Kim lifted her head at a familiar sound. She knew what her grandma must have felt at hearing that crunch of shell beneath tire—trepidation. Unannounced visitors weren’t usually good news, that’s what she’d always said.
She wasn’t sure what she felt when Zell’s fancy truck pulled into view. Trepidation, sure, until she realized he was probably bringing a copy of the loan agreement. So what was the buzz that felt as though she’d walked into an electric cattle fence? Listening to his music and dreaming about him half the night hadn’t helped either. That reminded her of the iPod, and she went inside to get it.
When she reappeared outside, he was unhitching the rear gate of his truck. He wore another colorful, tropical shirt and jeans faded in all the right places.
“Thought I’d scared you back into the house,” he said as way of greeting. Not that she expected a cheery good morning out of him.
She walked to the truck and handed him the iPod. “You forgot this last night.”
“Thanks.” He checked something on it, then gave her an inquisitive look. “You listened to my music?”
“How did you know?”
“It’s at the bottom of my list now.”
Damn, the man was observant. She shrugged. “I fell asleep to it. It was better than wondering what every little sound was. Not that I was afraid or anything, just not used to the sounds out here.”
He stared at her for a moment, making her feel self-conscious. Making her wonder what she’d admitted to. No way could he extrapolate that she’d been thinking about him while listening to his music.
“Did you enjoy the selection?” he asked at last.
“It was…interesting. You have eclectic taste, that’s for sure.” She ruffled her fingers through her hair, still getting the impression there was a subtext going through their conversation. “I liked most of it.”
The corner of his mouth tugged, barely a smile. Before she could wonder if he was, in fact, smiling, he pulled a folded piece of paper out of his back pocket and handed it to her. “Here’s a copy of the agreement. Elva already made some payments on it. I wrote the balance on the back. We can settle up when you sell the bar or the orchids, whichever comes first.” He pulled out a large box filled with blankets and pillows. “Can you get the door?”
She opened the door to the porch and then to the house, waiting for some kind of explanation. After he’d set it down in the living room and headed out again, she asked, “What is this?”
“That goes with this.” He opened the passenger door to his truck and let out one of the ugliest pigs she’d ever seen. It was black and hairy with a saggy chin and a belly that nearly scraped the ground. Its ears were erect, and its snout was long. She surmised it was happy because its little tail was twitching. Then again, it could be hungry. She took a step back as it approached. Zell said, “This is Oscar. He’s a pot bellied pig. And he’s yours.”
Without further explanation, he lifted a large bag from the truck bed and hoisted it over his shoulder, then grabbed up a mesh bag. He walked into the house after leaving the door open for Oscar the pig and letting him enter first. She was left to follow. Why was it that every time she saw Zell, she felt discombobulated? She was chagrinned to admit how much he threw her off.
He’d set the brown bag against the wall and was filling one large bowl with water. Then he poured brown pellets from the bag into another bowl, and from the mesh bag dumped out a bunch of toys. Oscar snurfled (that was the word that popped into her head, anyway) everything and then roamed the living room as though he were checking it out to make sure she hadn’t taken anything.
Zell was already out front again, removing a wooden box filled with smooth stones and setting it on the ground. “Owen made this. It’s a rooting box. Better that he roots out here than in the house. Throw in some popcorn or Cheerios once in a while.”
She grabbed at his arm and then pulled back. Touching Zell after a long, lonely night thinking about him wasn’t the best idea. “You can’t leave this…this pig here.”
One side of his mouth lifted in what was no doubt a smile. “Sure I can. This is Oscar’s home.” He walked on out to his truck, forcing her to follow once again.
He leaned against the door of the truck. “Oscar was Elva’s pig. For a time she took to breeding them, but she grew out of it and got rid of the other pigs. She kept Oscar. They had a special friendship, she and Oscar. When she died, I took him ’cause there wasn’t anybody else to do it. Now that you came back, I’m giving him to you. Consider him part of your inheritance.”
“You can keep him. I mean, I’d like you to keep him.” She forced a smile even though she wanted to call him a few ugly names for enjoying her discomfort so much.
He shook his head. “Oscar’s okay, but I’m not a pig person. Besides, a gator’ll likely eat him out at my place. He’s easy to take care of.”
Oh, no, not this again. “Easy,” she said, the word etched in doubt.
“Feed him twice a day, including lots of leafy vegetables, make sure he has plenty of water, let him outside a few times to attend to his business, give him a brushing once in a while, and don’t feed him from the table. He likes carrots, and pickles are great for getting him to do what you want, but don’t feed him much human food. It’ll make him fat.”
“Fat? He must weigh a hundred pounds!”
“A hundred and twenty-five I’d figure. Pigs are smart so don’t start him on any bad habits. Just like people, they pick ’em up fast and don’t shed ’em too easily.” He gave the truck cab a couple of taps with his palm and opened the door.
That’s it. He was going to leave her. “Zell.” He paused. Instead of trying to get more information about the pig, she found herself asking, “You knew my grandma pretty well, didn’t you?”
The smirk left his face and was replaced by a melancholy shadow. “She was good people, your grandma.” He got into the truck and pulled away.