Although it was midnight, the proprietress of the Auberge, the bed and breakfast weirdly positioned in the middle of a block of beige McMansions, was waiting for me with a plateful of muffins. She was a country-club blonde type, just on the wrong-side of middle-age and dressed in pastel golf wear, which I found odd given the winter storm blasting the creaking exterior of the old home. Somehow this decrepit structure had escaped the wrecking ball that had leveled all the other older homes in the neighborhood.
In spite of its name, there wasn’t anything remotely French about the décor. The foyer was a riot of Christ-figurines and distressed placards emblazoned with Biblical verses. I have a high tolerance for religious wackos so I wasn’t nearly as alarmed as most sensible people would be. In fact, what troubled me most were the muffins, which were enormous, bruised with blueberries and, given the late hour, rather threatening.
I reluctantly accepted a muffin, which was as dry as the broken Virgin Mary fountain in the hallway. I was weary and wanted to be taken to my room, but I could tell by her aggressive cheerfulness that this wasn’t in the cards.
“Let me give you a tour!” she chirped. I suspected that I was her first guest ever and she’d been waiting to take someone—anyone—on a tour since transforming her home into a B & B, which I assumed was roughly around the same decade she baked those muffins. In order to escape, I considered blurting out something outrageously gay. I figured that would get me evicted immediately. But, sadly, my hard-wired middle-class manners prevented me from saving myself from what looked to be hours of small-talk with this lonely woman.
The house was three stories tall, and she had a tale to tell about every one of the thousands of knickknacks that crowded the walls and shelves. She breezed past a room that she revealed to be my bedroom and, as I looked back upon its cozy, quilt-covered bed wistfully, she marched up to the attic.
Hoping with every fiber of my exhausted being that this was the end of the tour, I trudged up the steps after her. What I saw, though, slapped me awake. Unlike every other room in the house, it was Spartan. It contained only a female mannequin dressed in golf clothes similar to the outfit worn by my hostess. Behind it was a rack of pastel clothing.
She walked to the mannequin and lovingly brushed the front of its blouse. I now was fairly certain that this evening would end in my death and my body would be baked into muffins.
“I like the color of ‘her’ skirt,” I said nervously, as I searched for my cell phone to call for help.
“It’s not a skirt,” she said. “It’s a skort. Shorts that look like a skirt. I was once very friendly with a professional lady golfer. We had plans to open this B & B together, but she returned to France. Now all I have are her clothes and my faith.”
She turned from the mannequin and looked at me with sad, damp eyes. I imagined the long years she waited for the golfer to return, locked in this suburban hell, and obsessively baking muffins and focusing on religion to distract herself from her heartbreak.
“I play a little golf,” I said, being as gently euphemistic as possible. “Would you like to come to my room and chat while I get ready for bed?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “I’ll just fetch us some more muffins and we can talk all night!”