A Hankerin' For Apple Pie

Contributor: John Laneri

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Sheriff Matt Carson first noticed the bicycle when he saw it roll past the town square and turn down a dirt road toward the church.

Continuing on, he made his way past storefronts and along quiet tree lined streets. Morning walks were a part of his routine, the activity just another of the many duties that kept him familiar with the happenings in Neverton, a small community along the cattle trail to Fort Worth.

Near the church, he spotted the Reverend Armsworth walking aimlessly about the churchyard, reading from a Bible.

“I see you’ve got a new protegee,” the Sheriff said, as he stepped in the minister’s direction.

The good Reverend adjusted his glasses and looked up. “I hope the boy isn’t causing trouble.”

“No, No” the Sheriff replied. “I noticed a young man on a bicycle near the town square. I figured he belonged to you.”

“It was probably him. He takes a fancy to that contraption.”

To the Sheriff’s eye, the Reverend Armsworth was stately man, wearing a starched clerical collar and black coat – customary attire for devout Texas Ministers.

The Reverend looked about, his eyes peering over his glasses. “I’d like to have you meet him. I saw him peddling by a short while ago.”

The Sheriff looked back and forth along the road, his eyes squinting against the sun.

Suddenly, he spotted a bicycle parked in the shadows directly across the road at Aunt Jillie’s Boarding House, the finest establishment along the Brazos River – definitely, not a place for the Reverend's new protegee.

Realizing the consequences, he quickly turned about and pointed in the opposite direction. “Maybe, the boy is still peddling about the town square.”

The preacher followed his lead, his neck craning to look. “He could be at the candy store. He does like sweets.”

Nodding, the Sheriff replied. “That’s a likely possibility. Most boys his age like to indulge a piece of candy from time to time.”

“Some boys do get a lust for candy.”

The two men agreed. And, for some time, they remained in the churchyard gazing toward town, that is, until the Reverend’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Candy, you say.”

Quickly, he turned to look toward the boarding house. “Hell fire, the boy’s already sinning.” He pointed across the street. “His bicycle’s parked at Aunt Jillie's.”

The Sheriff turned to follow his direction. “Maybe, he’s converting the girls to religion.”

“He’s a mite too young to convert Aunt Jillie and her girls over to much of anything.” Turning away, the Reverend began pacing back and forth. Finally, he stopped and said, “But then again, he’s not too young to be taught the wild side of living.

“What do you want me to do?”

The Reverend walked to the edge of the churchyard where he remained for some time quietly studying the house, his bible tucked under an arm. “I don’t see much activity about the place. Most of the curtains are drawn tight.”

“The window curtains stay closed on the second floor. That's where the girls work. He’s probably sitting in the kitchen, preaching the good book and having a bite to eat. I understand Aunt Jillie keeps plenty of food about … helps fellows keep their energy up.”

“I hear her apple pie is mighty tasty too,” the Reverend said, turning to him, grinning.

“It’s the best in these parts.”

“That’s good to know,” the preacher said. “But still, his mother insisted that I keep him pure while he’s under my tutelage. You need to do something to get him out of that place.”

The Sheriff cleared his throat. “He probably won’t leave without puttin’ up a commotion.”

“That’s what worries me,” the Reverend replied. “Maybe, we should walk over and sample some of her apple pie. Then, you can snoop around while I try converting those girls to the ways of the Lord.”

The Sheriff looked at the preacher, his eyes expressing doubt. “Jillie might not be too happy if I poke my head into each her rooms.”

“How so?” the Reverend asked, turning to him.

“Cause, you're talking sacred ground. Even the Good Lord would think twice. In fact, I’m not sure He’d consider it – being the practical man that He is.”

“You do have a point,” the preacher said quietly.

In the distance, the Sheriff spotted a bicycle moving in their direction. He nudged the preacher and pointed toward the end of the road. “Is that your boy peddling our way?”

The Reverend again adjusted his glasses then let out a sigh of relief. “Thank the Lord… That’s him. I recognize the cowlick on top his head. Now, I’m a mite disappointed.”

“Disappointed?” the Sheriff asked.

“Of course,” the good Reverend replied. “I keep needing a reason to visit her house. I've been hankering’ to sample that apple pie for years.”

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John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit can be found on the internet and in several print edition periodicals.
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