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“Pull over,” Starr said. “Let’s stop.”


“Why?”


She gestured behind them toward the vegetable stand they had just passed.


“Those look like heirlooms.”


Percy nodded. “Pretty.”


“Good bases of my salads.”


“How are your own heirlooms doing now?”


“Not so well this year. My beefsteaks are all right. The Early Girls are gone.”


Percy slowed his F-150 and found a driveway ahead by which to make a three-

point turn. He made the turn and drove them back toward Liberty on 173. “Nice looking

stand,” he commented when they got close.



The garden stand was spread out across two low and slightly rolling hillsides. It

was enclosed by attractive white fencing and spotted with painted signs having pictures

of the offered vegetables and their names in red on white. Several cars and pickups

were spread around in a parking area, and the women from the vehicles were shopping

with wired baskets. The men were mostly leaning back against the vehicles and doing

not much at all.


It was a mid-August day, warm, humid, and still. Late in the afternoon.


While waiting for his wife, Percy figured they’d buy whatever Starr needed, he’d

head back through Liberty and then cut east on Route 3, make it down off the hill into

Belfast in an hour or so, stop at Delvino’s for a pasta dish and eggplant fries; please

Starr. Make it to their house by dusk.


In time, Starr returned to the truck with a paper bag of eight heirloom tomatoes

and half a dozen ears of honey ‘n pearl corn on the cob. She was smiling. “Got a quart

of lowbush blueberries, too.”


What Percy particularly wanted at Delvino’s was a draft pint of Allagash Curieux

Belgian Style Gold and a buffalo burger …yes, and fries, but not eggplant fries.



The two of them had earlier spent a relaxing day in Brunswick visiting the

Bowdoin College Art Museum, enjoying (or critiquing) its various collections on display,

and then strolling on Maine Street and window shopping. Percy had bought Starr a gift.


It was the wrong weather time of year for such a gift. Starr’s birthday wasn’t until

February. Nevertheless, Percy had bought her an attractive, thick, knitted shawl with

good, responsive and subtly changing colors of wool to complement her hale

complexion and especially gorgeously to set off her thick, rich, and multi-colored gray

hair, which that day she had piled loosely on top of her head with its tendrils curling

down to her neck and shoulders.


The shop where Percy had bought the shawl was among a cluster of attractive

hide-a-ways off of the parking lot behind the public library, which shops were close

together, nicely landscaped, with brick walkways between them. The woman inside the

shop was in her mid-forties, slim, and wore a light weight wool dress in tan, which

complimented her own auburn hair. Other shawls, dresses, and sweaters rounded out

the stock on sale in the store, and Percy was happy to be in such an heirloom spot.

The place smelled delightfully of wool. It suggested how things had been done in earlier

ages along the Maine coast.


Starr was using her cane during their stroll, and she clasped her arm around

Percy’s arm when he made his purchase and leaned her happy head against his

shoulder. “I love you,” she said, and the sales woman smiled.



Percy smiled at Starr. Aloud, he ticked off the necessary elements of the gift.

“Thanksgiving. Christmas. Your birthday. The new baby. Come on, woman. Let’s go

get you a glass of wine.”


The owner of the shop came outside with them, took a breath of air, shook hands

all around. “Come back again,” she prompted them. “We always have new things on

show.”


Simpering just a little, Starr responded, “And I like what you have to show.”


Then she giggled and nudged Percy. “And he does, too. We’re in South Orland.

Do you have a website?”


The woman said, “Let me get your email. I’ll stay in touch.” When the woman

had written Starr’s email address into her customer book, she looked up and asked,

“New baby?”


“First grandchild. February. I’m so happy. I’ll be sixty at the beginning of that

month. My daughter’s doctor tells us the baby’s due about the twentieth.”


“Oh, how wonderful for you! It’s just the way things used to be done. It’s the

heritage of all us Mainer women.” Then she took Starr’s hand and led her back into the

store. “Come here, I want to give you something.”


Percy trailed inside, too.


The woman opened a drawer and pulled out a slender box. She opened its top

and pulled from inside a pair of lovely wool mittens. The thickness of the wool, the

colors of the mittens – they were perfect with the shawl.


“Here,” she said, and she handed them to Starr. “What’s your name again?”


“Starr.”


“Starr, these are for you.”


Starr laughed delightedly. “So, now we will be back. I’ll treasure these like an

heirloom.”


“And I’ll think of you while you’re treasuring them.”


Starr glowed. “It’ll be a special match between us, how sweet.”


Percy and the two women went back outside, with Starr holding her mitten box in

her hand. The owner leaned forward and kissed Starr on her cheek. She winked.


“New stock mostly in October.”


“I’ll remember that,” Starr grinned.


“I’ve ordered some cashmere wraps in heathered gray.”


“Oooh!” Starr shivered slightly.


“Would be wonderful with your color.”


Starr reached and shook hands. “We will be back.”



 

EGG ISLAND: Death is Your Choice is available now at Amazon.com!

DOWNEAST: This Blessed Assurance, the second in the Percy Black series, will be released mid-January 2024.


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