SometimesPart 2: Mrs. Avery

I put out what I can for the girl...My hip is miserable today. The humidity makes for some downright mournful mornings and mournful nights too. The clouds been building for days. Its a blessed relief that the rain started a-spatterin. Tomorrow, the worldll be washed spick-and-span and my old bones should be set to rights. Harvey put on the tin roof, ohgotta be thirty years gone now. Our Peter and I would lie on the thick Chinese carpet and listen to the rat-ta-ta-tat. He said it sounded like the tools in his daddys shop. Peter dreamed about becoming a mechanic, like his daddy.

Puddles is startin to form in the back yard. They must be ankle deep already. I can even see crost the street to the old Bannigan house. Whats the name of them ones livin there now? The Johnsons? Jacksons? No how to keep up on people n their names these days. Course, my neighbour, him I knowAllan Murphy. Now theres a mean, nasty man. Hes like a snake, he is. Even when hes simpering and smilin at me, his eyes is cold. And that poor little girl. She aint nothin but skin n bone now. Aint never had a decent bath in weeks, neither. I blame the mother, I do. Our Peter was half in love the first time he laid eyes on that woman. He was always sayin how beautiful and nice she was. Thank god she was already married when she first moved in. What was the husbands name? I ferget. He werent around too long.

The rains like a tap dancing troupe, just a-practicing away up there. Reminds me of the last time Peter was on leave, beforebeforeHe said, Mom, you got to come and watch this dancing. You gonna love it. He had it on his computer lap thing and said it was on You-Hoo. That was before my cataract started and I could still see like a hawk. Well, there was these tap dancers like I never seen before. Irish dancers they was. The musicians played Lord of the Dance, and gosh darn it, but it was good. Sometimes now, I go into Peters room, put on his work jacket and sit on his bed. His computer is on the dresser, just where he left it. I polish it with Pledge every Friday. When I touch the black shiny surface, I can still hear all of them shoes keeping time.

The creak on the back porch is almost the same as the one in my hip. I put out what I can for the girl. Sneaks it behind the trash, I do. I put it in the Tupperware, so the mice cant get at it. My pension cheque aint much, so I don have much to give by the end of the month. Today, I put crackers, peanut butter and a half an apple. Peter said he had the money all figured out before he left. All them years that his daddy Harvey worked at the shop, well Peter said that pension is mine, even though Harveys been gone eleven years. Peter said he made sure the money went straight into my bank account. No waiting for the postman. Problem is, I don know which bank. Marge down at the First Union, she said she don know nothing about di-rect deposit. Its too bad Harveys spirit don know nothing bout it either, like he knew about the girl. He told me about her in my dream. Sybil, he said, you gots to do something about that child. Shes wasting away in front of your eyes. And look at them bruises.

Peter was twenty-five when that woman moved in next door with her first shifty lookin husband. Truth be told, she was a pretty little thing. More outgoing then. Always asking about how to plant carrots, or if sweet peas should be next to the glads. Now, she never looks at me, which is even worse than her snake-eyed man. She just scurries by, starin at the ground. I sit in my rocker every afternoon watchin the world go by, n most days that fat, orange-fingered friend of Als waves at me from the window. Hes even creepier than Al.

I used to be a cleaner, down at the Mulrooney offices. I worked there for years and years. My kids, Peter and Dahlia, would come by after school and wait in the foyer. Old Cyril kept an eye on them, made sure they done their homework. Then when I was finished, wed walk home, Dahlia goin on about science stuff until I was dizzy, Peter just holdin my hand and quiet like. They both helped me with the groceries.

Dahlias gone to NASA, working with astronauts now, an engineer. Who woulda thought such a thing? Her bein a small-town girl turnin into a big shot. No cleaning offices for my girl. No sirree. She came home for the funeral, but not since. Its not that Dahlia don love me, I know she does. Its on account of her havin a special kinda brain. Numbers and such keep her interest and not much else. I was good with numbers too, could figure up inventory in my head, lickety split. Didnt need no calculator neither. But her kinda numbers, they aint real, theyre maginary numbers she says. They needs them to get into space. It makes no kinda sense to me.

One night, I saw Allan Murphy throw that woman outta the house. She stood on the rickety front porch, just starin at the door and shiverin in her nightgown. He turn all the lights out and left her standin. Serves her right, I thinks. But, I couldnt do it. That woman cried for a long time that night. She was gone before I woke up. I had to go into Peters room to look over at her house to see if she was sittin on the porch. Werent no sign of her and the house was shuttered up tight, xpect she had to work.

Even with my cataract, I can see my windows need a good cleanin. I keep the bucket and the sponge on a stick in Peters room. Have for years. He used to say, Mom, you scare me doin the windows. It wont take me no time at all. And it never did neither. I only do a window a day now. Spring cleaning takes me weeks instead of days. Good thing its only once a year. When I pushed Peters jackets outta the way sos I could pick up the bucket, a little black bag fell onto the floor. It had one of them small jewelry boxes for rings inside. But there was no ring. Sos I put on Peters work jacket and sat on his bed for a long, long time, starin into that empty box.

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Read more in this series:

SometimesPart 1