A new developer has taken a great interest in all the land in your area. Having spoken to several owners, who have AGREED to sell their properties for the quoted prices, and in accordance with STATE LAW, the developer only needs 75 PERCENT of the local residents accepting the agreement to acquire ALL of the land in your area. If you do not wish to be the only holdout who receives NOTHING for their acreage, then please SIGN the developer’s proposal.
"It’s trash," Jena said, sniffing indignantly. "Toss it out."
Across the sun-warmed carpet rested wooden drawers stacked like malformed stalagmites reaching toward the ceiling. Gray cobwebs clutched the underside of the fiberboard and made Jena’s hands sticky as she lifted up the topmost storage space. With a casual roll of her wrists, she unceremoniously emptied its contents onto the floor.
Sitting on the bed’s edge, Tim folded up the paper as he unearthed toes from the mound of clothing that Jena kept piling, perhaps purposely, on his feet. He slid the letter back into its envelope and dutifully dropped it into the nearby trash can before holding open a plastic bag.
"So what happened? How did the deal fall through?" Tim asked curiously. His hazel eyes shifted toward the bedroom window as he gazed at the scenic view of rolling farmland that once belonged to Jena’s mother.
Clothes took to the air as Jena threw them into Tim’s bag marked for the local Goodwill. She couldn’t believe how much of a packrat her mom had been in keeping clothes that were over ten years old. "It was all a scare tactic from the local gas company. They found a natural gas well under the land and they were trying to get my mother to sell the property so they could get at it. But she talked to the other neighbors and found out that no one else had received any type of letter like that. Well, you can imagine the royal fit she threw at the company, and they backed off just long enough to persuade the property owners on the other side to allow access to some of their land. The company tapped sideways onto this property, got the gas without disturbing our livestock or well water, then they went away."
"Your mother always was a stubborn woman," Tim chuckled. "I can still hear here now, arguing over your curfew whenever we tried to go out on dates back in highschool. ‘Get home by nine o’clock sharp or I’ll call the police,’ she would say. I never once made you late."
"No, not once," Jena remarked. She found another bundle of mail held with rubber bands. Most of it looked like junk, but Jena had to go through it all. She didn’t want to toss away that might be important.
"I’m sure going to miss that woman." Tim took the letters from Jena’s hand. He gave her a half-hearted grin. "Are you going to be all right?"
Stop trying to make me cry, Tim. Jena nodded her head and turned her back to him. Her mom’s funeral had been three days ago, and all anybody could ask was if she would be okay. And Tim should know better than to do that. He understood that she wasn’t the type of person to let loose on the waterworks. Jena hadn’t even cried after graduation when she expected for Tim to enroll in the same college and he had instead joined the military. She had watched her suddenly ex-boyfriend pack up his bags and drive away as she waved goodbye without a shadow of a tear on eyelids.
Oh, well. At least people cared enough to ask. Jena sighed as she glanced at her watch. It was almost dinner time. "It’s getting late. Go head on out, Tim. You’ve gone above and beyond your duties for today, soldier."
Tim laughed, glad that Jena still had a bit of teasing left in her. "Are you sure? It’s no problem for me to stay a bit longer."
"Don’t make me call the MPs on you."
"Okay, okay." Tim held up his hands in surrender. He sat up from the bed and gave her a firm peck on the cheek before strolling out the bedroom. Then two seconds later his face reappeared as he peeked back inside. "Jena?"
Jena grunted in exasperation. "Tim, if you ask me one more time if I’ll be all right. . . ."
"I wanted to tell you that I found a couple of letters with your name on them. They’re on the bed." Tim said quickly.
Jena turned to the bed and noticed the mail. Then she looked back at him and gave an apologetic shrug. "Sorry."
Tim waved off her embarrassment. "Don’t worry about it. Call me tomorrow when you’re ready to take those bags down to charity."
Jena listened to Tim’s footfalls as he moved down the hall and out the front door. He walked past the window, gave another wave, and hopped into his car as the four wheels churned over the rough gravel.
Jena walked over to the window and pulled down the shade. Clicking on the lamp, she stretched out across the bed and stared at the five letters Tim had placed on the pillow.
Rural Route 1, Box 143b
It was Jena’s name, but the address was not for her apartment down in Crensdale. She picked up an envelope and studied the stamp, reading the date marked on it when the mail got sorted.
September 19. That was only four days ago. Jena tore open the envelope.
Dear Mrs. Jena Reese,
This is a final notice concerning your delinquent account. We have attempted to get in contact with you on numerous occasions to deal with this problem, but without success. Please remit payment in full immediately or our company will be forced to take legal action against you. If you believe that the account is in err, contact our Customer Service office at the following phone number.
What in the world was this about? Jena stared at the company logo at the left corner of the paper, not recognizing the symbol for any of the normal bills that she paid. The letter also didn’t specify what services they offered.
Jena tossed the paper down the length of the bed. Picking up the next piece of strange mail, she chewed on her fingernails as she again read another business name that she never heard about before today. It was another form letter, the same as the first and just as obscure about what their company offered. The only difference was that they wanted more money out of her.
Getting angry, Jena ripped open the rest of the envelopes all postmarked the day before her mother had died. More delinquent accounts under her name. More demands for her to send payment immediately.
She would get this mess straightened out right now. Jena gathered the letters and walked across the room toward the phone. Sorting the mail so that the one with the highest amount was on top, Jena looked for the number to dial when she nearly jumped out of her skin as the phone rang in her hand.
"Hello, dear Jena. It’s so good to hear from you." It was a man’s voice, although it sounded muffled, as if he was speaking with something in his mouth. It also didn’t help with the static in the phone line.
Jena asked, "Who is this?"
"Why, honey, don’t you recognize my voice? I’m your widowed husband, Andrew."
Jena frowned. Too many things were wrong with what he had said. She focused on the more obvious points. "You’ve got the wrong, Jena. I’ve never been married to anyone. "
"No, dear, I have the right Jena now. I was mistaken before when I confused your mother for you. She had such a nasty spill down those steps. You have my condolences."
Jena’s hand trembled. This man had succeeded in creeping her out in less than a minute. "I don’t want your condolences. I just want answers. How can you confuse my mother for me? What did you mean when you said that you’re my widowed husband?"
The man at the other end of the handset sighed. "It’s a long story. You better go sit on your mom’s bed."
How did he know where she was inside the house? Jena shouted into the phone. "Where are you?"
The man’s chuckle entered Jena’s ear. "Nearby. Sit, my lovely wife, and listen."
To be continued . . .