“I’ve seen Nevada on a map. It’s brown.”
You know how some folks can live on the same street for years and never know their own neighbors? Never happened on our little street.
You come in on one side, you miss the house you’re looking for, you stay left, left again, just like Nascar and go round the circle again. You find it, sure. Near a dozen little houses on big lots, big cuz they was built on the edge of town for low income. Got to have room for leach fields with them septic tanks.
Sidney and me got our house back when we first married. It was brand spanking new. Fifty years ago. Never had enough money to do it up real nice, but we kept our yard green and purty. Our house is perched up above the ones ‘cross the street, where we got a bird’s eye view of the goings on.
Sidney been gone for near ten years now. This old parrot we got gonna outlive us both. Sidney named him Sailor and he taught that bird to cuss a blue streak. I taught him to say “Pick up your dirty socks.” Sidney used to say it’s only bird gibberish, but I know what he’s sayin’.
You can tell I miss my Sidney and the old neighbors, too. We used to have parties every time somebody new moved in — the whole block got together at our house, do pot luck, we BBQ til late in the night, swapping stories, drinking Keystone, “the unemployment beer”. Those was good days. A mess of our first neighbors moved away or passed on. I remember when one a them passed out on the street headed home late one night. Some drunk driver coming around the block near hit him. Scared the BeJesus outta Sidney and me. We swore then we gonna look after our neighbors real good.
Paul and Gina moved in ‘cross the street a few years ago. Young couple. Paul, tall and hunky, and Gina, looks to be Italian. Paul tells me they gonna be working all summer on the house, adding a workshop on to the garage, so he has a place to do wood craft. They’re hoping the noise won’t bother me. I tell him I’m so near deaf, he could set off a bomb and I don’t hear it. He’s working night shift at a factory down the way, and Gina works pre-school, so they don’t get much time home together.
The house next door to them, the old folks moved back to the Rez. A few months ago, a new couple move in. Eddie, he one fine-looking Mexican man — like you take a Ken doll and rub it in chocolate frosting, give it shiny, black wavy hair — mmm mmm. His wife name Natalie. First thing you can’t help notice about her, I don’t care you man or woman, is her big bosoms, and she don’t wear no bra. They’re up there now, but mark my words, in a few years, she gonna need some serious boulder holders.
I remember when they moved in, Eddie in just his jeans, his strong arms lifting dressers and tables out from the U-Haul like they light as a feather. Natalie bouncing out to get a light load. They busy like that all day. Sometimes stopping when they pass each other for a quick kiss, a poke in the ribs — one real happy couple.
So that first night, they got no curtains in their bedroom, not even a sheet tacked up. I see them from my dining room window. Natalie running in, hiding, making herself as flat as she can against the wall, right inside the door. Eddie coming in and her jumping at him. Well, he pick her up, her legs wrap around him and they kissing and groping and Lord Almighty, he moves away and takes off his jeans. I can see his bare butt and Nat she takes off her shirt and drops her shorts to the floor and they doing it right there against the wall. Just humping and bumping like jack rabbits. I watch. I know I shouldn’t.
I cover up old Sailor’s cage and head for bed. He telling me: “Awk. Pick up your dirty socks.”
One morning I’m having my coffee at the dining room table. Out of the set of six real classy coffee cups we got when we married, there’s only two left. And seeing how it woulda been our fiftieth anniversary that day, I get one down from the shelf and I real carefullike fill it from the coffee pot, little bit cream, and I stirring my coffee, looking out the window at the geese flying over, heading from one golf course to the other, and -
Boom! The explosion shook them cheap single-pane windows.
The coffee cup drops outta my hand on the linoleum and breaks to a hunderd pieces. I so upset, I don’t clean up the mess right away. I put on my shoes and head over to Eddie and Nat’s. I pound on the door. I see Paul headed over, then Eddie coming outta his back yard.
Eddie looks to me first, sees me all frazzled and verging on tears. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Jackson.” He sees Paul and nods to him. Like a little boy who’s ‘bout to be scolded, he hangs his head, “I set off some fireworks, I thought they were duds. I forgot to dispose of them at work like I should have.”
“You ‘bout scared them geese all the way back to Canada,” I tell him, and I’m holding back tears, remembering I got only one a my favorite coffee cups left. They both see I real upset, more than the noise woulda made me. They don’t say nothing and I remember my manners. “You two know each other?”
