A gust rifled through the maple and elm trees huddled along the vacant county highway, as if the forest huffed to protest the intruding Subaru SUV. Crimson leaves attacked the waxed ebony finish. The crisp, dead foliage skittered furiously over the hood, but left no impression.
Amy echoed Tom’s yawn.
“Quiet out here. Nothing but the whisper of wind.” He stretched his fingerless gloved hands and repositioned them on the steering wheel.
Amy unfolded her legs and placed her Berkenstocks on the floor. She leaned forward. Poked the radio buttons.
Static, static, more static.
She sighed. “No tunes or data. Retro way to drive, I guess.”
Tom scratched the groomed stubble framing his jaw.”Airwaves don’t reach these hills, babe.”
The landscape encroached as they drove further. Weeds chewed at the gravel shoulders and crumbled the asphalt. Trees grew nearer to the road. Just ahead, branches stretched over their passageway and clasped twigs as a canopy.
Amy dug inside her patchwork totebag. Shadows crept across the dashboard, reaching toward her knitted beanie. The spindly shade fingers tapped the cuff of her hat just before she sat up.
“Forgot my crotchet stuff, too. How much farther to your gram’s?”
“Bout an hour.” The SUV emerged from the canopy and he pointed through the windshield at a rogue black bird swooping overhead. “As the crow flies.”
Amy squinted at the soaring raptor. “That’s kinda big. Sure it isn’t a vulture?”
Tom adjusted his round spectacles. “Huh. Yeah, maybe. Gram was always into birdwatching. Never got her farm-world sensei gene. I’d be lost out here without an organic sherpa like you.”
“Organic sherpa? Sweet name for a bodega.” Amy snuggled her cheek against Tom’s flannel sleeve. “If your gram lets us move in, we could open one in her village. Whaddya say?”
“Anything you want.” He caressed her chin and lifted it. With a wink, he pursed his lips in a kissing expression. “Just pay me well.”
A squeal whipped Amy’s attention forward. “Look out!”
Tom swerved. Tires screeched. Missed a bounding wild hog and a trail of piglets by a couple of feet.
He continued on the downslope of the highway. “That was close. Odd for them to run around in the middle of the afternoon.”
On the right hand side of the road, a field came into view. The lumpy terrain overflowed with a variety of pumpkins. From extraordinary sized monsters to tiny orbs, the warty skinned gourds consumed the vast patch. Black-trunked trees hemmed three sides of the field, while an a rusting iron fence grated the highway line.
“Oh, pull over Tom! Let’s stop and get some little cute ones. I can ask your gram to teach me how to make a pie.”
She batted her lashes, fingers clasped under her chin.
The SUV tires crunched onto the gravel shoulder. Brakes lurched. The engine cut off with a foreboding groan.