A little by Lenny Falcone, but a lot by Ernest Hemingway.The hills and mountains across the glen from the Original General Store were big and white, with patches of orange from the leaves remaining on the elms. On the store’s side of the street there was no snow and no trees, and the Fire Station was on the other side, far away from the store’s telephone lines and its signs. Close against the side of the store there was an icy patch in the shadow of the building, and a curtain made of icicles hung from the roof across the front porch, keeping out the sun. The Mexican and the girl with him sat at a table next to the windows, inside. A writer sat against the same windows, in the corner. It was very cold, and the Shuttle from Killington would come in 40 minutes. It stopped at the General Store for two minutes and went on to Rutland.
“What should we eat?” the girl asked. She had taken off her ski hat and put it on the table.
“It’s so cold here,” the man said.
“You need coffee”
“I’ll get dos cafes,” the man said as he stood.
“You want the big ones?” the owner asked from the serving station.
“Sure,” the girl responded.
The Mexican took two large coffees and two napkins. He put the coffee and the napkins on the table and looked at the girl. The girl was looking off at one of the hills. It was large and orange in the sunlight, with white on top, and the country before it was frozen and hard.
“It looks like something,” she said. “That hill…” She nodded toward it.
“I know what it looks like.” The man drank his coffee.
“Of course. That’s what everything looks like to you nowadays.”
“Well it does,” the man said. “And you saying it doesn’t wouldn’t change anything.”
The girl looked at the blackboard menu. “They wrote in a special,” she said. “What does it say?”
“The Wall. It’s a big, breakfast sandwich. They cut it in half and lay it across the plate. See?” He pointed. “Not funny.”
“Could we try it.”
The man called ‘ma’am’ toward the register. The owner came out from behind the counter.
“We want two Walls” he said.
“Plain or hot?” the owner inquired.
“Do you want it with hot sauce?” the Mexican asked the girl.
“I don’t know,” the girl said. “Is it good with hot sauce?”
“Yes, but it’s hot,” the Mexican answered. “Could be very hot.”
“Do you want it hot?” the owner asked again.
The sandwiches arrived steaming.
“It tastes like an Egg McMuffin,” the girl said and put the sandwich down.
“That’s the way with everything here.”
“Yeah” sighed the girl. “Nothing’s what it’s cracked up to be. Especially the things you waited so long for.”
“Oh, cut it out!”
“You started it,” the girl said. “I was being clever. I was having a nice time.”
“Well, let’s try and have a nice time.”
“All right. I was trying. I said the hill looks like him. Wasn’t that clever?”
“Yeah. Real bright.”
“Ok. Now I do want to try that hot sauce. That’s all you want to do, isn’t it—look at things and try new foods?”
“I guess so.”
The girl looked across at the mountains.
“They’re lovely hills and mountains,” she said. “They don’t really look like anything else. I just meant the coloring of the snow and the trees there did.” She turned back to the Mexican. “I think I need something else to eat”
The cold wind blew through the icicles and against the window next to the table.
“The faro oatmeal is nice and hot,” the man said. “Would you like some?”
“Yes. Lovely,“ the girl said.
“It’s really a simple thing, Nancy,” the man said. “It’s not much at all.”
The girl looked at the barn board floor the table legs rested on.
“It won’t affect US, baby. It won’t change anything. It takes 5 minutes.”
The girl did not say anything.
“We’ll go downtown and this will all be over.”
The girl was silent.
“I need to talk to you about this.”
The girl looked away.
“Don’t you want what I want?”
“God! Let’s say I, we, do it. Then what will we do afterward?”
“We’ll be fine afterward. Just like we were before.”
“What makes you think so?”
“That’s the only thing bothering us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.”
The girl walked out onto the porch. She looked at its beadboard ceiling, put her hand out and took hold of one of the lacy icicles. It dissolved. She returned without it.
“And you think then everything’s gonna’ be alright and we’ll be happy.”
“I know we will. You don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it.”
“So do I,” said the girl. “And afterward they all lived happily ever after. Oh, and what pictures!”
“You’re so sarcastic,” the man said. “If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. I won’t make you do it if you don’t want to. But it’s easy.”
“And you really want me to do it, don’t you?”
