She wondered if Lisa had a problem with bugs. “Any issues with bugs?” Elaine innocently asked.

“No, not really,” Lisa said looking down at the floor.

Elaine sighed deeply and Lisa studied Elaine’s face. She folded her arms, and scoffed. “If you happen to see bugs, the spray is in the closet.”

“Thanks,” Elaine said taking note of her scornful tone. Lisa turned and went for the door. “Why don’t you freshen yourself up for dinner. We’re eating at eight and fireworks begin at nine,” she said.

“Will do.” Elaine sternly replied, feeling irritated. She didn’t like being told what to do. Lisa left the room, slamming the door behind her. Elaine made a face and slid off the bed. She gave the room a quick once over. She lifted the comforter and looked underneath the bed. Except for a few dust balls, she didn’t see any bugs. Then she ran to the bathroom and inspected the bathtub along with the shower. Satisfied she didn’t see any dead little creatures lurking around, she blew out her cheeks in a sigh of relief.

She went back to the room and tossed her suitcase on the bed. She flopped down with her plumb bottom sinking down into the mattress, and she began unpacking her suitcase. Then out of the blue she heard, pop, pop, pop and she scrambled off the bed, ducking to the floor. Her heart pounded like a drum in her chest as she sat crouched on her knees beside the bed. Scared out of her wits, she was afraid to move. A moment later, she heard Greg shouting outside her window. “You critters get the hell out of my yard with those firecrackers! You come here in again, I’m calling the police!”

There was loud husky laughter and stomping of feet. Then a few seconds later, there was complete silence. Realizing she wasn’t in any danger, Elaine took a deep breath and stood up. “This place is crazy! What have I gotten myself into?” she grumbled shaking her head. Then she unzipped her suitcase and sat on the bed. “I might as well make the best of this. It’s going to be a very long weekend.” Thank you For Reading And Have A Happy Fourth Of July!

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