“What’d you say, ol’ man?” he yelled, jostling me with his shoulder.
I looked at him and spit. I was tired of that fool of a kid. Well, he pushed me against a tree and caught my throat in his hand and pulled back the other for a good punch when we both heard a whistle pierce the air.
Sally was running full tilt our way, and when she got within a couple of yards she slowed, bending over double to catch her breath.
She walked up to us, spit on the ground, and said, casual like, “I was wondering (pant) if (pant) you two would be (pant) interested in a book club this fall?”
“Why’d you spit, lady?” Sweet Beat frowned.
“Kevin. Have you forgotten my name? I’m Sally. Sally Cortland. And, although I’m grateful you think me a lady, I prefer you address me less formally. At any rate,” she continued as Sweet Beat squinted, trying to figure out if he’d been cut down or not, “I’m going to host a book club in my home during the cold winter months. A lady (as you so ably noticed, Kevin) must plan ahead, and I need to know if you’d be interested.”
“Of course,” she continued as we both began to decline, “I’m only asking those who I think could keep up. You see, not everyone is man enough to take on something like this.”
Well, I wasn’t going to let anyone beat me out. I spoke right up.
“You can count on me, Sally.”
She nodded and raised her eyebrows at Sweet Beat. He shrugged.
She continued to stare at him until he grunted, “I’m more a man than he is,” and walked off.
“We’ll start the first Thursday in November, then!” she called after him. “7:00 sharp, 6:30 if you want snacks.”
She turned to me, then, and said, “I suppose if spit remained in one’s mouth, one might retain more of one’s teeth. I see today you are that lucky one.”
I had to give her that joke and laughed out loud. I supposed I could forgive her some things after all.
The sticky hum of summer began to be visited by cool nights that extended their arms into evening and morning respectively, until the air was again palatable. Neighborhood tempers followed suit. The neighbors somehow seemed to stroll more; the kind of taking a walk that led to nowhere and was just for pleasure.
I noticed kids walking down Plato Street on their route from school to wherever the heck they lived. I piled up more rocks in my rock pile near the corner of the house. I’ve always believed in planning for the future. A man who doesn’t take care to plan for the future, well, he might as well wear a skirt to a penitentiary, that’s what. I’m no fool. Who knew when I might need to hurl one of those things? And where were those kids coming from, anyway? I got so mad thinkin’ about it, I selected a small projectile from the pile and threw it at Sniff’s geranium pot. I was standing where the porch column didn’t obstruct my aim.That thing went as straight and true as ever any guided missile did. It whistled through the clear, fall air and knocked that planter smack against the siding faster than you can bite your lip. Which is what I did when Sniff came barreling out of her house like a moose on a rampage. Not one to be discourteous, I got out of her way. She chased me around to the back of my house and down the street until she tripped on a jut in the sidewalk. I didn’t turn to look at her. I just heard the sound of her large thighs slapping the cement. Well, I thought. Well maybe she’d learn her lesson about letting her temper fly like that.
Later, though, I got to thinkin’. It weren’t her fault the sidewalk was stickin’ up like that. I slipped into my house for a Coke and came out with two.
“Want one?” I asked just as she was limping by.
She stood in front of my house for a full minute, then kept walking. She could suit herself, I thought, leaving the Coke on my porch railing. I went in to get my paper. When I came out, there she sat in one of my metal rockers on the porch drinking the Coke, so I graciously handed her the business section. I figured she could use it for her parakeet, Fred, if she wasn’t inclined to read it. I know I wasn’t. I read the obits until the sun set. She got up in the fading light and slowly walked to her porch where she sat until the stars came out. I went inside. After all, something was bound to be on the TV and I don’t much like sitting in the dark.
to be continued . . .
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