The Terror of the Terrace

We have an elderly lady neighbor in town who has lived next door for about two years exactly.  I remember just when Ms. Penny moved in because it was right after Clothilde was born, and she had some kind of sawing/noisy lawn work/construction going on a few feet from our bedroom window from barely daylight until dusk for months.

It also freaked me out when she first moved in because she came over and threatened to call the city on our wildlife landscape and Mirin’s carving projects strewn along the driveway.  We had a one-week-old baby at the time.  In the end she turned out to be fairly harmless – nice even.  She’s given my children stuffed animals and religious booklets, and even passed along the occasional HFCS and chemical-laced Publix carrot cake that we in turn passed along to someone else who doesn’t mind that sort of thing.  We bring her Christmas cookies and hot cross buns for Easter and we sing carols at her house for the holidays.  I tried giving her some cucumbers from the garden this year, but that seemed to confuse her too much.  She kept asking how she should cook them.

She is only in her early seventies, although she seems older in some ways than Ethan’s Grandmother who is 96.  Her life revolves around the mail and trash pick-up.  Every so often she comes over and asks me when the mail will be here.  It annoys her that it is never at a specific time.  We can always smell her perfume coming before we see her – once even around the opposite side of the house.  She relies on Ethan to move her recycling bins and trash to the curb every Wednesday.  The trash is never picked up before 5 pm, but if Ethan hasn’t gotten it out by 7:30am, she calls.  If we ignore her calls, she comes over and hammers on the door like the police.

Yesterday Ethan and I were up before 8:00.

“It’s past 7:30,” I reminded him.  “You’d better get Ms. Penny’s trash out before she calls and wakes everyone up or beats down the door.”

He groaned and then laughed and went to get dressed.  Seconds after he was out the door and I could hear our trash being dragged to the curb, the phone rang.  I was busy with laundry and didn’t get it in time.  Someone (the 2-year-old) had turned the answering machine up to full volume.

“Hello,” Ms. Penny’s voice thundered down the hall.  “It’s Penny from next door, dear.  I was just wondering if there was something wrong with Mr. Ethan?  He hasn’t gotten my trash and recycling out yet.”

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