Strung white lights decorated her acacia tree and a citronella candle illuminated the center of the table, which lofted a tangy, sweet scent. She placed a bottle of red wine next to a covered plate of baked beans. Everything was set just as she wanted.
Her store bell rang. “I’ll be right there!” she shouted, stopping in her bathroom to check her reflection in the mirror. She licked her finger and swept back a strand of blonde hair fraying from her high-stacked hairdo. Puckering her lips as if to give the mirror a kiss, she layered on frosty pink lipstick. She had been primping and cooking all afternoon, now it was time for action.
She stepped into her store and found Earl dressed in his dirty jeans and sweaty t-shirt. He was unshaven with his long hair uncombed. She sighed trying not to get discouraged by his appearance, not to mention the fool she felt for going to such lengths to impress him. For a moment, she lost herself in Sammy’s warning. Perhaps he is like Charles Manson. “Ah, you made it. Just in time,” she said.
“You said there’d be meat,” Earl replied.
“Yes,” she said guiding him to the back patio and trying not to be bothered by his earthy stench. “Steaks are on the grill. You can have a seat at the table.”
Earl gazed around at the romantic setting. This was a little more than he’d anticipated and wanted. He took a seat at the table offering Georgina a smile as she exited the house with plates piled with food. “Sure is a lot of food for two people.”
“Well, I suspected you’d be hungry. I mean, you can’t be eating more than a couple of cans of tinny food a day. A man needs to eat,” she said.
Earl patted his stomach. “I’m watching my figure.”
“I’m sure the makers of SPAM will be happy with you making their product a staple of your diet,” she said as she removed the steaks from the grill. “Maybe they will make you their spokesperson. Could be some good money it.”
He leaned back in his chair not sure if she was joking or making fun of him. “What can I say? I like SPAM.”
Georgina stood by the table, gazed down upon Earl admiring his wide, gray eyes. She rested a plate before him. “As much as steak?”
“A man likes what he likes,” Earl responded.
“I do have some steak sauce or Tabasco if you want,” she said.
Earl eyed the meat on his plate. A few months ago, he would have doused his food with spicy sauces but life’s realities have taken away his zest for life and numbness has taken its place. “No thanks.”
She took a seat across from him and served herself a steak and potatoes keeping an eye on Earl. She purposely kicked his foot. “So, other than SPAM, what do you like?”
Earl shifted his leg away from Georgina’s. “The stars,” he replied and sliced into the meat.
“How romantic of you.” Georgina poured him a glass of wine. She crossed her legs under the table and rubbed her leg against his calf.
He moved his chair away from her. “The stars are not about romance; they are a roadmap to our existence and our destiny,” he replied with authority. “You see, when you find yourself up there, you can find yourself anywhere.” He bit into the steak and sipped his wine. “Good.”
Georgina stared at him, struggling to find words to respond. She always found conversation with men to be easy—food, sex, money. Occasionally there was the man who liked to discuss politics or religion, and she would smile prettily and nod her head. She never found discussions of such to be worthy of anything, just wasted breath, but destiny? She was at a loss. “What the hell does that mean?” she finally burst out.
Earl chewed, grinning with meat juices accumulating in the curve of his lips and running over his beard. “Life. Being. Existence. Destiny. It is the ultimate of who we are and where we belong.”
She leaned across the table. “Who are we and where do we belong?”
He shrugged and took another mouthful of food. “If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t be searching and studying. You see, now I am a nameless creature no different from the coyotes that scavenge at night, the rattlers that slither across the desert and the mice that scamper through the fields. I exist with them and when I find my meaning, I will return to civilization.”
Georgina stretched back in her chair stunned. She soon began to believe Sammy was right about Earl. He was a crazy like Charles Manson. “So, what do you do all day by yourself?” she asked changing the subject to something she could understand.
“I dunno. Depends. Mostly clean up around the place. It needs a lot of fixing up. I’m sure after a bit of hard work I can make that old shack a cozy place to live.”
“If you need help, I can—,” Georgina started.
“Other times I write,” he continued not letting her finish.
“You write. What do you write?” she questioned.
“Whatever comes to me.” Earl leaned back in his seat. “I’m not really good at talking about myself. I’m not much of an interesting subject.”
“Why, I think you’re fascinating,” Georgina said, slicing off a bite of steak and inserting it between her frosted pink lips.