I woke up to see Sally bent over, cleaning the last of the brushes. She must have sensed my gaze, because she looked up and smiled.
“Have a good nap?”
“I always need a nap after I hear Fanny Sniff’s voice,” I replied.
“Thanks for keeping us company, Mr. Bingham.”
She straightened and looked at the house.
“It’s a good week’s work,” she said.
“You been doin’ this for a week?”
“I guess there are so many things going on in this neighborhood, it’s easy to miss some of it,” Sally commented in an amused voice.
Indeed, the house did look as though it began to be cared for. The creamy yellow was pared with a gray-green trim. Looking back, I admit I didn’t appreciate her taste at the time, but even then I could see it was an improvement.
“Stoppin’ already?” I asked. I thought she should at least work the day out.
“It’s 7:00, Mr. Bingham,” Sally answered, “It seems the day got away from you.”
I watched as she pulled out her ponytail and let her hair fall as the door closed behind her.
I’d have to make myself a quick supper, if I wanted to get to the comics before daylight faded. Some days are just like that. They are so full, that there isn’t time to fit in everything. I blamed it on Fanny Sniff. If she hadn’t interrupted my morning, I might have not had to hurry like I was now. That darned woman!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The rest of the week I spent on my porch, watching Sally and the boy. No matter what time I got out there, they had beat me out. The woman had kept her weeds mowed since the day they’d moved in. I had noticed that right away.
I do like putterin’ in the yard. It lets me keep an eye on things. And one more thing. I hate crab grass. Now Creeping Charlie I like. It’s pretty. It perks up a yard a bit. Clover has a sweet smell. Plus you never know when you’ll get lucky with clover. Old sayings always have some truth to them, and you just never know where a four-leaf clover will take you. Dandelions are a fine little flower. I always said ‘If dandelions are good enough for a President of the United States, they’re good enough for me’. Crab grass is an entirely different matter, though. Some loud-mouthed kid not worth the gum on his shoe once made a comment about my yard fitting its owner and ever since, I’ve been death on the stuff.
It nearly met its final doom. I was outdoors so much – keeping an eye on things at the old Johnston place – that I swear I nearly dug it all up. I never worked so hard in my life.
The worst, of course, was when they went around to the back of their house. I ended up having to walk around the block and take a shortcut through their back alley to see anything at all. I heard Sally talking quietly to her son before I could see them. They were kneeling there not three feet from the alley. A box lid was crowded with little cups: some of them broken at the lip, some of them old plastic ones someone had thrown out, some of them Styrofoam ones in good shape bearing the logo of the donut shop three blocks down. I wondered if the owner was sweet on her. The cups held seedlings she must have planted a few months back.
She and the boy had measured out a little garden in the back and were planting the seedlings. I was sure she wouldn’t get anything from it, starting so late in the year. Still, she nursed those things in her hands as though they were her own babies.
I kicked a rock and scuffed my shoe so Sally would hear me. Someone had to tell her the garden wouldn’t do any good.
“Those ain’t gonna grow big enough by the time it frosts, ya know.”
She didn’t stop working at all. She just answered, “I know.”
“What?!” I couldn’t believe my ears.
That was it for me. I marched from there in such a huff that I had to rest by the time I got home.
She cut up some wilted hostas on the side of the house one day. I never sat so still in my life. The woman reminded me of a Samurai warrior, slashing those things the way she did. For one dreadful moment I thought she looked my way, but to my relief, she picked up her shovel and started planting what she’d just so viciously attacked. Funny thing is, they lived.
to be continued . . .