Janie quickly moved the walnut into her pocket and pulled herself off the sofa with a slight strain. Lena was waiting in her housecoat by the window with one bony finger pointing towards her backyard.
“I got up early this morning to go use the little girl’s room and you know that big window in the bathroom?”
“I leave the shade up so I can look at the river. You know, my husband built this house back in 1955 because we could walk down to the river from the backyard.”
“That was nice of him.”
“Well, it was always trouble to watch the children when they were growing up, but anyway, after sittin’ on the toilet, I decided to take a walk outside.”
“Miss Lena you walkin’ around your backyard way in the night hour?” Janie exclaimed. “What on earth for?”
Lena waved her hand at Janie’s question and put a hand on her plump forearm.
“This is the thing, Janie. I looked in my garden and I was missin’ my tomatoes, a cantaloupe and all my green peppers.”
“And you’re going through the garden at night? Miss Lena…” Janie whined.
“I believe Mary Gross comes over here and steals out my garden. She’s the only one on this street who knows I have one. I plan on writing her a letter, asking her to come knock on my door if she’s hungry…not tip across the street and steal.”
Janie looked at Lena for any sign of joking. “Miss Lena, she may be the only one on this street, but everyone knows you have a garden. Everyone in church and everyone in town,” Janie said.
“And what’s your point?” Lena snapped. “Sticking up for that Mary-steal-your-vegetables-Gross?”
Janie shook her head and walked into the antiquated kitchen. Lena held onto the walls and tables and followed behind her.
“Miss Lena, I was over here last weekend for dinner. Remember? After dinner, you and I and your two daughters picked the tomatoes and gave them to your son Douglas.”
Lena stared at Janie blankly. Janie whipped the refrigerator open and yanked the crisper bin.
“And here’s the green peppers. I picked them for you last weekend because you said you like to cut them up and eat them with your egg salad sandwiches during the day.”
Lena stared at the crisper and then back at Janie’s bewildered face.
“And the cantaloupe. You cut that up and gave it to me, your children and grandbabies with ice cream for dessert last week.”
Lena waved her hand at Janie and walked back into the living room. Janie thought better of her tone and closed the refrigerator. She was no Mary Gross fan either. She thought the woman talked too much and laughed too loud, but she couldn’t stand by and let her get accused of stealing.
“Miss. Lena no one stole from your garden,” Janie said softly, following Lena. It might be time for you to consider another way of living.”
Gotta start the laundry.
Return a call.
Go to the store.
Wash the dishes.
Read a chapter of...whatever.
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