Lace Curtain

By Abigail Allen

Marie was a petite woman, but she felt large and clumsy today, perhaps, she thought, because of everything she’d been through lately—first her sudden preoccupation with Ray-Ray and then the business with the police showing up on her land, holding her at gunpoint, and then apologizing and saying it had all been a mistake before they ran around her house, got in their car, and left. 

She felt leaden and awkward as she sat in Nancy’s living room, listening to the atrociously loud ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece and waiting for Nancy to put the eggs Marie had brought her in the refrigerator.  Nancy wanted to know what was going on, she thought.  That must be why she’d phoned Marie saying her hens had quit laying, asking Marie if she had any eggs to spare.  She, understandably, wanted to know why the police had swarmed onto Marie’s place, why the helicopter had been hovering over the field behind her house.

Nancy returned to the living room with two cups of coffee.  She gave one to Marie and sat down in the chair opposite her.  “Thank you so much for the eggs,” she said.  “I’ll pay you back when my hens start laying again.  That helicopter flying around here the other day scared them, I think.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Marie said.  “We’ll probably never know what it was all about.”  She could see the disappointment on Nancy’s face.  “I wish I had an explanation for it,” she said. 

“Larry said it scared his water buffalo too,” Nancy said.  She was a frail, elderly woman.  Larry was her son.  He raised cattle on their farm and had recently bought the water buffalo.  “The other cattle couldn’t have cared less,” she said.  “Nothing bothers them.”

Marie smiled.  “I’ve seen Larry riding around on the water buffalo,” she said.  “It seems like a patient animal.”

“Larry loves the thing,” Nancy said.  “He named her Daisy.”

“Daisy,” Marie said.  “I think it suits her.”

“She’s smart,” Nancy said, sipping her coffee.  “Larry thinks she understands everything he says.”



Marie stopped by the convenience store to replace the eggs she’d given Nancy.  Her cousin Patty, who worked there, was at the cash register.  “I found somebody to lease your place,” Patty said.  “He wants to plant hay, and he’s got all the equipment he needs.”

Marie paid for the eggs.  “Who is he?” she said.

“Joe Leto,” Patty said.  “He used to help my dad sometimes.”

“I don’t know him,” Marie said.  “Is he trustworthy?”

Patty put the eggs in a plastic bag and slid it toward Marie.  “Absolutely,” she said.  “I wouldn’t recommend him otherwise.  He’ll take good care of your land, and the best part is he works with his sons.  It’s a family operation.”

“That’s good,” Marie said.  “It’ll be nice to do something with the land again.  I’ll enjoy watching them harvest the hay and bale it at the end of the season.”

“The cattle farmers will be happy too,” Patty said.  “There’s never enough hay around here.”

“My neighbor Larry has cattle, and now he has a water buffalo.  I guess they eat hay too.”  She picked up the bag with the eggs in it as another customer entered the store.  “His mother said their hens had quit laying because of the business with the helicopter the other day.”


Marie was walking through the fields around her house with Patty and Tom, Patty’s husband.  They were showing Joe Leto around.  “This is perfect,” Joe said.  “We’ll plant as soon as possible.  I’ll have the boys out here in a day or so, and we’ll get started.”

When they got back to Marie’s house, she invited them in for coffee, but Joe had a job to get back to.  “I’ll let you know before we come out to plant,” he told Marie.  They shook hands, and he jumped in his truck and drove off.

“He seems perfect,” Marie said.  “Thanks for recommending him.”  They went in the house.

“I’d rather have a beer,” Tom said as he took a seat on the sofa.  “It’s too hot to drink coffee.”

Marie went to the kitchen and looked in the refrigerator.  “You’re in luck,” she called to Tom.  “I’ve got three bottles of India pale ale, so we can each have one.”

“I really would like one,” Patty said. 

 Tom held the bottle against his cheek before he drank from it.  “Nice and cold,” he said.

 After Tom and Patty left, she turned on the news and walked into the kitchen as she listened to it. She was taking some Swiss cheese out of the refrigerator when she heard the newscaster saying someone named Troy Leto had been arrested for car theft.

 "Leto," she said. She hadn't heard all the details, so she didn't know where he'd been arrested. She hoped he wasn't one of Joe's sons. She made a cheese sandwich and ate it in front of the TV, thinking there might be a recap at the end of the news and she would hear more about the car thief, but nothing more was said about him. After she put on a nightgown and brushed her teeth, she went back to the living room and flipped through the channels on the TV.

 She wondered whether she had locked the front door after Tom and Patty left. There was a window in the door, covered by a lace curtain, and when she looked at it, she saw the shadow of someone's head rising slowly behind it, as though the person had been crouching there, waiting for the right moment to look into the room.

 She ran to the door, screaming, "Get out of here!" and the person disappeared from the window. She made sure the door was locked. Then she went to a window, not the one in the door, but one that afforded a better view of the porch and the front yard. She saw a tall, thin man running down the driveway to the road. Then she couldn't see him anymore. First her husband had left, then the police had converged on her property, and now this. She went to the bedroom. The doors and windows were locked. There was no way anybody could break in, she thought as she was climbing under the covers. If somebody did, she would sneak into the kitchen and get a butcher knife to defend herself with. She lay still for a while, alert for any unusual sounds. Maybe she would use a fillet knife, she thought as she was falling asleep.