Fanny Smith. The name makes me grimace and the woman who wears it makes me groan. She moved in next to me twenty years ago. Her voice makes me feel as though I’m at sea: sick and hearing a foghorn. Its blaring never changes in pitch nor in volume. By the time its over, I’m in need of at least an hour’s nap to calm my nerves.
Here she was. Standing on the walk in front of my house, calling to me in that voice. I pretended not to hear her.
“I said, Bill, there’s going to be a par-ty,” she drew the word out as though it was in a foreign language, “a par-ty next Friday.”
I coughed up a good one and looked at her.
“Oh. Didn’t see ya standin’ there, Sniff,” I said.
I’d always called her ‘Fanny Sniff’; it just came to me out of the blue, first time I met her. She hated my calling her that almost as much as she hated me. It, of course, brought me great pleasure.
She threw back her shoulders and smoothed the front of her dress. I never could bear a woman who wore a dress with flat shoes. Her shoes looked like she’d bought them at a men’s shop, except they didn’t look as feminine.
“I told her you shouldn’t be invited,” she said with that perpetual sound of authority she always had. She would’ve sounded like that even telling a joke. If she ever told one. Which she never did.
“Who, Sniff? Make it snappy – you’re wastin’ my time.”
That woman always made me impatient. Looking at her made me impatient. It made me want to swear, which I did obligatorily, just to show her.
Fanny began walking away. I chased her down the street. She turned on me so suddenly, I nearly fell over.
“Get away from me, you old coot! I’ll tell you, but only because I told her I would. Sally Cortland is having a party next Friday. Seven o’clock. Now get away from me before I lay ya flat.”
This last statement was no idle threat. The woman was, after all, a good six feet at least.
to be continued . . .