BREATH IN THAT FRESH AIR
A woman is walking up the street. Oh, it’s Diane, my neighbor. It didn’t look like her at first, but now I see it. She’s carrying her child. No, never mind, that’s a bag, it’s a bag. A grocery bag, I guess. She’s carrying a grocery bag up the street because it’s Sunday, and on Sunday Diane gets groceries, like most people around here, and she’s taking her sweet time walking up our street with that bag. Maybe it’s because she knows I’m watching. I’m going to wave at her. Hi! Hi, Diane! It’s me, Theodore. She waved back!
Yep, she must have gone shopping because it’s Sunday and that’s the day most people around here get their groceries, I think. Me? I don’t shop for food. I order Chinese takeout, or I go to my mother’s.
That shopping bag is looking very heavy, Diane. What do you have in there? I can almost hear her thighs rubbing against each other, mwah, mwah, mwah… She’s getting close enough that I can see three cartons of orange juice, too. Wow, Diane loves vitamin C. Who’d have thought? Maybe she’s sick; or maybe her child is sick.
No, that’s not Diane. That’s Ethel. Diane has a child, of course she has a child, and there'd be a child there right now if that was Diane—Diane, the beautiful single mother of Maple Road, a true, blue MILF—but it’s not. It’s Ethel, who is quite old, maybe 83, and let’s just say Ethel is looking very hunched this morning. Very delicate. I would punch her back if it meant straightening that spine out. Ethel is or will soon be a widow. Her husband George is diabetic and just lost his leg. The poor man! And, you know, when you’re that old and you lose a leg, well, I can’t imagine you have much ambition figuring out prosthetics. And the physical therapy involved! If I were George, I’d put all of my money in a fine-looking casket. Something classy, like mahogany. Not many people have the foresight to pick out their own casket. Or do they? I haven’t really talked to anyone about this; it seems a little morbid. Either way, I certainly plan on having a say in the matter.
There goes Ethel lurching up the three short steps to her porch landing. Looks like it’s going to be another hour until she touches the doorknob. George moves faster, even with just the one leg. I wonder if he’s watching from inside the house? It pains me to look at this—just move it, Ethel, come on! I want to push her. She’s really milking this. Maybe it’s because she knows I’m watching. I’m going to stop standing in the middle of the road…
Okay, I’m on the sidewalk now, and I hear jingling. What could be jingling? Wind chimes? Ethel’s keys? Nope, she’s still at the steps. Dog collar? Has anyone thought to put tiny wind chimes on a dog collar? That could be very successful. Oh, I see it now, it’s wind chimes, actually my wind chimes, right there hanging by my front door. Wow, this is embarrassing, I completely forgot that I owned wind chimes. But can you blame me? How often should I be thinking about my wind chimes? Quite frankly, I don’t even know why I have them. I do like that jingling though, it’s very calming.
But, you know, I really think my hearing is going. And not going as in, “What was that?” Going as in, “Did you hear that?” I hear strange noises all the time. Usually I ignore it, or I convince myself that it was an echo, or the floorboards creaking, or something, but it’s becoming so frequent that I’ve run out of plausible excuses. My entire house is carpeted, you know?
George must be at death's door. Why else would Ethel buy orange juice in such bulk? Some last ditch effort to keep her other half alive and miserable. Just let him go Ethel, the man barely survived the amputation. Give him some chocolate, let him die happy! Can diabetics have chocolate, or orange juice for that matter? Oh, there she goes, struggling with the doorknob now. Jeez. And she just looked at me. Does this mean she needs help? Do I need to help her turn a key? Are you kidding me, Ethel? I'm going to put my hand over my brow like a visor to let her know I see her. I'm waving. Ethel, do you need help from your little neighbor, Theodore? I'll ring your neck if you say yes. I'll stuff a sock in George's mouth... Okay, Ethel is still staring at me, she didn’t hear a word I said, but she got the door open now—Hurray! I'm smiling at her, nothing crazy, just a faint smile to indicate that I'm a nice man, a good neighbor. She's inside. Phew.
Wouldn't mind taking a little stroll. A little stroll, doop-dee-doo, yes a nice stroll down Maple Road—a beautiful day to appreciate my lovely neighborhood. Today, Theodore will be a man about town. Yes indeed, I'm feeling especially content today. Maybe I'll skip? Why the heck not! Here I go!
Whoops, almost knocked into Greg, the mailman. Sorry about that, Greggy boy. Didn't see your petite feet in the midst of my joyous skipping. He's a tiny guy! Tiniest guy in town, actually, and, boy, does he walk! Like a little toy Yorkie, battery-operated Greg. Yes, I'm sorry, Greg, of course I'm sorry, but you really shouldn't be so—hey wait a second, what's the big idea? There's no mail on Sunday!
It's Monday? Well, that explains why I haven't seen Diane today. She must be at work. Diane, a stenographer and devout Catholic, who on several occasions has mentioned to me that her presence at church is met with reservation by the older members of the congregation. I usually respond with baffled anger, even though we both know why. I scrunch up my face into something disagreeable and shake my head wildly—No, no, no, those grumps are nuts Diane, don't blame yourself, that isn't your fault! One time I shook my head so fast my glasses flew right off and hit her in the face. I was terribly embarrassed but she handled it gracefully. The woman can do no wrong. Well, except for that one thing. Where is that husband of yours, Diane, hmm? You sure know how to pick them. And what happened to Sunday?
Well, there goes Greg. Back to skipping—and look! There goes an airplane, flying low, about to perform an emergency landing on my street.