Mr. Abbott and I.

The Midwest wind is almost too much to bear, as I stand at the edge of the Missouri, looking into the olive water at my feet sloshing onto the rocky beach of Nebraska. The water is cold against my fingers as I crouch down until my skirt is almost in the mess of mud and gravel with my hair rapping around my face catching in my mouth and covering my eyes. I take a mead, one-subject, seventy page notebook, filled with muddles of words I didn't mean, and throw it into the icy water. Then another and another and another goes along with the first. I throw them to forget my past, and watch them float away.

Mr. Abbott is getting his paper in his bathrobe again, letting the wind reveal his pale, curly haired upper thighs. He looks at me through my window, were I'm perched, as he bends to pick up his daily journal. He waves with a flick of his hand. I stare back at a man that's forgotten to shave this month, and then duck back behind the curtain, out of the east morning sunshine and away from Mr. Abbott.

He's standing in the rain, in the outreaches of the street lamp that sits in his front yard. I can only see half of Mr. Abbott's face through the shadows he hides in. I'm concealed by reflection that I'm creating against the glass pane. It still seems like he knows I'm here.

My mother made my father go see Mr. Abbott, today.

"His wife left him. He's alone. You're going to go talk to him, Roger. Paul needs a little cheering up."

"So I'm the one that has to do it?"


"Why am I always the one to carry out your neighborhood good tidings, Marion?" his voice starts to gain speed.

"Don't start this with me, Roger."

"While you're humming away making pies for our crazy neighbors, I'm working. Ha-Ha. That's a concept. Work!" And louder.

"You do not want to have this conversation with me, Roger"

"I don't? That's strange. I think I do." Okay, he's yelling now.

My mother stands with her palm perched on the counter and her body at an angle, staring at my father.

"Fine, I'm going. Just let me put on my tennis shoes," he says waving at her as he walks up the stairs to his room.

"Just slip on your sandals."

"I want to put on shoes and socks." He made it to his room; you could hear their bed squeak as he sits to pull on each of his white and navy new balance cross trainers that don't do any training at all.

"Well, your sandals are right down here, Roger."

"I would be done if you would have just let me but on my shoes and socks!"

"Well, why do you have to put on your goddamn shoes and socks, Roger?"

"Jesus Christ, Marian, I'm going to put on my shoes."

"But the pie will get cold."

"The pie will get cold?" he mumbles fairly loudly, "It's cherry pie, Marian. It doesn't have to be piping hot."

"Fine put on your shoes." She hunches over the counter and sighs loud enough for my dad to hear her. After a few minutes, with a few thuds from his shoes hitting the back of his closet, he comes wobbling down the stairs, pulling off his worn, graying socks, with adidas logo faded to the same gray as its poly cotton counterpart. He rubs my mother's back, slips the pie from the cooling rack, walks to the door to slip on his sandals, and heads over to Mr. Abbott with my mother's cherry pie.

Today, Mr. Abbott told me that he wanted to start an herb garden.

I was standing beside our mailbox, with its peeling white paint and loose hinge, flipping through the mail looking at the cover of my mothers new People, when he spook from his perch in his empty garage about his plans for a herb garden. I said, "That sounds cool, Mr. Abbott." Then he told me he wanted to move to a town in New York where everyone lives in big houses with loose shutters with herb gardens out back, so that everything smells like rosemary and marjoram I said, "That sounds cool, Mr. Abbott." Then he told me that I could come over and lend a hand anytime and he told me to call him Paul. I don't think I'll do either.