Ms. Sarah’s booming voice can be heard up and down Marlor St. at all hours of the day. After 5PM, when she retires inside her modest home to watch the news and keep an eye on things via her half-closed blinds, there is a sweet peace. The 85-year-old woman has lived in that house, on that street, for over 25 years and has seen many neighbors come and go. Although she’s kind to all of them, she could also do without all of them. The exception is the couple across the street, Lacy and Jim, who are kind enough to drive her to Walmart every Sunday so she can get whatever’s on her list for the week. Those two she has genuine affection for. Everyone else, she figures, will be moved out and gone in a couple years, so there’s no point in getting attached. This past week has been a difficult one for Ms. Sarah because not only has there been ongoing construction on the bed and breakfast that newly popped up across the street from her, but the front of her own home is having some work done as well. If she’s not out there to watch the workers every day, she knows that they’ll milk the project for as long as possible to get as much of her savings as they can. Even thinking about all of this gives her a pounding headache. She goes upstairs and gets ready for bed. The workers will be back at it at 7AM, so she sets her alarm for 4AM.
“GOOOOOD MORNING!!!!” Ms. Sarah nearly screams from her doorway at a jogger who just happens to be running by as she comes out of her house at 6:30AM, carrying a cup of coffee and the newspaper. The jogger has headphones on and doesn’t hear her, so she looks around to check for other signs of life on the street. She sees a stray cat coming out from underneath a parked grey pickup truck. “GOOOOD MORNING!!!!” She says to the cat. The men working on the front of her house are usually right on time, so she settles in on her front stoop to wait for them. She doesn’t get to the bottom of her coffee before she sees their work van pull up.
“GOOOOOD MORNING!!!!” She projects, hands held to the sides of her mouth as they haven’t yet reached the front of her house.
The workers, Mike, Freddy, and Victor, hop out one after the other and move to the back of the van to retrieve their tools. There’s not much left for them to do on the project, just a few finishing touches, and Ms. Sarah thinks about how she’ll be sad to see them go. It’s nice to have people to visit with.
“Hey, Ms. Sarah!” Caitlin, from a few houses down, says to the side of her head as she opens her car to leave for work. “What are they doing to your house over there?”
“Ohhhhhhh,” Ms. Sarah squeals, happy to re-tell the story. “That’s right, you travel so much that you don’t know what’s been happening over here. Well let me tell you.” Rather than move over to Caitlin’s car, where she can be heard better, she just ups the volume from her current position on her stoop. “You know how I used to have that gravel in front of my house?”
Caitlin says yes, that she does. Well, she doesn’t so much say this, but imply so by continuing to look straight at Ms. Sarah as she continues.
“Well, and you’ve probably seen this too, I got so sick of coming out here and seeing dog mess in those rocks that finally I hired these nice young men here to level it all out and pour some nice clean cement over it. I’m spending money I shouldn’t be spending, but at least I won’t have to constantly see dog mess in front of my house. Ohhhhh, and THE SMELL!”
“Oh no,” Caitlin says. One butt cheek in the driver’s seat. “Well I’m glad you’re getting it taken care of. That’s gross that people don’t pick up after their dogs on this street.”
“It sure IS,” Ms. Sarah says. “Well you have yourself a nice day.”
Caitlin smiles and says for Ms. Sarah to do the same, and then drives away.
For the next five hours Ms. Sarah keeps the workers company, making sure they’ve done everything properly, and sending them off with a nice tip and three cold cans of Coke each. She watches their van pull away and looks down before she can’t see their taillights anymore. She wouldn’t have liked to not see their taillights anymore.
The spot in front of her house that used to just be gravel, and wayward turds, is now paved over, and covered in plastic surrounded by orange cones, to allow for it to dry without being tampered with. She feels a sense of completion that this project is done, and she also feels tired. She goes inside for the night, deciding to have a splash of wine with her news this evening, to celebrate.
With no need to have set an alarm, Ms. Sarah wakes naturally and is shocked to find that she slept in way longer than she has in a very long time. It’s 8AM and most everyone else will be nearly ready for work by that point, but here she is, without any coffee in her system yet even. She puts on her slippers and goes to the kitchen to start the machine brewing. She shouldn’t be having coffee at her age, but she likes it too much to give it up. Hot cup in hand, and a paperback under her arm, she heads out front and immediately notices that one of the cones that had been holding down the plastic over the drying cement is a few feet away, laying sideways in the street as though someone had kicked it over there. The plastic is flapping in the breeze and she carefully walks over to it. Standing directly over the newly paved section of sidewalk she can see something underneath it that hadn’t been there before. There are dark patches, where before it was just all smooth light grey. Ms. Sarah puts her mug down on the ground so she can lean over to pull the plastic back and then screams at what she finds there. Scrawled in the new cement are the words:
She stares at this act of vandalism for a very long time, a little longer than she’d really like to, and waits for someone to come out of their house, or jog by, so she can tell them what’s happened. No one does, so she picks her mug back up, lays the plastic back down, and goes into her house. She’s surprised that no one came out to check on her, even after she screamed like that.