The screeching and squawking next door stopped and through the evening silence, Charlene heard frogs peeping in the creek. And she heard her favorite rocking chair squeaking a little louder. She felt herself move and bob a little faster in her perch on the porch as she thought about how that neighbor woman rubbed her the wrong way.With her eyes squinted, she watched Mrs. Gilliam bounce and hum through the yard, teetering across the flagstone walkway between their houses on a pair of heels on a Wednesday after supper. That woman had ruined Charlene’s perfectly quiet moment with an uninvited bundt cake made out of a box and her vapid gossip. Mrs. Gilliam, Genie Jo she insisted, stomped around on the old woman’s last nerve with those cheap heels. Charlene may have been born and raised in a holler, but she knew good shoes when she saw ‘em. Back when she was young, she had a shocking sense of fashion. For a spinster. She turned heads without showing skin or feeling foolish. There wasn’t a man in three counties who could keep up with her.
Genie Jo’s voice was a nervous chirp and her hair was too blonde. Her house was too clean, her kids were too polite. Those rugrats always yes ma’amed and no ma’amed at Charlene, but she didn’t buy it for a minute. She knew damn well those smiling, polite kids were the same little hoodlums who put a dead muskrat in her mail box. Charlene had been a teacher in the same town, in the same school, most of her life. Seventy some odd years. Long enough to know kids, to see them grow up into adults. Those kids were going to grow up to be degenerates, she could see it comin’. Charlene noticed things, quietly and aptly. From behind her bulky, metal desk in the fifth grade classroom, she observed the passing of generations. And she figured she was probably the only educator in the whole United States who’d drawn a correlation between boys who wet the bed and grown menwho cheat on their wives. Nine out of ten times, those pee babies grew up to be two-timers. Charlene took mental note of every time that neighbor woman teetered toward her house with a box of wine to talk to the old maid in a pitiful whine about feeling lonely.
That neighbor woman, Genie Jo, she had married a bedwetter. A whiney, pudgy, red-headed Gilliam boy who grew into a whining, red-headed man. Charlene remembered him from the fifth grade back in 1995. And she could hear him through the fence when she was out back working in her tomato garden.
“Honeeeeyyyy hoooneyyyyyy…” he’d wail for his wife, like a sickly siren.
Grousing for her to fetch him this or that. And she did it, Mrs. Gilliam. She actually did it. In those jakey heels and a skimpy, two-piece bathing suit. She packed and pranced back and forth from the house to that above-ground pool where he floated around like a sunburnt, shaved orangutan. She delivered bottles of beer or sunscreen and cooed to him sweetly. His whole body was covered in wet, matted, gingery hair. All except for the top of his head. Charlene wouldn’t be surprised if that woman picked his nits before bedtime.
And changed the piss-soaked sheets every morning. Genie Jo smiled her fake smile with her fake teeth and waved as she toddled up the porch steps, clinging to the railing for dear life. Charlene just shook her head and rocked a little harder.