The man nodded. “It’s the only thing I can think of to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to…”
“So if I do it, you’ll love me and we will live happily ever after. And if I don’t…”
“I love you now. You know I’ll always love you.”
And if I say things like a hill looks like something else, you’ll like it?
“Of course you do. But if I do it, you’ll love me more and everything will be ‘bueno’ again and then if I say things like a hill looks like something else, you’ll like it?”
“I’ll love it. I loved it now, but I just can’t think straight. You know how I get when I worry.”
“And if I do it you won’t have to ever worry about him again?”
“Well, I won’t worry about that.”
“You’re obsessed with him! Look, if I do it, I’ll do it for us. Because I don’t care about him.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t care about him.”
“Well, you should. I care about him. Just look at what he’s trying to do to me. To us.”
“You obsess. And you mostly care about yourself. You know, you never asked how I wanted it to be.”
“I don’t want you to do it if you feel that way.”
The girl stood up and walked to the front of the store. Across, on the other side of the road, were the snow-covered fields of the Aimee Farm and the frozen stream. Far away, beyond the farm, were mountains.
The shadow of a cloud moved across the farm and the hiking trails were visible through the trees.
“We could have had all this,” she said. “We could have had everything right here in the summer, in the Red Barn. Or the Brown Barn. But every day he does something else to make it impossible.”
“What did you say?”
“I said we could have had everything here.”
“We can still have that and everything else.”
“No, we can’t.”
“We can have the whole world.”
“No, we can’t.”
“We can go everywhere.”
“No, we can’t. You can’t even be here anymore.”
“He can’t take what we have. ”
“No? Once you’re gone, you’ll never get back in. Then what? He wins.”
“But I haven’t gone away yet. I’m here since I’m 2. I belong here.”
“Come here, sit down,” he said. “Don’t be that way.”
“I’m not anyway,” the girl said. “I just know things.”
“I don’t want you to do anything that you don’t want to do…”
“Right. And this is what’s best for us,” she said. “I know. You’ve said it one hundred times. Could I just have another coffee?”
“All right. But you’ve got to realize…”
“I realize,” the girl said. “Can you maybe stop talking?”
Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?
They sat down at the table and the girl looked across at the mountains on the other side of the valley and the man looked at her and at the table. “You’ve got to realize,” he said, “that I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to. I’m perfectly willing to leave and go through the whole process and wait if it means that much to you.”
“Doesn’t it mean anything to you?”
“Of course it does. But all I really want is to be with you.”
The Mexican took the girl’s hand. “Sólo te quiero a ti. La ceremonia y los adornos y el partido…No tengo sentido para mí. You understand? And I don’t want to risk it. I know it’s very easy .”
“Yes, you know it’s all very easy.”
“It’s all right for you to say that, but I do know it.”
“Would you do something for me now?”
“I’d do anything for you.”
“Ok. Then would you please please please please please please please stop talking?”
He did not say anything, but looked at their bags against the wall of the store. There were airline tags on them from the many places in America they had been together.
“But I don’t want to,” he said, “I said I needed us to talk about this. Can’t we do that?”
“Aren’t we? Don’t we talk about something he did every single day?”
The man stood.
“I could just scream,” the girl said.
The owner came out from the kitchen with the check and put it down between them. “The shuttle comes in five minutes,” she said.
The girl smiled brightly at the woman, to thank her.
“I’d better take the bags outside,” the man said. The girl smiled wryly at him.
“All right. Then come back and we’ll finish and pay up.”
He picked up two heavy bags and their skis and poles and carried them to the sidewalk. He looked up the road but could not see the bus. Coming back, he walked through the deli section, where other people waiting for the bus were ordering. He filled another cup at the coffee station and looked at the people. They were all waiting reasonably for the bus. He went back to the table. She was still sitting at the table and she smiled at him.
“Do you feel better?” he asked.
“I feel fine,” she said. “He doesn’t see anything wrong with ME. I’m fine.”
The couple left the store and boarded the shuttle. The owner turned to the writer sitting in the corner.
“Wow. Did you get all that?”
“What do you suppose they thought the hill looked like?”
“Do you really need to ask?”
The owner did not reply.
“A white elephant, OK?” the writer said as he pointed. “She thought that hill looks like a white elephant.”