She stole the idea from her father. It hadn't been completely terrible after all and it seemed like a semi fun way to get in touch with people society seemed to of forgotten. Baking. Alli had loved it since she was three years old and her Dad had her stir the cake batter for her mother's birthday. Even if the part where she had to go interact with people sucked as much as she thought it would, at least she could spend the morning doing something she loved. It's not that she specifically didn't like old people. It wasn't that at all, Alli didn't really like anybody regardless of their age. In fact, elders were some of the people she didn't completely despise.
In the summer after she finished high school she had been forced to volunteer in a retirement home owned by her aunt. She spent the majority of the time calling out bingo numbers and thinking up ways to kill herself in order to avoid having to play bingo ever again. Despite the mind-numbingly repetitive activity she grew to love several residents. By the end of the summer she was almost sad to go away for school. Almost.
On the day Alli moved into her dorm her Dad brought up his nearly brilliant idea. He told her he wanted to bake a pie every weekend and then take it to one of his deceased mother's friends. He wanted to sit and talk with them to hear stories about his mom. His mom had been a rockstar in their small town and if you spent 50 years listening to stories about all of the amazing things she did, you would be about a third of the way through. Plus, these ladies didn't have kids who lived in the state any more, so they must've been terribly lonely. Her Dad also happened to be a brilliant baker and she couldn't help but agree that more of his savory treats in the world could only be a good thing. Unfortunately her Dad also happened to be an actual adult. Being a real adult is the worst thing that can happen to a person. He was so busy with work and being exhausted from work that his idea slipped away.
Alli decided to take over feeding the elders when she went to visit the home she had volunteered at to see her beloved Stella. Instead she found that Stella had died a couple of months before, shortly after she went away to school. One of the employees told her that the family hadn't shown up four months before she died. No one had come to see her since Alli went to school. No one called, or wrote to her. The family didn't know for almost a week because they didn't bother to answer their phones. It wasn't okay with Alli. No one should be forgotten or thrown into a home to die. She understood, of course, that sometimes homes were necessary. Not everyone had the training or ability to take care of their elders, especially if they have Alzheimer's like Stella. But you should visit, and call, and notice when they die.
There wasn't a retirement home close to Alli's small town college but the town was full of old people. They were always sitting on their porches when the weather was nice, waving to students as they walked by. Even though it seemed weird to Alli to just show up and talk to one of them, it somehow seemed less strange if she had baked goods in her hands. Off of the lobby in her dorm was a small kitchen students could use though none of them ever did. It wasn't much but the oven worked and there was a decent amount of counter space. After her classes on Friday she walked a few blocks to a tiny general store to gather supplies for the following day. She'd decided on making a classic apple pie. She managed to find all of the ingredients she needed, a few cheap mixing bowls, some wooden utensils, and a disposable pan to bake it in.
The next morning she was up and mixing before anyone else had time to make coffee. By 10:00 she had a new frustration for the stubborn oven and a perfect apple pie. She waited for it to cool as she did the dishes. Once the small kitchen was tidy she smoothed out her hair, grabbed the pie, and nervously approached a smiling woman covered in wrinkles.
She wasn't sure how to explain why she was there and strongly considered throwing the pie in the lady's direction and running back to her room. Instead, she smiled back and stopped at the edge of the porch.
"Err, hi," she stumbled before rushing on, "My name's Alli and I made this pie and I was hoping I could give it to you and talk to you for a bit."
"Hello Alli, that sounds lovely," the woman replied with a chuckle. It had been awhile since one of the college students had come by her house and she relished the idea of company.
"Cool." Alli replied. Not sure of what else to do, she walked up the stairs and set the pie down on the small table the woman was sitting in front of.
"Lucille O'Donoughs the name, it's nice to meet you."
"It's nice to meet you, too."
"You wait here, I'll grab some plates from the house. Try to relax, child. I'm not going to eat you."
With that Lucille rose quicker than Alli would've expected and shuffled into the house. She came back out a minute or so later with plates, forks, cups, and a pitcher of tea on a small tray.
"Here we are," she said falling back into her chair, "Sit down, now. There's no need to stand there all day."
Alli took the seat on the other side of the table wishing she could sink through and hide under the porch.
"Now what brings you to old Lucille's?"
"Well, my Dad had this idea to take pies to his mom's old friends and listen to some of their stories. He never got around to it, but it seemed like a good idea, so I stole it from him. I saw you sitting out here and figured you were as good a person to start with as any."
"Lucky me, the pie smells divine." Lucille cut out two hardy pieces and poured them each a cup of tea.
"Thank you, it's my grandmother's recipe. She made the best pies in town, especially the crust. She was famous for her pie crust."
"I'm sure she'd be more than happy with you recreation," Lucille said after a small bite, "It's delicious."
Alli smiled in return, unable to answer around her own mouthful.
"So what story would you like to here?" Lucille asked between bites.
"I-I don't know. I guess whatever one you want to tell me."
"That's a dangerous thing to say to an old woman, but I've got one for you. See this house? I grew up in this house, so did my Daddy and his Daddy before him. When I was a girl we had a great big tree in the back yard," Lucille began, "my brothers and I loved to climb it. I had an older brother, Bill was his name, who could climb it so fast you'd think he could fly. Well, one day I was climbing behind Bill, all the way to the top. Getting up there wasn't too hard, but once I was there I couldn't imagine a way down. I was too stubborn to tell Bill, and sat up in that tree for hours. Even after Bill climbed down and Momma called me down for dinner. I told them I loved the tree and wanted live in it. That I couldn't come down or my squirrel neighbors wouldn't trust me anymore. I stayed up there for another two hours before Bill climbed back up to get me. When he got there my arms were shaking so bad the whole tree must've been vibrating. He had to carry me back down to the ground on his back like a monkey. The next day my Daddy decided to build me a house in the tree, not as high up as I was, but still a good way up. It took him most of the summer to finish, but when he did I decided to move into that house. I got all of the things I could carry from my room and moved them in. Daddy brought up padding and helped me make a little bed. I stayed in late tree house for two months before it got too cold. And every summer after that I lived in the tree. I bet you've never met anyone who's lived in a tree."
"You're the first." Alli replied with a smile. They were both finished with their pie by the end of Lucille's tale.
"It was a good little house, stayed up there for twenty years."
"It sounded nice."
"Oh it was, Daddy was good with building things."
"Do you miss him?" Alli asked.
"Most days. Some days I get so busy I forget to," Lucille replied with a small smile, "But that's life. People are born, they grow, and then they die. It happened to Momma and Daddy, Bill, my dear Robert, and soon it will happen to me."
"Don't say that, you seem fine to me."
"Oh child, I'm not saying it as a bad thing. It's just what happens, there's no need to be sad about it. I've had this home, a home in a tree, and when I go I'll go to another. I do hope they have this pie there, thank you for sharing it with me."
"No problem, would you mind if I came back next weekend with another?"
"I'd love that, I'll see you next Saturday. And if you're thinking of making pecan just go with it."
After exchanging smiles Alli helped Lucille clear up and the two parted for the week. For the next two years Alli spent most of her Saturdays with Lucille. On the rare occasion she wasn't at Lucille's, she was with Lucille at one of her friend's houses. A few months before their two year friendship was to end, Lucille got sick. Alli stayed with her, everyday between and after classes. When Lucille couldn't tell her stories anymore, Alli told her some of her own. When Lucille went to her final home Alli only cried once. It wasn't a cry for Lucille, who she knew was happy, but for the years it would take before Alli could see her there.
After she graduated Alli started her own little cafe in town called Lucille's. And every Saturday at Lucille's, she served a special flavor of pie.