By Lisa Maliga
She smiled and waved the hammer. “Hey there! You must be Curtis!”
“Hello, you’re right. Are you …” he paused, trying to remember what Larry had called his wife.
“My name’s Margaret Pleasant. I’m Larry’s wife.” She stopped a few feet away and set down the stakes and the hammer. “I just wanted to welcome you to Neroli and your new home. I hope you’re all settled in!”
He reached out and shook her hand. The coldness did not match her friendliness. “Yes indeed!”
“Good, glad to hear that, Curtis. I understand you’re from New York City!”
Couldn’t these people keep their cities straight? “Uh, no, I’m from Chicago.”
Margaret laughed. “Chicago, New York City, big cities, I just couldn’t live in one if you paid me. So much noise! So many sirens and alarms and…whoowee,” she bent over to catch her breath for an instant. “And it gets so COLD up north. Snow, blizzards, ice…that and all the noise…but then I’m just a small town gal. Born and raised right here in Neroli.”
“It sure is pretty here.”
“Yes it is. It’s been voted the prettiest town in Warren County two years in a row. And we’re really celebrating this weekend because it’s the Neroli Arts and Crafts Show! I just love this event; in fact, I’m on the planning committee. Now I wanted to let you know that we’re only going to let vendors park in the yard and they only will be in a very small area. I’m just going to pound a few stakes in so we can have a barrier so not just any Tom, Dick and Harry can park back here. Now if you’re going to be gone for the event, you can take Hickory Street and then make a right onto Border Street and you’ll be good to go.”
“Thank you for letting me know that, Margaret.”
“And you’re so blessed to have such wonderful neighbors at the Conservatory! It is such a fine organization! If it wasn’t for them we’d be in a lot worse shape than what we are now. They do so much to save the environment! And make sure you do all your shopping at the Neroli General Store right by the post office and library. Shop local! You might pay a little bit more but you’ll support local businesses.”
Curtis felt his jaw clench as he smiled.
“Now don’t be a stranger on Sundays!” She pointed to the First Christian Church of Neroli across the street. “At eleven o’clock Pastor Mills gives his wonderful and inspiring sermons. And you’ll be welcomed with open arms!”
“That’s really good to know.”
She laughed too heartily and watched as he went back through his kitchen entrance. Then she bent over to retrieve the first stake and hammer as she decided where to place it. A quick look up at the church brought a smile to her lips.
Larry’s wife was a dictator, he thought, as he headed back inside.
More information about this horror novel can be found at The Wilkes House Haunting page.