“Never met,” says Eddie.
I introduce them.
“So you work demolition?” Paul asks. While they’re talking, Nat bounces outta the house and slugs Eddie on his arm real playfullike. Gina comes over and they all talking a blue streak, nobody listening, everyone talking, heading to becoming quick friends, just like neighbors ought to be.
That was in August. Since then, I see those couples getting together one house or the other all a time. Thanksgiving come around, and they knowing I’m by myself, Paul and Gina invite me to their house for dinner, telling me Eddie and Nat will be there. I take over my homemade pecan pie. Gina serves up turkey and all the trimmings like she’s cooking for two dozen people. Paul says a toast to good neighbors and friends, but don’t do no grace. So I says my own words to the Lord and we dig in to a real nice supper.
After dinner and more wine, Paul takes out one of them new-fangled card games, where it’s got some real personal questions and all sorts a naughty answers. Well, everytime it’s my turn, I got to put on my reading glasses. I pick up a card and read: “How did you lose your virginity?” I look at them over the top of my glasses. “You folks be nice now,” I tells them, laughing.
They each choose cards real quick. I mix them and read them out loud. “Science. Michael Jackson,” and I starts busting up, I got to pick that one. Even over “Batman”. Nat does her happy dance.
“My card,” she says. And I’m laughing and crying and needing to go pee and realize when I get up, I’m staggering just a little.
Well, after I wash up, head back to the dining room, I see a sobering sight. Paul and Nat sitting at the table alone. Real close together. She slipping her bare foot up his pant leg. He ogling her bosoms.
They sit up straight when I come in. I tell them, “I think I’ll go serve up that pecan pie right about now.”
I walk in the kitchen doorway and what I see . . . Lord have Mercy. Eddie leaning on the countertop and Gina right up against him. I take them by surprise and Gina near trips over Eddie’s foot moving away.
All of them married, but not to the one they grinding on. I struggling to keep calm. I look to Heaven, praying for His guidance. Eddie’s eyes follow mine, he wondering what’s wrong with the ceiling.
“I think I cut that pie now,” I tell him. Eddie gets a knife, hands it to me, and Gina gets out plates and forks.
My hand’s so unsteady. I cut the pie in half in a crooked line. Then make a second cut and a shaky third one. And on that third cut, I just crying. Paul and Nat come in the kitchen. These nice couples I introduce to each other, something’s gonna go real wrong. I can feel it to my bones. I back away so my tears don’t fall off my cheeks and into the pie. I put down that knife before I drop it and mumble a quick ‘thank you’ to everyone. l head out the door. Right straight home.
Christmas come and gone now. I sure miss my Sidney. He used to string lights outside all over the house and elm trees. I’m pretty sure you could see our little home from outer space. I hardly been out the house, except Thursday nights when my friend Winnie drives us to the Senior Center for dinner. I see Eddie come home from work some days. In his house long enough to shower, then he over to the neighbor just when it’s getting dark while Paul’s at his factory job and Nat’s at hers in the casino. He’s there a hour or so most times.
Last week, I saw Nat over to Paul and Gina’s while Gina’s working day care. After a while, Nat back to her own house. She look all kinds of mad heading back over, but I don’t pay them no never mind anymore. I get out my last good coffee cup, fill it up and lose myself in the purty little floral patterns making a circle round the cup. I lift it to my lips and an explosion from across the street rocks the house. I drop my cup to the floor where it breaks. I look out and Paul’s garage is all up in flames.
It’s two months since the fire. Everything’s sorted out now. They’re saying Paul died in the explosion when he started his car — his body charred beyond recognition. Eddie’s on the lamb, being hunted down for his murder. Least, that’s what it says in the local paper. The girls, well, I hear they living in Mound House, other side of the hill. That’s where them brothels are.
But just today, I got a little package in the mail, postmarked “Cancun, Q Roo.” My old, arthritic hands fumble it open — two decks a cards — Cards Against Humanity. I spread the cards out on my table, like a dealer in Black Jack. Smile at the ones I remembers from playing with those fine young folks. Then I see some cards written by hand: “How far would you go to make a million dollars?” “Fake my own death and collect the insurance money.”