Nice N’ Easy
…..If I held out a yardstick from my kitchen window and gave it a good stretch, I bet I could touch the shingles on the bungalow next door. But I am embarrassed to say I don’t even know her, my neighbor of 12 years. Our close proximity belies the strangeness between us. I see cars pull up and cars pull away in rhythm like the dancers on a cuckoo clock. The voices of children too old to climb trees rise up and over our fences every other weekend.
…..And our routine is the same.
…..I hear her vacuum on Tuesdays at ten. And I smell Marlboro smoke roll across her lawn when I check my mailbox at one. I know when she colors her hair – every five weeks. The Nice N’ Easy number four-o-five package blows into my driveway, gets stuck there when it rains. Through the blinds, I watch her sling greying towels across her deck railing for the sun to bleach away what Clorox leaves behind.
…..And twice a week, in and out of a crusty sleep in front of my TV, I hear a dozen empties bang into her recycling bin; she drags it to the street in the middle of the night.
…..I know when she lands a new man too; frequent Harley Davidson cowboys offer squeaky springs to her moans. I cover my ears as best I can with a leash in my hand. I walk on feeling nauseous. I search for a label that makes me feel better.
…..At dawn some five days a week, the Classic Cab company driver wheels through damp leaves in front of her house; he half honks. I hear the jangle of keys from the warmth of my own bed. A door slams. I remember seeing her in scrubs once.
…..I used to look for her, to say hello, but the deadbolt clicks into place before I get up the nerve to speak. I pull back because her secrets are mine now. I protect them, holding them close the way a real friend might do. And as I wonder who she really is, would she tell me if I asked? Perhaps she’s more comfortable with darkness than I am.
…..His daddy already threatened me once with his shotgun. Pointed the damn thing right in my face. And all ‘cuz his boy’s a lefty now. It wasn’t my fault.
…..Sometimes, I get fooled. Like I did that day.
…..I sniff the air first; Saturday’s breakfast still clings to their pajamas, I know they are near. The argyle pattern between us frames their faces; hands joined like puzzle pieces.
…..The girl eeks out a “Hey Bo.” I forget. If only we could make it official. I’m ready to forgive. I smile back at them with all my teeth. And then – a stick pokes me in the eye. And my whole body turns to fire.
…..The boy drops the stick at his feet and it rolls into the grass; they pivot and run. All I see from the back of their heads is her half coming down ponytail and his cowlick. I want to get hold of one of those necks and shake it loose.
…..My feet leave the ground.
…..I hear the familiar click and swish of the screen door opening. The mother bursts out, eyes popping, yanking her fuzzy bathrobe around her waist at the sight of us. But this time something’s in her hands. A broom?
…..“Ya’ll come away from there! You know he ain’t right!” She pulls the shotgun out from under her robe, shepherds them into her arms. Aim. Shoot. Fire. The fence catches me hard like the buckshot in my shoulder. What do they know about second chances?
Carrena Sherrill is an emerging fiction writer from North Carolina. She wrote her first story in her mother’s red lipstick on the back of the family sofa at age six. She has been writing ever since. She spent her professional career as a copywriter and marketing strategist during which time she developed a penchant for instant coffee. She can be found at Twitter.com/CarrenaSherrill although she prefers communication via email or phone.