Backhanded comments notwithstanding, the new neighbors seemed like very nice people.
It took them four years from the day they moved in to introduce themselves. It seemed appropriate that the lemonade I serve them be the stuff that I made a few weeks ago for a barbecue which had been aging to full maturity in the back of the refrigerator.
Naturally they could have had it fresh. Might have been invited to the barbecue, if we hadn’t still been under the impression that they were silently judging us through the picture window of their raised ranch.
They had never put up curtains in that window. There were no frames hanging on the walls visible within their home. There was a floor lamp that would turn on in the evenings, too small for the space and put in the corner as though it were to the side of some large couch that was not there.
For four years, it appeared as though they had just moved in. Or were just about to move out.
I didn’t drink the lemonade I offered them. I brought out enough glasses as though I might pour for my wife and me, but left them on the tray when the drinks offered to Mr. and Mrs. Abbot took most of what remained in the pitcher.
We sat on the patio, because our dog would just about bark his head off should we invite the pair inside. My wife and I had been in the middle of our weekend chores, and so were wearing denim shorts and tank tops, no bras, and only scuffed into flip flops to go outside to sit with our company.
Mrs. Abbot was wearing a stiff, floral sundress which was as modest as a sleeveless dress could make itself. I don’t think she realized the department store tag still hung from the underarm on one side.
Mr. Abbot wore a polo shirt and a pair of front-pleated khaki pants. I have always considered front pleats to be a crime against humanity.
They sat primly on our deck chairs, while we leaned back and put our feet up on the cross-bars that reinforced the anodized table legs.
We talked about the Abbots as though they had not moved in four years ago, but as though their moving truck had just beeped its way back down the driveway and rumbled off. As though they had so much packing ahead of them that the conversation might remain polite and tight-lipped so they could choose any moment to excuse themselves and return to unpacking.
We asked them the obvious questions, and learned they had moved from Tennessee because Mr. Abbot’s mother, who lives in the area, has taken ill and needs family nearby for help and perhaps for her final goodbyes. Mrs. Abbot made a comment about Mr. Abbot’s brother, who lived near enough that he could move to the area and still commute to his job with greater ease than Mr. Abbot could open a new hardware store and establish his business all over again.
Mrs. Abbot is allergic to cats.
Mr. Abbot needs the name of a repair shop that might fix his lawn mower that week, before it was time to mow again.
They did not ask us the obvious question, and seemed embarrassed when we talked about our wedding, as an expression of sympathy for difficult family members.
The mosquitos finally chased us from the yard, and the Abbots crossed back to their side of the street, waving at the air around their heads and slapping at their necks and arms.
“They seem nice,” my wife said noncommittally as we poured out the rest of the pitcher into the sink and put it in the dishwasher.
We still had laundry to do.
Author’s Note: These snippets are unedited free-writing exercises that I use as a way to shift my brain into a creative state. I use Lynda Barry’s What It Is YouTube timed exercises (usually 9 minutes worth of writing) for these. They are handwritten in a composition notebook and then typed up here. As I transcribe them, I make minor grammar and spelling corrections, but the overall “clarity” (if you can call it that) of the exercise is left as-is.