The girls and I were out last Friday, tooling around out in the country looking for roadside vegetable stands, when we came upon this bright yellow sign nailed to a utility pole.
"Oooh, looky!" I said enthusiastically, because if there's a country byway that looks like it needs exploring, I'm your girl. You never know what you might find: a creek winding its way through the fields with a graceful willow leaning over the bank to see her reflection in the water; some particularly attractive cows contentedly chewing their cuds and looking over their fences at passersby; some pygmy goats standing in a row on top of a picnic table.
The girls, raised without great-grandparents who farmed, find none of this even remotely interesting. When I suggest driving down unfamiliar country roads, they heave heavy sighs and roll their eyes, trading glances that seem to imply that their mother? She is one eccentric and unpredictable old bat, and not in a good way.
So they weren't very thrilled about the Local Honey. "Can't you just buy that at the store?" Aisling asked. "That kind that comes in a bear? Isn't that good enough for you?"
"Well, the bear-shaped bottle is very cute, but it isn't LOCALLY cute," I replied. "Besides, if this honey is local, then maybe we'll even get to see some local bees! Won't that be fun? All working so hard, busy with their little tasks?"
A silence so deep it practically throbbed filled the minivan.
"Honey is good on biscuits," I offered. The girls looked at each other out of the corners of their eyes.
"It's got a lot of calories," Meelyn said flatly. "I like that Smucker's sugar-free jam, myself."
While this conversation was going on, we were driving down the road, following the arrow. At the point where Meelyn uttered the words "Smucker's sugar-free jam," we all spotted the house where the local honey was being sold.
"Ummm....I like that jam, too," I said. "In fact, I like that jam so much, let's just turn around here in the road and go back."
"It would be easier on this narrow lane if I pulled into their driveway and backed out," said Meelyn hesitantly, allowing the van to come to a halt.
"NO!" I shouted. "I mean, no. Just....back up. Back down to their neighbors' driveway and pull in there."
"Why do those local honey people have a toilet on their front porch?" Aisling asked curiously. "And a sofa? And that pile of tires? Look, it covers up the front window! That seems kind of weird. And what is that thing?"
"That would be a rusted-out water heater," I said, trying to avert my eyes from the mess, from the roof-sagging, junk-piled, typhus-contracting house of the honey sellers. Crumpled soft drink cans littered the yard. A waist-high mound of garbage bags belched forth their slimy, smelly contents onto the grass. A big, filthy dog came out to the edge of the property and showed us his teeth; I was willing to bet that he had a few more than the owners of the house.
As Meelyn backed carefully down the road, she said, "What's the name of that backwoods movie? The one that you and Daddy said we should never, ever, ever watch, even-if-it's-the-last-DVD-left-on-earth?"
"That would be Deliverance," I said between clenched teeth.
"Yeah. That movie. This place kind of reminds me of how you described that movie. Or maybe like there ought to be another sign under the local honey one that read 'Meth Mart' or something like that."
"I can hear the banjos playing now." I cast one quick, furtive glance back at the house. "Punch it, Meelyn. I want to go back to civilization. No more country roads for right now, anyway."
Pleased, Meelyn looked at her sister. "This was just so worth it, then. I love local honey!"
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