This post is part of Fiction Friday, a series born out of my ongoing desire to be a novelist. These stories are meant to be read independently. They are fictional vignettes inspired by glimmers from my life.
Everyone in town knew about Iggy Stone before he came. Word had spread fast: he couldn't hear too well in his left ear; he had recently broken off an engagement; his father owned a great deal of land and forest. And there was another thing about him, too, and people liked to talk about that part the most. They whispered about it in the frozen foods aisle at the Co-op, over cocktails at the Clarks' anniversary party, and under the privacy of their moss-blanketed roofs. They talked about Iggy until the moving truck rumbled into town, and then nobody dared talk about it at all, or even bothered to talk to him.
Dottie was the first person to introduce herself to Iggy. During her weekly shopping trip, navigating her cart through the displays of vegetables, she noticed him in the aisle ahead of her. He was sorting through the hot house tomatoes. Yanking on her cart – it had a bad wheel, and kept pulling to the left – Dottie maneuvered toward him and cleared her throat as she approached.
"Mr. Stone?" Dottie asked. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to bother you."
She was surprised at how young he was. And how his hands, cupping a vine of tomatoes, were so clean. Nails trimmed short. For all that had been said about him, she had expected someone a little more rundown.
"I'm Dottie," she said.
"Well," Iggy said. "Dottie, it's nice to meet you."
His voice, too: so crisp, like the words had been scrubbed clean. Dottie pointed at the tomatoes. "Been a bad year," she said. "Even in my own garden, the poor things look like berries."
When he didn't respond, and looked away over Dottie's head to the other side of the grocery store, she wondered if it had been a mistake to approach him. She should have just kept her mouth shut, she thought, and kept going past. But then Iggy rubbed the back of his head and said cautiously, "I've got a few plants in my own yard. And weeds, lots of weeds. I can't tell them apart sometimes."
"A weed is just an unwanted plant," Dottie said. Before she could stop herself, she added, "I can take a look, if you want."
"You wouldn't mind?" asked Iggy. His eyes had brightened. "You'd take a look at the backyard?"
The murmurs that had gone through town for weeks came back to her again. They had said so many things. But his bad ear – that hadn't been true, had it? She was standing on his left side, not speaking very loudly, and he hadn't even leaned in closer toward her.
She glanced at his hands again, at those clean, careful hands, and reassured herself that he deserved a chance. They were wrong, Dottie decided. Whatever they said about him was wrong, because someone like that would never have hands this clean.