I sewed like a fiend all morning then stood up around noon, winced, popped my back, and staggered into the kitchen for lunch. Everything needed cleaning before I could cook. So I rinsed, wiped, and went to take the recycling out on the porch.
My office had been chill all morning, thanks to the brick house and the northern exposure. So I was surprised to find the day warm and sunny. I ambled down the drive to collect the yard waste cans, and spotted a fresh pile of branches the Sparring Partner had cut down on Sunday. I began to break them up and stuff them in the freshly emptied cans.
Next thing I know, the old lady across the street is shuffling my way, hailing me. "Can I talk to yooou?" she yodels, and not like, "I got something to tell you," but more like "I've got nobody else, will you listen to me?" so I say, "Sure."
I had met the woman a few times after I first moved in. She smoked like a chimney and had a salty, rollicking way of talking. For our first married Christmas she gave us a box of fudge that smelled like low-tar. But over the past few years she'd fallen a couple of times, broken both hips and had them replaced, and her son had moved it with her.
It was obvious, now, that her mind had severely deteriorated. She was just as cheery and talkative as ever, but there was a fragile quality to her posture and her speech was rambling vagaries. I nodded and made listening noises and stomped on branches to break them up.
"Oh honey!" she said. "Let me help you with that!" She started toward me.
"No, I got it."
"Oh, you're just a little thing, you shouldn't--"
"Just stay right there!" I told her in no uncertain terms. The last thing I needed was her trying to pick up a tree branch and pitching over in my yard. She probably weighed less than ninety pounds but that was too much for me to carry and I didn't want to talk to her son, period. He's creepy, frankly.
She seemed wounded. "Well, I didn't mean to..."
"I know, I appreciate it, but you're on my property and if you get hurt I'll be in trouble."
"Oh, I guess that's so." She stood there a minute longer. "Well, I guess I'd better be going."
"Ok, you take care." I looked across the street to make sure no cars were coming, and she shuffled back to her driveway. I saw her son leaning in the open garage door, hands in pockets, watching, so that was good.
She got inside safely, and I went back to picking up branches.
I was vaguely aware of a car coming up the street behind me, not too fast. A wolf whistle smacked me in the backside as the breeze of the vehicle brushed by.
I turned around fast, startled, but the pickup truck was already past, guy in a ball cap leaning on the window, looking straight ahead.
I decided I'd had enough fresh air and went back inside.