Look there. That’s the old lady named Birdie who lives down the street from us. You can see her house just up there, in the next block. That one with the scraggy-looking lawn. She doesn’t do the gardening, that’s for sure.
No, Birdie’s not her real name. We’ve called her that ever since we were kids. Her real name’s Bernadette or Bernice or something. Birdie’s short for bird-brained, which is what we call her. She doesn’t mind, or she doesn’t know. No one talks to her anyways.
Well, you know, I tried talking to her once. Back when we just moved back here from the apartment. I was surprised she’s still around. Mickey, you know he’s always been the chatty type. He went around the neighbourhood just talking to people. He made friends, easy, while I did the gardening. Most of my old classmates don’t live around here any more, but their parents still recognize me. They all liked Mickey, thank heavens. I don’t know if I could have survived all the gossip if they didn’t.
Anyways, so Mickey walks around the neighbourhood one day and starts talking to Birdie, of all people. (In the meantime, I was probably mowing the lawn. He always says he’ll help, but then he gets distracted.) Then, he comes home and says to me that he’d gone and invited a nice old lady to dinner. And I remember I hadn’t even planned anything for dinner yet. But husbands are always doing that, inviting people over without asking if it’s alright first, as though dinner will just pop up on the table when he comes home. I made something simple, probably, baked chicken drumstick, like I usually make.
Birdie was over for dinner later, and, you know, she’s chattier than I thought she’d be. She said she’d been living in that old house for as long as she or anyone can remember. Her sister had moved away after getting married–Anne or Margaret, or something her name was. The sister and her husband had passed away, and their two kids used to come around and take care of her. One of them, the eldest son, moved to Kelsing when he got a job there. Her other nephew still lives in the city, and he used to come by quite often, according to her, though I’ve never seen him. Maybe he got tired of her complaining.
That’s right, she’s a nice, little old lady until she starts talking. And she doesn’t say anything mean or anything, but it’s always this stomach pain, or that back ache, or that everyone avoids her (which is probably true) and that she’s lonely all the time, or that her fridge doesn’t close properly, or her door is squeaking, or the cats whining in the middle of the night. And Mickey is such a sweetheart. He’d go over to change her lighbulb or mow her lawn. This is the guy who never bothers to do any housework around here. Well, you know what, I told him that. I said to him, “Mickey, why don’t you help around this house, too?” And he said that he felt sorry for the kind old lady, and that she must be lonely all the time with her nephew in the city, who never comes to visit her. And by that time Elena was already born and Calvin was on the way, and I was stuck at home all the time. I was so angry at him. I screamed and cried, and poor Elena was there crying, too, probably wondering why her mommy was so angry. I took his keys and I wouldn’t let him in the house until he apologized. And I told him that if he loved that little old lady more than me then he could go live with her instead.
You know, that guy really is a sweetheart. He walked all the way to the supergrocer’s and came back with a little pot of flowers and promised never to go see Birdie again. He still doesn’t mow the lawn around here. But he’ll wash the dishes and take out the garbage once in a while.