The Resident (part eight)
Her evocation led a voice to pipe, “We need more bog!”
“The main water feature is going to be a macrocosm of…” came an answer, the talk fading into low-voiced, “tiers…” and “natural movement…”; and another speaker’s: “Please, let’s not have boulder salad!”
“When Gemma comes down. She understands glaciation.”
Desander, keen to somehow insert himself, but stuck with his own party, saw two servers in chef’s coats follow the automatic swing of the kitchen doors, each gripping the handle of a tray. The tray held two jumbo baking pans, filled with pie.
“That’s it! Cookies and cream,” Teconieshe said. He inched upright in his chair and tapped his feet. A doubled sea of cream, to Desander’s eyes, lay crumbled over in dark chocolate, decoratively poufed around the edges with further cream, and bits, and drizzles.
“Ah. It must be delicious.”
“Sometimes I get a little yen for banana cream, but mostly I’ll take my cookies. Now in fall, they come out with pumpkin. I don’t like cloves. My granddaughter can bake a pumpkin cake with French buttercream icing, extra ginger… I like extra ginger. Deb’s cake’s almost as good as pie.”
“Deb!” shouted Wissary. “You, baking your cake, and me, shadowing you in the kitchen…” He turned to Aura. “Amazing, how I never thought of learning to make things!”
After a murmur from Bridge, Deb shouted back, “Absolutely!”
“We get all our helpers from the Acervillas Crew College. If you carry on,” Aura flung a fork tipped in cream, “to the crossroads, turn left…”
“Does everyone want coffee?”
“Pots,” said Desander. He received on one side, as the coffee splashed in on the other, an oval shallow bowl with a great pillow of pie centered. Teconieshe was spoons into his own.
“My wife would make a thing called a pavlova. Rum in it. Cherries. I never hated that, fruit. But outside banana, or… I can remember pawpaw. Claudine Rancilton. It was Claudine, made a pie with pawpaw pudding, ground up peanuts for a crust.”
“I’m roundabout,” Aura was saying, “but the Crew College is where the staff trains, at Maple Hill. For Maple Hill, I guess… They have hospitality courses open to the public. Acervillas is a huge resort firm. Two point nine billion funding.”
“I don’t know what it means, ask Bridge…he wants to work for them. That’s his mantra, two point nine billion.”
“And Maple Hill is what?” said Desander. He laid fingers on Tenconieshe’s forearm. Wissary was plunged in, but after scooping all he could without licking his bowl, said aside, “You and your little preserves-on-melba-toast idea of dessert. I hope you won’t be a disappointment to these beautiful people.”
“Do not take my pie,” Desander answered, and to Teconieshe: “Sir, I apologize. Claudine, you were saying? And you were telling a story earlier, about John and his house?”
A long pause followed a “Hmm,” and under his companion’s eye, Desander—out of choices—dug in. He concentrated on a picture of eyes alight with pleasure, and tried his best to produce them.
“I’d of let the house go. We never knew if Rancilton was there or not.”
“Seems like he is!” Stu put in. “I was having that same talk with Bridge.”
“Let it be, but my son-in-law over there said sell it, pay your debts. Sorry to say, I got em. Claudine died… When did she die?”
“Two thousand twelve,” Aura said. The table sighed. “None of us knew, did we?”
Murmurs rose, and the talk, it struck Desander, was not of John’s loss, but some other malaise.
“Maple Hill, Des, is the fancy golf club you’d see if you went up the road, opposite your way home. Our acreage is mostly this side…across is the little patch with your house, and ten more acres, that Acervillas wants to buy. They want an airport there, for their clients to pop in on private jets.”
Bridge gave a noise, a pffft, and Debra said: “It. Will. Not. Happen.”
Like the topic of bogs, this one lit the room, and soon Desander and Wissary were exchanging sad glances. Somber, Desander finished his pie.
(2022, Stephanie Foster)