“Oh gross. This is the place? Are you kidding me?”
David looked to Carrie with exasperation. “Well, the GPS says so.”
The pair sat in their car and examined the facade of the Last Stop Bed & Breakfast. Instead of the charming two-story building displayed on the B&B’s website, the structure was worn, the paint faded and peeling. The photograph on the internet had obviously been taken some time ago, perhaps as many as twenty years, David supposed. The building was the same, but existed desolate and solitary with nary another establishment in sight. David hadn’t expected the Last Stop to be so remote, and now the name of the place made perfect sense.
The ‘gross’ that Carrie expressed no doubt had referred to the unusual bundles of barbequed meat, strung together with butchers string and hanging from the expansive overhang of the front porch. The odor that would occasionally waft over in their direction was so heavenly; it forgave the eerie sight of it. The front door began to open as David heard his wife’s voice.
“I don’t want to stay here,” Carrie said as a woman emerged from the doorway that uncannily resembled Irene Ryan, the Granny character from the “Beverly Hillbillies”. David felt his wife of three months’ hand upon his.
The woman waved to the pair sitting in the Toyota Camry.
“Hello!” granny called from the porch smiling. David glanced to Carrie.
“C’mon. Let’s say hi at least. We don’t want to appear rude.” David looked to the woman and waved, then glanced back to Carrie who was fumbling with her cell phone.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Texting my brother saying goodbye since he’ll never hear from us again.” she replied. The brother that David had yet to meet.
“Oh stop it. She seems friendly.”
“Yeah, they always do.” Carrie said. The woman had walked down the steps from the porch and stood waiting and smiling.
“Come on dear,” David said. The two exited the car and walked up towards the woman.
“Hello,” David said as he extended his hand. The woman by-passed his outstretched limb and wrapped her arms around him. David was startled by the gesture and looked nervously to Carrie who only smiled. She turned and looked to the building. Granny noticed.
“I know. I ‘pologize for the way the place looks all run down. I been meanin’ to fix ‘er up, but money’s tight and it ain’t easy tryin’ to find someone to come out this far to do the work.”
“Sorry,” Carrie said, “I understand.”
“S’alright dear. I’m Muriel. Why don’t you c’mon inside. I reckon you’ll find the inside more inviting.” Muriel said.
The woman turned and started up the stairs. David and Carrie followed. As he was about to be engulfed by the bed and breakfast, David glanced over to a rather new looking, metal sided barn about thirty yards away and witnessed a large, scruffy man exiting the building carrying a stuffed panda bear.
Strange, he thought, and decided to not tell Carrie what he saw so as not to increase her anxiety and concern. The trio walked into a foyer with a staircase leading to the second floor. David looked around, taking it in. The interior was the complete opposite to the outside, decorated in a rich, Victorian style. Red, floral print wallpaper covered the foyer and down a hallway leading towards the back of the house. Tchotchke’s sat upon remarkably clean shelves built into the wall. A grand chandelier hung heavily from the second story ceiling.
“It’s beautiful,” Carrie said, looking around, seemingly impressed.
“Thank you,” Muriel responded, “Like I said, the inside’s in better shape.” She turned to David, “don’t s’pose you know how to paint.”
David glanced to Carrie who gave him a look that said, “yeah right”.
“Uh, no, sorry. Me and home improvement don’t exactly get along.” Granny smiled.
“Didn’t think so but thought I’d ask anyways.” As she finished her sentence, the scruffy man appeared in the doorway at the end of the hall and watched the trio uneasily. The bear was gone. David saw Carrie notice him, her face changing from smiling to, well, not. Muriel looked to the man and put out her hand, beckoning. He started slowly down the hall towards them.
“This is William, my son. He can seem scary, but he’s ‘armless,” Muriel said, smiling to the man who hung his head, examining the toes of his boots, “He helps me keep this old place running. ‘Fraid of heights though, so he can’t fix up the outside of the place. Say hello to our guests dear.”
William hesitantly looked up, trying not to seem rude, but also attempting to avoid eye contact. “Hello,” he managed quietly and left it at that.
“Hi,” David said, putting out his hand. William looked at it dumbly, then looked to his mother who motioned for him to shake David’s hand. William put his hand out and David took it. It was frigid, making David feel quite uneasy, but it was too late to pull back. He quickly pumped the man’s hand a couple times, then let go and rubbed his own hands together.
“Well, may I show you to your room, it’s upstairs. I’m afraid we only have one other guest right now ‘sides you. Mr. Wright, he’s a writer. A connection was made upon Muriel’s face and she giggled. “Ooo, that’s funny,” she said, “you have any baggage?”
David, who realized he had been staring rudely at William, shook out of it.
“Oh, yeah, a couple bags in the trunk.” He took out his keys and pushed the trunk button on the fob.
“William, will you please retrieve their bags?” Muriel asked her unsettled boy, although he was no boy, he appeared to be at least fifty. William skirted past the trio and disappeared through the front door.
Muriel led David and Carrie up the stairs and to a room midway down the hall. David counted five doors, all of them closed. He thought of Mr. Wright and wondered which one the solitary writer could be behind, tapping away on a typewriter, then thought, how silly, it’s most likely a laptop.
The old woman opened the door and the trio entered into a beautifully decorated room, although the paisley wall covering was a bit busy and difficult to look at. Carrie glanced around and appeared to be pleased, almost admiring the surprising elegance of the room. A large, four post bed was the centerpiece, thick with mattress, linens, and a mountain of pillows. One window allowed natural light in and dust spun around in the rays coming through. Dual nightstands stood on either side of the bed with matching tiffany lamps. A door led to what David supposed was a private bathroom. A monstrous armoire sat against the wall opposite the foot of the bed.
Carrie walked in, sat on the bed and had to rise up on her toes to do so.
“Very comfortable,” she said. Muriel nodded in agreement. David glanced around the room, walked to the armoire and opened it to find it empty.
“No TV?” he asked, somewhat perplexed.
“For what?” Muriel said and smiled. David then walked to the window, pulling the curtain aside and peered out at the backyard, what little there was, and the expansive empty acreage beyond. He had a momentary sense of panic at the vastness of it all. He looked again to the yard. No pool either. He turned to Muriel.
“What do you have for entertainment or activities?”
Muriel looked up for a moment, as though an answer hung in the air, then back to David.
“There’s a small library of books down in the sittin’ room,” she said, pleased with herself, “even a couple by Mr. Wright.”
“Hhmm,” David replied and looked to his wife who only shrugged her shoulders yet gave him a “I told you so” reply upon her face.
“Hope you enjoy your stay. Dinner’s at six in the dinin’ room. Feel free to wander, I’m sure you’ll come ‘cross it.” Muriel said.
“Thank you,” Carrie told the woman who hung at the door a few moments, then pulled the door shut leaving the newlyweds alone. Carrie looked to David, gearing up to say something.
“Don’t. I know. We’ll cut our stay short, make an excuse like business or something, but let’s at least hang around until tomorrow. Get a good meal and a good night’s rest.” He walked over to Carrie and kissed her on the forehead. “Next time you pick.”
She smiled. “Next time.”
There was a rustling and a thump outside the door, but no knock. The pair looked at each other, then to the door. David walked over, opened it, and discovered their luggage in a heap on the floor. He glanced to the end of the hall, then to the stairway. William was peering through the balusters, halfway down the steps. The two locked eyes, then William scurried down the stairs, out of sight. David turned back to Carrie who had stood up from the bed.
“Bags are here.