Every house in my neighborhood was colonial style save for the sprawling ranch home on the corner. The house didn’t fit in and neither did its owners, Lois and Lance—that was Ziggy’s opinion, a bank executive who lived next to me. He said Lance was a blabber mouth and Lois, a strange bird who tells people she doesn’t do small talk. When I asked Ziggy what he meant by “small talk,” he simply responded “chat.”

I didn’t care for gossip, so I reserved judgment on the couple until I met Lois at Ziggy’s Holiday open house. Every neighbor I knew was there, chatting up a storm. I spotted Lois pressed against the wall by the snack table. I made a clumsy approach.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

Lois squinted at me as if she were in pain. “Pardon?”

“I’m Chuck, I live next door.”

She mumbled something that sounded like, “Let’s go outside and you can have me.” I doubt that’s what she said, but those were the words that registered.

“You want to get some air?” I asked, figuring it was a safe response.

I followed her out to the patio.

“Are you married, Chuck?”

She was pretty.


“How long?”

“Five years. I know that sounds like a long time, but we might get back together, or maybe not.”

“You’re an uncertain kind of person, aren’t you? Let’s go in the bushes.”

She turned towards a row of camellias that bordered the back fence. I started to follow her when someone yelled out, “Lois, come in, Ziggy’s got a slide show of his visit to Modesto.”

I assumed it was her husband. She looked at me as she brushed by. “It wouldn’t have worked out anyway,” she said.

She was a few feet past me on her way to the house when I replied. “How do you know?”

She stopped and faced me. “I don’t, but I’ll spend the next few years thinking about it.”

I watched her disappear into the house, thinking she was the strangest woman I’d ever met.

A month later I ran into Lois at the produce section of the supermarket. When I nodded at her, she turned away and said, “Still thinking about you” while she squeezed an avocado.

“They’re not in season,” I replied.

“Well, Chuck, why don’t you just pick one for me.”

That night I decided to move to another part of town.

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