I quickly brushed it from my face, hoping it had been a small fly with few guts.
“Hello,” she said brightly. A smile cupped her face.
I cleared my throat in a friendly manner.
“I thought you might like some cookies.”
She climbed the steps and handed me a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies without the raisins.
“My favorite,” I said doubtfully, taking the plate and turning a cookie over to look for at least one raisin. There were none to be found.
She looked around the porch and nervously rubbed one hand with the other.
“Have a chair?” I responded.
She pulled a rusty metal rocker from a few feet away. The scraping sound pleased my old ears, like a snare drum in a rock band. She sat down, facing the street.
“We moved to the Johnston house two months ago,” she pointed to the one that had been for sale for so long. “We’ve been so busy getting settled, we haven’t had time to meet everyone.”
I lifted my head in acknowledgement.
Then, thinking how I might be neighborly, I said, “This whole area used ta belong ta a rich good-for-nothing.”
I took her silence for interest, and continued, “Oh yeah. Near scoundrel he was. Courtney Tice. Never lifted a hand in his life. Had everything handed ta him on a silver platter. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, as they say.”
“Where, exactly was his house?” she asked.
Her eyes roamed the street in front of us.
“All over. It was a mansion. I seen it in some hist’ry pictures some fella with glasses and a button-down sweater showed me. Long time ago now.”
The woman looked at me curiously.
“I don’t know who he were. Just walkin’ up and down Plato Street. Talkin’ ta people.”
She squinted her eyes.
“Oh. You mean . . .?” I gave my chin a good scratching.
I reached my bony hand out and made a broad sweep.
“I’d say, if mem’ry serves, it stretched from that brick apartment over there to the corner past your house. The rest was gardens and grounds.”
The woman sat looking at the space for a time. The sun lit her hair in a way that made me wish I was young, but her hands were callused. She wore a pair of jeans and a sleeveless denim shirt. The rubber around her shoes was pulling away.
Suddenly she stuck out her hand.
to be continued . . .