The travel agent assured her the room would have a view of the garden on the quiet side of the house. She envisioned a flowery bower outside and, inside, a Victorian oasis (the house was built in that era) crammed full of faux-period clutter: lamps with tasseled shades, pressed flowers labeled with their Latin names, portraits of hunting parties dressed in pinks. In her room, a four-poster bed and a claw foot tub; in the morning, the earthy odor of frying bacon would draw her out of the bed’s feathery embrace to dine among Currier and Ives, rangy ferns, cut roses.
Elizabeth rode through the patter of rain, safely dry in the back seat of the cab, and imagined her hosts. “Tim”—the only name the travel agent had provided—would be a tall yet small-boned man in his early sixties with a reddish-gray beard. Nearsighted, he would wear those magnifying half-glasses you could buy in the drug store, because he just didn’t care about fashion. His wife (Mrs. Tim?) would be a heavy-set woman as tall as her husband who spoke only to ask pointed questions. She would dislike women who wore perfume to breakfast. The wife had an eye for artful clutter, but Tim was the better cook.
The parlor would smell like cinnamon, which Elizabeth liked, or apple spice tea, which she did not. There would be two cats who kept out of sight, except to appear out of nowhere and rub suddenly across the ankles, and she would have to stop herself from shoving them gently away with her instep, instead smiling at her host, commiserating about the foibles of cats.
From North Dakota Quarterly