torch, flambeau@strangeplaces.net
July 5-6, 2008

Disclaimer: may contain traces of peanuts het. Written for the spnflashfic outsiders challenge. Beta by Merry and Arduinna. Do not archive without permission.

1621 Coachman Lane

Ella and Ruth were sitting in the rocking chairs on the porch when the boys showed up for the first time. Angeline was sitting on the top step of the porch, sunning her calves, but that was Angeline for you, she always had to make a point of how she was younger and more limber, and even pretended that her hair was really still black, as if anyone would believe that. Ella's hair was a shade of orange never encountered in nature, no pretense there, and Ruth, always the rebel, was growing hers out and had a sort of two-tone effect going, two inches of steel gray around her head and then a fluffy brown halo.

The boys pulled up at Miss Flores' bungalow across the street, got out of their old black car, and looked around, and Angeline waved at them. They waved back; the taller one looked as if he would have tipped his hat if men still wore hats, and Angeline claimed the shorter one had winked at her. They went up to the bungalow and knocked, and when no one answered they stood around for a bit and pretended they weren't trying to look in through the windows. The shorter one was about to walk around the side of the house when the taller one said something. They argued for a while and got in the car again and drove away.

Angeline thought the shorter one was prettier, Ella thought the taller one was, and Ruth hadn't been wearing her glasses, so that argument took up most of the afternoon and only ended when Ruth went inside to see about dinner and came back out to find that Ella and Angeline had finished the pitcher of iced tea without her. That argument lasted all the way through dinner and washing up and didn't end until Angeline made a new pitcher of iced tea and they settled back on the porch again.

This time the boys parked their old car down the street and walked up to the bungalow, and they were wearing black suits, but still no hats. Ruth still hadn't found her glasses so she had Ella's binoculars instead, and she thought the taller one needed a haircut and the shorter one needed to scrub away the dirt from underneath his fingernails. Miss Flores was back from work now, and they showed her some ID that Ruth couldn't read even with the binoculars, and she let them in. Ella went to get them all some canned peaches and ice cream for dessert and found Ruth's glasses in the freezer next to the green peas.

The ice cream hadn't even started melting when the door to the bungalow flew open and the boys came back out again quite quickly, followed by Miss Flores, who shouted at them to get out of her house. The taller one made imploring gestures at her until the shorter one caught him by the arm and pulled him away, and they trudged down the street towards their car. Angeline waved at them again, but only the taller one gave her a half-hearted wave back. Ella said that proved he was much nicer, and Angeline said the shorter one was still prettier. Miss Flores went back inside her house and slammed the door.

When Ruth was brushing her teeth late that night, she heard something in the street, and when she looked out the window she saw the taller boy running very fast, followed by something that looked like an old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage with extremely feisty-looking horses. She tapped on the wall to Angeline's bedroom, but by the time Angeline had made it out of bed and taken the cucumbers off her eyelids, the boy was gone.

Ella's bladder always woke her up at least a couple of times every night. The first time she got up, she saw the shorter boy running down the middle of the street, followed by an old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage with the wheels and windows painted in luminous paint. The second time she got up, she saw both boys running down the street, followed by the old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage and yelling and swearing at each other as they ran. Ella tsked disapprovingly and went back to bed.

The next morning, Angeline put chives in the scrambled eggs even though she knew very well that Ruth hated them. Ruth stomped out on the porch with her coffee and dry toast and sat there and sulked. Ella and Angeline came out and joined her after taking care of the breakfast dishes, just in time to see the old black car pull up across the street again and the boys get out. They were back to wearing jeans and they both looked very tired.

Miss Flores was just leaving her house to go to work, and she didn't look pleased at all to see the boys standing in her driveway. They started talking and gesturing again and she just shook her head, went straight past them and walked away. They turned to watch her go. The taller one looked worried and the shorter one looked appreciative. Then they went back to their car and left.

Ruth made a pitcher of iced tea. Ella had claimed the crossword puzzle in the paper, and Angeline got out a little book of sudoku puzzles that her nephew had given her last Christmas that was probably going to last her until next Christmas. Ruth was feeling left out so she called Inez at the library to chat a little, but they'd barely settled in for a good gossip when Inez had to go help some nice young man with the microfiche of some old county records.

The day kept getting hotter. In the early afternoon, heavy clouds came out of nowhere and the day grew so dark that Ruth turned on the porch light. Just when the thunder rolled and the electricity went out, the horse-drawn carriage went by again, its black paint gleaming. When the lightning flashed, they could see that Miss Flores was looking out of one of the windows, quite pale and with one hand pressed to the glass. Angeline waved at her, but she didn't wave back.

The electricity came back after an hour, and Ella scrubbed lemons for lemonade because she was tired of iced tea. Ruth napped away most of the afternoon in her rocking chair. Nothing much happened in the street until after the sun was down; then the boys came back in their old car and tried Miss Flores' door and stood around and argued for a while before they opened the trunk of the car and started taking things out. The shorter one ended up carrying a bag and the taller one had a shovel over his shoulder as they walked away up the street towards the cemetery. Angeline thought the shorter one had a nicer ass, too.

They sat up late, playing California cassino and drinking lemonade. Just when it seemed that Ruth was about to win again, Angeline upset the cards by pointing dramatically out towards the street, where the taller boy came running, without his shirt on, followed by the old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage. He had a very nice chest, even with mud smeared all over it. Ella refused to play any more and went to get her camera. Ruth sulked and claimed the last of the lemonade.

When the taller boy came running back again in the other direction, yelling into his cell phone as he ran, Ella took several pictures. The old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage was still following him, but then it disappeared, and so did the horses. Ruth put her glasses on but she still couldn't see where they went. The boy stopped and stood bent over with his hands on his thighs, breathing deeply. Ella took some more pictures. Then he straightened up and ran off.

It was quite late when they went to bed. Ruth was the last in the bathroom, and when she looked out the window she saw both boys and Miss Flores come walking down the street, all of them looking quite muddy and disreputable, although the taller boy had evidently found his shirt again. Miss Flores was leaning against the shorter boy, who didn't seem to mind. Ruth borrowed some of Angeline's expensive face cream. Her skin got very dry in the summer.

When Ella got up to pee, the old car was still parked outside Miss Flores' house, and someone appeared to be trying to sleep in the back seat.

In the morning, they all had breakfast on the porch and didn't argue about who got which section of the paper. They all waved cheerfully when Miss Flores and the shorter boy came out of her house, Miss Flores dressed for work and the shorter boy straightening his sleeves. Miss Flores turned pink and waved back. The shorter boy smiled lazily at them, and Ella admitted that yes, he was pretty.

Miss Flores left, and Angeline went inside for another bran muffin. The shorter boy went to the car and opened the door and pulled the seat forward, and the taller boy's legs shot out and kicked the shorter boy in an unfortunate place. Ella took another picture. Angeline came back with her muffin just in time to see the shorter boy stand doubled over in the street while the taller boy scrambled out of the car, not looking quite as apologetic as one might have expected.

Angeline frowned disapprovingly, and Ruth stole half of her muffin. The boys got ready to get into the car, and Ella took another picture. They looked at each other, and the shorter one quirked an eyebrow and the taller one shook his head, and then they both waved and got into the car and drove off.

Ella still thought the taller one was prettier. She went inside and started to make another pitcher of lemonade. Angeline and Ruth sat in the rocking chairs and watched the street. In the afternoon, Inez from the library came over, and said that she, too, thought the taller boy was prettier and more polite, so Ella promised to make copies of the pictures for her. Then Angeline discovered that someone had been using her face cream, and that argument was pretty much neverending.

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