Maureen, she’s done it again.
I looked outside this morning and he’s missing. Frank is missing. This is the third time this month. Every day I live in fear of that woman stealing an innocent lawn statue just to get back at me, because I told her I didn’t like her peach cobbler.
Francine has lived across the street from me for thirty years and we’ve never had a problem until she invited me over a few days before Thanksgiving to try her peach cobbler. Now, truthfully, the cobbler was mushy. I don’t like throwing the word ‘mushy’ around, but that’s what it was. It was mushy. I thought she was serving me baby food. Even still, did I say “mushy?” I did not. I told her it was a little tart. Tart can mean anything. It can mean good and it can mean bad and it can mean whatever you want it to mean. You know what it meant to her? It meant “mushy” which is funny, because that’s exactly what I meant, but I would never have said that.
Well, she got up on her haunches like a wildebeest and ordered me out of her house. Francine said I could insult her, her children, her husband, and her decorating, but she’d be damned if I was going to insult her peach cobbler, when she is a daughter of the South, and they take their peach cobbler very seriously. If they take it so seriously, why don’t they learn how to make it properly? That’s what I thought, but I didn’t say that. I just gathered up the remaining oatmeal raisin cookies I had brought with me, and I showed myself out.
Now, that could have been that. One less bell to answer. One less smirk with a perm to make chit chat with while I force myself to swallow their unseasoned potato salad at the summer block party. Oh sure, I’ve known Francine for thirty years, but what does the word “know” mean in that context anyhow? We’re neighbors. We wave at each other when we’re both getting the mail and our kids played together when they were younger and her husband gave my husband a kidney, but when you take away all that, we’re practically strangers. So I didn’t see the problem in going from practically to totally, if you catch my drift. The older I get, the less people I want to know anyway.
It never would have occurred to me that Francine would feel as though she needed to strike back at me just for making an observation about her cobbler. Did I make that same observation to everyone on the block? Yes. But that’s my first amendment right. If someone is baking up bad cobbler, I think that information should be spread far and wide, lest anyone else receive an invite to her house for burnt coffee and bad dessert. All that is minor compared to her method of retribution.
Everyone in this neighborhood knows my prized possession is the Frank Sinatra statue I keep on my lawn. I got it in New York on my honeymoon, and I love it more than I love anything else on this earth except for Murder, She Wrote reruns and mahjong. It gets a wash everyday and a polish every other day. It was due for one of those when I looked out my window one morning and saw an empty space where Frankie used to reside.
I immediately panicked. I called the police, the EMT’s, the mayor, and if I could have found a number for the FBI online, I would have called them too. It wasn’t until I went outside to begin an extensive search for my little crooner that I looked across the street and noticed Frank right in front of Francine’s front door.
Thankfully, my doctor always reminds me that I have to watch my blood pressure, because otherwise, I would have kicked down that hag’s door and dragged her through the streets like they used to do in the old country when somebody stole something from you. Instead, I politely knocked using that hideous door knocker she has that looks like a decomposing acorn. Francine answered the door, and I asked her if she knew how Frank wound up in front of her house instead of my lawn, where he belongs.
She played dumb--a performance she’s perfected over the years with what I can only imagine is method acting. She told me that she had no idea how Frank had been moved, and perhaps I should go up and down the block, asking everyone if they knew anything about it.
“You’re used to stopping by everyone’s house for some engaging conversation,” she said, that misapplied lipstick of hers curling up into a sickening grin, “I’m sure you’ll get to the bottom of it.”
That was the first time she poached Frank from me. The second time, I found him out by her garbage cans. Thank god it wasn’t a Monday or that priceless artifact could have wound up in the local landfill. When I knocked on her door that day, she didn’t even bother to answer me. I was fit to be tied. My husband suggested we put Frank into the garage. I told him that he’d be put in the garage before I’d put Mr. Sinatra there.
Now, here we are again. Frank is gone. I’m hysterical. The world is at odds with itself. Oceans are rising. There are chemicals in the fish. It’s all a mess, Maureen.
Chances are, if I were to march over to her house right now, I’d find the Leader of the Rat Pack sitting there in the middle of that compost heap she calls a vegetable garden. The disrespect of it all is too much to bear.
I told my husband we’re going to have to move. It’s the only solution.
Oh sure, I could strike back in a similar vein. I could steal her Dean Martin bird feeder and burn it in a pyre in my backyard, but where would it end? At some point, one of us would end up harming something with Joey Bishop’s face on it, and I would never forgive myself if that happened.
I’ve lived in this neighborhood my entire adult life, but I refuse to let Frank be used as a pawn in this depraved game Francine is playing. Besides, I could get a fortune for this house with the economy being the way it is, and then my husband and I could get that van we’ve always wanted and live out of it just like what’s-her-name in that movie about living in a van. I didn’t watch the whole thing, but the five minutes I caught made it look like so much fun. Traveling and simplicity and I could put Frank right in the front seat so he wouldn’t miss anything as we went from town to town.
Think of all the people I could meet, Maureen!
And I’d make sure to tell each one of them that Francine makes the mushiest cobbler I’ve ever tasted.
Why, if I manage to hit the road by next month, half the country will know what a terrible baker she is by this time next year.
It’ll be hard work, but it’ll be worth it. You can’t let people walk all over you or your loved ones. You have to stand up for yourself even if it means traveling across America in a van just so you can put pictures of them up in every town and city you pass through with the words “mushy cobbler” at the bottom.
It’s not how I thought I’d spend my golden years, but hey--