Lila and JJ in the Fall, Part 2: A Close Call


Except for an increasing rain, the omens seemed to stay at bay. They ran, holding hands and laughing, from the car to the porch and entered the house.

“This is awkward,” JJ said.

“Just kiss me,” Lila said. So they kissed right there in the kitchen. So far, so good. They parted, hands held between their bodies.

“Come upstairs with me,” he said.

“Let me go to the bathroom first.” She pulled away and turned with a sassy skip, looking back at him over her shoulder as she walked down the hall.

When the bathroom door closed, JJ turned to lock the outside door and something caught his eye in the sloping field. There was a group of wild turkeys in the grass. A gaggle? A flock? They were strutting and pecking their way across the field, taking their time. This farm with no crops and no animals. It’s a farm of the world, JJ thought. It’s just here and the turkeys are here and this is the way it’s supposed to be. “And I’m here with Lila,” he thought. “Finally. And it’s all ok.”

To the right he heard, then saw, a car coming up the road. It slowed and turned into his driveway. A black BMW, like an adder entering a henhouse. Alarmed squawking in JJ’s brain.

“No. No. No.” He didn’t recognize the car but he knew who it was. “No,” he said again as he watched Betty, his sister, emerge from the driver’s seat. She deployed an umbrella and peered around at the barn, field, and house. An intruder in nature. The land itself seemed to grow still, aware of this foreigner, knowing that people from Away never brought glad tidings. Betty started walking toward the porch.

The sound had all sucked up into JJ’s head and he was frozen by her approach. A sense of being the prey shuddered his body back into movement. She hadn’t yet seen him yet. His hand was still on the lock bolt and he turned it, the click breaking the spell. He moved quickly away, down the hall, crouching, and pushed his way through the bathroom door.

Lila was rising from the toilet, pulling up her jeans. “JJ, what the…”

“Shhhh. She’s here!”


“Betty.” JJ jostled past to the little window and pulled the curtains together tight. The bathroom was only a WC, just a toilet and a sink. He shifted back to the bathroom door and latched the hook into the eyelet.

“JJ, really.”

“She’s here to ruin my life.”

Then came the knocking, four hard raps. He could picture her there, all consternation and intent. He quieted his breathing and waited.

“JJ,” Lila whispered.


Then, his sister’s voice, muffled but too close. “Jason!” For a moment he thought she was already in the house but, no. His mind was messing with him. They stayed quiet, waiting it out. JJ’s phone vibrated in his pocket. Caller id: “Betty (Satan)”. He refused the call. Four more hard raps on the door, a turning and shaking of the doorknob, (“Thank God I locked it”).  Silence for a moment, then steps retreating, car door chunking shut, the engine, tires on gravel, and an acceleration down the hill.

He realized he was clutching Lila’s hand. He was clutching her whole arm.

“Kiss me again,” Lila whispered. “She’s gone.”

“But she’ll be back,” he said. He looked at Lila’s wry smile, the twinkle in her eye, and realized she was amused, enjoying this. Then he kissed her, cowering in the little downstairs bathroom of the farmhouse he bought with his lottery winnings. He felt they were in a sanctuary, spared and chosen, the overlooked survivors of some freak disaster. A close call and very exciting

He pulled her closer and let his hands roam down to her waist and hips.  Her noticed her jeans were still unbuttoned from when he barged into the bathroom. He never wanted her more.

But a voice, insistent, in his head. “She’ll be back,” it said.

“Oh shut up,” he said out loud.


“Come on,” he said and led her into the hallway and up the stairs.

Lila and JJ in the Fall with Apples

The orchard on Columbus Day, teeming with families. A school holiday. Cider and pie and apples. There was a bluegrass trio sawing away and some hippyish kids, unkempt and happy, watched over by their smug parents, dancing their little pagan dances. JJ and Lila, childless and unmarried, neither here nor there, wandered through with cups of strong coffee in paper cups. A grayish day but not too cold. Leaves, yellow, orange, and red, bright against the overcast sky, grass still green and the smell of fall everywhere. A good rich soulful smell, evocative of time passing, making up for the odor-free death-zone of winter to come. JJ’s favorite time of year.

JJ asked, “Ever think of having kids?”

Lila looked at him. “Sometimes I think it would be nice to already have them. But it takes two to tango.”

“Yeah. You’re talking about sex.”

“Do you want to talk about sex?”

JJ was thinking about sex, that’s for sure. As they walked through the orchard, he stole glances at Lila and tried to put out a certain vibe. Hungry, but not desperate. He tried to send out smoke signals, instead of flaming arrows meant to pierce a covered wagon of pioneers.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

His heart did a leap and a twist. In all their on and off years, he had never wanted her more. They had come close almost a year ago. But a deer got impaled on an iron fence and that killed the moment.

“We came close last year,” he said.

“That’s what worries me. Some force is against us. Every time we try…”

“The deer was a freak thing.”

“Yeah, well, what about the other times? The fire in the old school bus? Or that hobo and the heart attack?”

“That wasn’t a hobo. That was Brad. And he survived.”

They both watched a tall man, dressed for an outing from an LL Bean catalog, devour an entire apple, core and all, in four bites. Then he did it again, with gusto, while watching his gypsy children dance to the fiddle.

Lila asked, “What do you think about people who eat the whole apple, core and all?”

“I think it’s arrogant. I think such people are unreliable.”

“You don’t think it shows a certain hunger, a devil-may-care attitude, taking life by the horns?”

“Apple eating is not bungee jumping. Show some fucking respect.”

Lila turned to him. “Do you have a certain hunger? Right now?”

He almost fainted. Mouth dry, he croaked out, “Yes. I have a certain hunger.”

“Then let me buy you an apple,” she said and turned away with a flash of hair, walking toward the stand. She looked back over her shoulder and beckoned with her eyes and he realized he was frozen on the spot, gawking at her jeans with those hips up in there. “Come on.”

They went to the bins of apples. Cortlands, empires, macs, and macouns. Lila picked out a large macoun and showed JJ. “How’s this one?”

She could’ve held up an apple the size of a radish and he would have said it was a good one. Lila picked another and went to pay. He stood and watched, entranced, holding back the worry, trying to outrun the tacklers of fate with a stiff-arm out behind. Things were headed in the right direction. He felt good in the world, more comfortable in his skin. There wasn’t the old morbid desperation to sabotage, to tear it all down. They were in the red zone, a touchdown within reach. He just had to cross the goal line.

Lila was back next to him. “Let’s get out of here,” she said. “Take me to your farm.”

No settling for a field goal this time. Four down territory. They had moved down the field with precision and flare. Fate was tired, hands on hips, gasping for air. What could possibly go wrong?