DEVOTION AND THE AUTUMN CHILL - JOHN WEAGLY
Originally published in 2007 in Mount Zion Speculative Fiction Review, Vol. 1, No. 3
“I dreamt of you last night,” Lacey said. She was lying in bed, her long brown hair splayed over her pillow.
“Is that a fact?” Kyle was just back from taking a shower, his black hair damp, his skin still flush from the hot water. “That’s good, right? Means I’m your true love.”
They were in the small town of Spencer to help celebrate the West Virginia Black Walnut Festival. It was nearing the middle of October and the leaves on the mountain trees were turning from green to gold.
They usually stayed in cheap hotels one or two towns away from the festivals they hit. This time, at Lacey’s insistence for romance, they stayed at the Bugle Family Bed and Breakfast. When they were checking in, Kyle told Mrs. Bugle it was their honeymoon. The lie was partly a cover story and partly an insult to Lacey. He’d made it very clear to her, both in conversation and in action, that he never planned to marry her.
Unaware of the untruth, Mrs. Bugle’s eyes lit up. “I have a special room just for newlyweds.”
“Is that a fact?” Kyle said.
“The bed has a hand-made Devotion Quilt.”
“What’s that?” Lacey asked.
“The first time you sleep under a Devotion Quilt, you dream about love.”
Lacey noticed Kyle roll his eyes.
“You see true love in its true light,” Mrs. Bugle said.
Lacey wasn’t much for arts and crafts. She didn’t foresee an instance in her life where she would need to know how to knit or crochet. She’d never been inspired to make a pot with just her hands and the clay of the earth. She couldn’t tell the difference between a quilt, a blanket and a comforter. Lacey wasn’t much for arts and crafts, but she and Kyle drove all over the Appalachia region.
They’d been to the Jackson County Apple Festival, the Cave Run Storytelling Festival and the Shaker Woods Folk Festival. They’d visited three or four Heritage Days.
Once, when money was particularly low, they’d even stopped at a company picnic at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. But their main bread and butter came from straight-up arts and crafts events. That was where people had the most to sell, so that was where people had the most money.
Today was the first day of the Black Walnut extravaganza.
Lacey shifted under the bed covers. “It wasn’t a nice dream,” she said, reaching her hand up toward the headboard.
“Is that a fact?” Kyle didn’t even look at her as he finished buttoning up his shirt.
“You were with another woman.”
Kyle tucked in his shirt. “It was just a dream.” The smell of fresh baked cinnamon rolls drifted into their room from downstairs.
They’d been together for a little over two years. It took Kyle almost seven months to convince Lacey to join him in his enterprise. He’d made it sound like they’d be folk heroes. He said the festivals had presidents and committees and all sorts of other people that made money on the sweat of the vendors and performers. These organizers would claim that the event was “to preserve the remnants of Appalachia traditional life and culture,” but that wasn’t the case. Kyle told her that somebody was always turning an ill-gotten profit.
Kyle also mesmerized Lacey with whispers about dreams come true and commitment and true love.
They would get into town at the beginning of the festival and just observe. In addition to Kyle’s talent for picking pockets, they would figure out who the VIPs were and, with a little snooping, find out what financial institution the festival committee used. Since the bank was closed on Sunday, both Saturday’s and Sunday’s profits would be deposited Monday morning. Kyle and Lacey would wait outside the bank on Monday until they saw one of the faces from the fair. The bigwigs usually made it easy by carrying the money in something visible like a canvas bag or a cashbox. Then Kyle pulled the gun and Lacey drove the getaway car.
Today was their first day of work. If previous festivals were any indication, this work would include Lacey sitting alone in the cooling weather and scrutinizing every aspect of the operation while Kyle flirted with the Miss Black Walnut contestants.
Kyle fastened his belt.
“You were with another woman,” Lacey said again. The bed sheets felt cool against her skin.
Kyle didn’t say anything. Outside the window a cardinal sang.
From underneath Kyle’s pillow, Lacey drew his pistol and aimed it at him.
Now she had his attention. “Honey,” Kyle said. “You know you don’t like that thing.”
“True love in its true light.”
“That’s just a bunch of old wives superstition.”
Lacey thought about becoming an old wife and about betrayal and about folk heroes. She thought about traditional life. She thought about dreams come true and devotion and true love. “Superstition?” she asked him.
“It was just a dream,” Kyle gave her a smile, the cornerstone of his charm.
Lacey smiled back. “Is that a fact?” she said. Then she pulled the trigger.
They never even made it to the festival.
BIO: John Weagly’s new short story collection, A BUCKET OF BOOBS, is now available on Kindle and other devices. Check out www.JohnWeagly.com for more information.
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