You can tell a lot about a man by the kind of britches he wears.
Me? I prefer the workingman’s blues. All-American denim. Hell, the only time I ever wore trousers was on my wedding day. I even wear jeans to church. And why not? Pastor’s always having us sing “Come As You Are” and I don’t think the Lord will mind if I take Him up on that. I get a few looks from the high-‘n’-mighties, but that doesn’t bother me. Besides, Lara dresses smart enough for the both of us.
A farmer doesn’t need snazzy clothes, anyway.
Which I why I was puzzled that day when I went down to check on my hives and found those pants. Looked up there and there they were, wedged in the branches of the old oak tree. I stared at them awhile – then put my gloves and smokier down and went over for a closer look.
Those pants looked brand new. I reached up and felt the material. These were no farmer pants. These trousers had a “businessman” look in every stitch. They were gray, with a sheen on them that reminded me of the salesman at Halsey Ford. Lara, who teaches English at the local college, had a word for him: oleaginous. I had two words for him: slick bastard.
I started to pull the pants free when the sound of a female voice startled me so badly I nearly had an accident in my white beekeeper suit.
“That tastes so good! How’d you get at it with all those bees?”
“I charmed the honey right our from under ‘em,” a man replied.
The voices came from beyond some trees growing close to the creek. I walked along, listening. I wanted to know who the hell was trespassing and apparently stealing my honey!
As if a thorn of my last thought pierced the man’s conscience, I heard him ask:
“Do you think the old man will miss that bit of comb?”
I directed my feet toward his voice.
“Nah, you didn’t take that much.”
I reached the edge of the woods and peered out cautiously from behind a tree.
I recognized the girl as my neighbor’s sixteen-year-old, Tessie Harris. But I wasn’t prepared for the sight of her, nor her honey-thieving boyfriend.
They were naked, spread out on the grass like pharaohs. They each had a piece of honeycomb, licking them like ice cream cones. I tried not to look, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Hope your daddy doesn’t catch us,” the man said. I recognized him, too. Thought I hadn’t seen the preacher’s son, Oren, since he went to college.
“He won’t,” Tessie said. “He won’t come onto Carver’s property. They don’t get along that well.”
“You’re not worried about the farmer?”
“He checks his bees on Wednesdays. I’ve been coming here awhile. That’s the only time I’ve seen him.”
I’m not that predictable, girlie, I thought.
I turned back then; afraid the Good Lord would strike me dead for watching them. Or Lara would, if she happened by on one of her walks and caught me at this peep show.
I took a souvenir before I left, though.
“Where on earth did you get those pants?” Lara asked as I entered the kitchen.
“Long story. Is there fresh coffee made?”
When she’d brought us two steaming mugs, I told her. I didn’t leave anything out. After twenty-five years of marriage, it’s impossible to lie or keep secrets from your wife.
Lara was quiet when I spoke and when I finished she sat her cup down, leaned back in her chair, and howled with laughter.
I know what you’re thinking. But just because we attend a Sunday service once in awhile doesn’t mean we’re saints. And Lara works at a college, so there’s not much she hasn’t heard.
“Wish I could see the look on their faces when they find out his pants are gone!” she said.
About an hour later, someone knocked on the kitchen door.
It was Tessie. She was alone.
“Mr. Carver, you left your smoker at the hives. I brought it to you. I was taking a walk by the creek. Hope you don’t mind.”
She sounded so innocent it was difficult for us not to bust out laughing.
“You shouldn’t go near there, you might get stung.”
Lara turned away, making a sound like she was coughing, but I knew better.
Tessie stood with her head down, studying our ancient and fading linoleum.
“Did you happen to find anything while you were out there?” Her eyes strayed to the kitchen chair where I’d draped the pants.
“That’s the damnedest thing! I found that pair of pants in a tree.”
She looked at me, blushing. “Those are my daddy’s. I planned to go swimming and wanted something dry to wear home. He’ll tan my hide if he finds out I took them.”
Lara and I smiled at each other. I wondered how long it took the two them to cook up that story.
“Your daddy will tan your hide anyway when he finds out you’re messing around with Oren Thatcher,” Lara said.
Tessie burst into tears. “Please give them back! Oren will get mad at me!”
In the end, we sent Tessie home and I went to have a little talk with the minister’s son. I sent him walking back to town wearing a pair of my wife’s flowered summer shorts and with the warning that if I ever saw him on my property again, Mr. Harris would get a visit from me.
I don’t think Oren and Tessie saw each other again after that and to this day Lara and I get a kick out of recalling my little blackmail.
Especially when I wear my shiny new pants.
Maria Kelly is a published author and poet. She will earn her AA degree from SPC in December and transfer to a baccalaureate program in English Literature. Maria mostly writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. She is editor of the online magazine, The Were-Traveler.
Originally published in Ember Skies, a site supporting the arts at SPC.