Into You (Part 12)

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Into You (Part 12)

After a cursory examination of the broad nearly silver-hued leaves, and checking the roots are still covered after soaking them all with water, I feel satisfied they'll be fine. I pull the hose back to the porch and loop more than half of it onto its hanging rack. With the remaining length, I've got plenty of reach to spray and mist the variegated colorful potted plants around the perimeter of the pergola.
I'm just about to finish when I hear Gerald spluttering and cursing. I lean with my left hand on an upright spar of the pergola's framework, holding the hose nozzle in my right. He'd been moving around the chairs on his deck, and was in the process of storing two in his utility shed. He's under the boughs of the big oak in the corner of his back yard, and he's flailing at his hair and face.
'Gerald!' I call out. 'Are you okay?'
'Yethp-puh-puh…' He runs his hands up and through his hair, then wipes his face. 'I must've walked into a spider's web or something. Bleh! That's just gross!' He spits off to the side, forcefully, then looks up at me. 'Sorry. You didn't need to see that.'
'It's okay. Natural reaction,' I tell him. 'Want me to hose you off?' I hold up the nozzle and spritz it twice.
'Um… no? Naw, I'm fine. I'll just…' He whips open the utility shed door, grabs the lower back of each chair, and plunks them down in the little bit of remaining space inside. He closes the shed and marches briskly to his back door, calling over his shoulder, 'I'm not a big fan of spiders. Hate 'em, as a matter of fact. I gotta make sure it's all off me. See you this evening…' And he's through the door, pushing it shut behind him.
I look around at the back yard and try to gauge what else still needs doing. Heaving a sigh, I decide to forego cutting the lawn and trimming near the fence. Perhaps Gerald won't mind the slight intrusion of my grass onto his lawn if the tart is good. If I play my cards right with the dessert, I might even be able to persuade him to come over and ‘help' with all that. I wind up the last of the hose and stow it on the rack.
I make my way inside, into the kitchen, and rinse my hands and arms thoroughly with soap and water. The dish towel hanging from the cabinet handle gets me dry, and I feel ready to tackle baking the tart. It's not but five minutes for me to gather all the ingredients, since I'd been planning to make this delectable treat this week.
It would normally take several hours to prepare the crust alone, and I rarely have success with pie crusts, anyway. There's usually a ready-made crust-in-a-pan stashed in my refrigerator to expedite the process, so I default to a bit of ‘cheating' in the process. Whipping up the glaze and slicing the fruit then are the only labor-intensive parts of the task. In less than an hour, I have the tart in the oven for the baking. When it comes out, and as it cools, I admire how colorful it is, with the ever-widening circles of raspberries in the center, then mandarin oranges, kiwis, blueberries, and – on the outside edge – halved strawberries.
I quip to myself and adage I heard a long time ago, 'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach… or regions thereabout.' It evokes a grin that I can't quell for many minutes. I set the tart on a cake pedestal and place its glass cover over it, once it has sufficiently cooled, so it doesn't steam up inside.
I'm in the midst of cleaning up the utensils, bowls, and sundry remaining ingredients, when the doorbell rings. Gerald? Did he smell the tart baking? I wipe my hands on my apron and head for the front door.
When I crack it open, it's Arlo standing outside. He's still in a lab coat, though I take note of the different shirt and pants he's wearing. Good. At least he had enough sense to tidy up and get redressed. He's holding a tote bag and something else, swaying and peering in at me through the storm door.
'Arlo! This is a surprise. What brings you here?' I swing open the storm door and indicate for him to come inside. He doesn't say anything at first, only hoists the tote bag in his right hand and raises his other hand… with the mason jar. He steps into the foyer and then turns partially toward me, not quite making eye contact.
'I thought you might want your things back. The tote and the canning jar.' His manner is subdued, almost overtly shy. I chalk it up to his geeky nature and that he may not get out much.
'Sure.' I motion him in. 'Well, actually… the tote belongs to Gerald.' The hydraulic piston pulls the outer door closed while I push the front door shut. I squint at him and grimace. 'I'm not sure if I want the mason jar back, because it held the… well… that thing. Did you clean and sanitize it?'
'I… No.' He looks perplexed, and then the reason dawns on him. 'Oh. I see what you're getting at.' He holds the jar up at eye level and says, 'There's nothing in there now…'
'Sorry, Arlo, but that still gives me the creeps, just remembering it. Come on. Follow me to the kitchen. That's going into the trash.' I tap his elbow with my fingertips and walk toward the back of the house. He follows and I note his head is drooping, as if ashamed of his apparent faux pas.
I point to the trash can and let him know to use the pedal on the bottom front to raise the lid. He does, tosses the jar into the inner bag, and lets the lid drop. He seems satisfied with the task, and his mood brightens. Glancing around, he starts sniffing the air.

Flamethrower by DoctorMO
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