“Monsieur,” Mrs. Sandra Dellacourte said. She’d heard he was French. “Please, monsieur, will you try one of my pickles? They’re good. They’re so good, they’ll make your mouth pucker and your eyes water.”
She took a crisp bite to prove it. Juice from the bite misted the man’s silk shirt. He looked surprised. Sandra Dellacourte pulled a hanky from the pocket of her morning dress and made a show of wiping the peach fuzz of liquid away. “You want it crisp just like that,” she said, using the same hanky to dab at her watering eyes. It smelled faintly of his cologne. “And when your eyes water, you know it’s a good one.”
The man held up a hand. His nails were carefully filed. “No, no. Please excuse me, madame. I’m not so much a….” He paused to choose his words carefully. “Pickle eater.”
His accent was irresistible. Sandra Dellacourte could hardly believe she was talking to a real, breathing foreigner. From France!
“Come now.” She twittered a laugh. “Everybody likes pickles! The only people who don’t like pickles are people who haven’t tried pickles. And these pickles … these pickles….” She tried to remember how to say magnificent in French, but failed. Eighth grade had been such a long time ago. “I have a blue ribbon hanging in my great room….” She cleared her throat. “I mean, my parlor….” Parlor sounded so much more urbane. “You’ve got to try it. I insist.”
Sandra Dellacourte pulled a fresh pickle from the jar and held it under the Frenchman’s nose.
“Sandra!” Meredith Zellinski had been misting her roses next door. Sandra had assumed she was out of earshot, but now she stood on the very boundary of their two yards, her garden hose squirting erratically. The toes of her garden shoes were technically trespassing on Sandra Dellacourte’s property. “What are you saying to Mr. Babineaux? Are you trying to tempt him with your pickles?”
Sandra withdrew the pickle and hugged the jar. “No, ma’am. Just making friends. Being neighborly.” She fluffed at her hair with her forearm. After all, it was difficult to fluff hair when you’re holding two pickles, a pickle jar, and a hanky.
“He’s my guest,” Meredith Zellinski said. “Don’t scare him off now!”
“Do I look scary to you?” Sandra Dellacourte glared across the grass at Meredith Zellinski. Sandra’s feet were beginning to sweat in her panda slippers, due to the warmth of the summer sun. Mr. Babineaux was starting to sweat, too. Beads of perspiration glistened on his forehead and above his upper lip. Sandra readied her hanky.
Out of the corner of her eye, Sandra saw Meredith Zellinski roll her eyes and go back to her roses. Sandra was fairly certain she heard the word obtuse muttered. Her lips tightened over her recently bleached teeth.
But no, now was not the time to give Meredith Zellinski a piece of her mind. There was a gentleman standing here, a gentleman whom Sandra was sure she could convert to a pickle preference, or die trying.
“How long are you in town, Monsieur Babineaux?” Sandra asked, batting her falsies.
“Ah,” he said. “I am only here for one week, for business reasons. Meredith was kind enough to offer her spare room through Airbnb dot com.”
“A dot com site!” Sandra breathed, her eyes shifting. She had to admit it was brilliant.
“Yes,” said Mr. Babineaux. “I am so far quite pleased.”
“Well, here,” Sandra said, thrusting the jar against his chest. “Take all of them. Try them at your leisure. Only … let me know how you like them.”
To her dismay, he fumbled the jar like a hot potato. “I’m afraid I have no need for pickles!”
“No need for pickles!” Sandra cried. “But—but you can’t say you’ve really visited until you’ve tried our pickles! Cucumbers grow great around here. So does dill! And our vinegar’s cheap!”
Mr. Babineaux made an interesting sound through his nose. “Believe me, madame, I am quite well without pickles. Now please excuse me.”
He scuttled away, clutching his briefcase to his chest as though it were a shield.
Sandra watched him round the corner at the end of the road. She took another bite of her crisp, luscious, award-winning pickle, and sighed.
(Many thanks to my aunt, Sandi, who gave me the three inspirational words for this writing exercise--pickle, urbane and obtuse.)