“My name’s Sally. Sally Cortland.”
I shook her hand.
“You are . . .?” she asked.
“Right. I’m Bill Bingham.”
“You must be retired?” she asked.
It struck me funny and I snorted. It was a good snort as snorts go, but she looked startled. It reminded me of someone.
Suddenly I exclaimed, “You’re that boy’s mother!”
She cocked her head and I continued, “The boy. The boy ‘twas here pulling the bark off my tree. He’s about yeah high,” I measured with my hand, “and freckly.”
“I’m sorry if he upset you, Mr. Bingham.”
I started laughing again – so hard I had to get up and spit.
“Honey, if you call anyone ‘mister’ around here, everyone will think he’s a drug dealer.”
Somehow I sensed I’d offended her. Then I figured it out.
“Oh. Right. You asked if I was retired. See, it struck me funny, ‘cuz I been on some type o’ public assistance er ‘nother since I were a pup.”
She remained silent.
“Bad back,” I explained, rubbing it.
“You said the man was a . . .,” she paused, as if searching for a phrase, “good-for-nothing scoundrel?”
I nodded knowingly.
“Don’t ferget. He was rich,” I added. After all, some things bear repeating.
She got up, shook my hand, and left.
The sun was nearing the horizon now. Its brightness colored the street in gold and orange. Sally, now at her own house, bent to deadhead some potted petunias, turned and waved at me, and slipped inside.
I sat on my sagging porch, chewed on a cookie, and let my memory have its way. It began to sprinkle. I went inside and watched out my window as the rain first pelted my newspaper and then spit into the wind; which blew it, page by page, down the street.
to be continued . . .