This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of the characters
to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
My name is Sam. It's not Samuel or Sammy. Just Sam. I live in a 55+++ community that will remain nameless so as not to offend my neighbors as I write about them. And of course, I will not use their real names.
My writing is not intended to be insensitive or unkind. It is intended to portray my neighbors as typical people for their age. By that, I mean alive, delightful, often amusing but set in their ways, a little wacky, and sometimes irritating while making their way thru the slice of Americana that is all too often ignored. That slice is often referred to as “the later years”. It is those year when a rush to the end may seem too rushed.
29 February 29 2020: I met Penny Baxter at the neighborhood mailboxes a couple of days after I moved into my house across the street from her. She volunteered that she was a 67-year old widow and devoted to her Catholic faith. Then she asked my age, where I attended church, and if I was married.
I resented the personal questions but didn't let on. I told her my age. I told her I didn't attend church, temple, or mosque. And I told her I was a widower.
Then I added a little unsettling fiction, hoping it would deter her from asking additional personal questions. "I was actually married three times," I said. My first wife got run over by a truck. The second one committed suicide. And I shot the third one right between the eyes--accidentally, of course, while cleaning my 38-revolver.
It worked. Backing away from me, her only response was, “Oh, my!”
10 April 2020: This morning, Penny came across the street when she saw me out in my front yard. As we chatted about the weather and everything she thought I ought to know about the neighborhood, she volunteered that she had a Dominican undergraduate education. When I told her that I had a Catholic undergraduate education as well, but Jesuit instead of Dominican, she said in a condescending tone, "Well, that's a good education too."
"I considered becoming a Catholic back then," I said in hopes of ending the conversation, "But when they told me they didn't believe in fornication, I told them to forget it. "
"Well, God's word--the holy Bible--is clear about that! Fornication is a sin!" Penny said with a frown, turned, and hurried back across the street.
18 May 2020: During the course of our exchange today at the mailboxes, Penny asked me if I feared for my immortal soul when I died. I told her I didn't, and that when all of us die, we're going to a place that's my idea of heaven. It's a place where we'll all run around naked and fornicate at will.
"That's just awful!" she said. "It makes us sound like a bunch of dogs. And it's blasphemy!"
19 May 19 2020: Today at the mailboxes, Penny followed up yesterday exchange by telling me that she says her rosary and prays for me--and others--during her early morning walks around the neighborhood. Also, she offered to bless me and my house with holy water.
Amused by the offer, I asked where she would get the holy water, to which she replied, "Where I attend Mass. St Marks."
"So, you would steal holy water from a church?" I asked.
"It's not stealing," she said. "I've never stolen anything in my life. And besides, I'd only take a small amount--no more than a cup full."
"Okay, but let's skip the blessing of me and my house," I said with a chuckle as I turned and walked away, "I don't want to become an accomplice to stealing holy water from a church."
"Stop saying that!" she called after me. "It's not stealing!"
25 May 25 2020: Penny came over this morning and said she had a question for me. Reluctantly, I invited her inside.
She asked if I planned to be home this afternoon. She wanted to know because she planned to bake a cherry pie for me and bring it over. She remembered when we were talking last week about our favorite foods that my favorite dessert was homemade cherry pie.
"Yeah, I plan to be home all day," I said. "And thanks. I love cherry pie." After an awkward pause in the conversation, I asked, "So how have you been?"
"I'm okay, but I'm bored. I'll be glad when this pandemic is over. It's Sunday, and I miss going to Mass more than anything," she said.
"Oh, is St. Marks closed?"
"Yes, all the churches are closed."
"Well, Penny, you don't have to go up to the church to get down on your knees. You can always come over here and get down on your knees," I said with a grin.
"Do you want your cherry pie?" she said, raising her voice.
I laughed. "Sorry. The devil takes hold of me sometimes, and makes me say things I shouldn't."
"So I've noticed," she said as she headed for the front door.
Following after her, I called out, "Does this mean I'm don't get my cherry pie?"
She didn't respond.
I waited all day for my cherry pie, and at nine that evening, I gave up hope.
3 June 2020: This morning I was trimming a shrub in my front yard when Jim Lions stopped during his morning walk and introduced himself.
As we chatted, he said, “I see you’ve met Penny Baxter.”
“Yeah, we’ve met?”
“My wife and I saw you talking to her at the mailboxes. She’s a looker. You interested?”
“Only as a neighbor,” I said with a smile.
“Watch out. Rumor has it that she's looking for husband number four. She's already put three of them in their graves.”
“I’ll be careful. But I haven’t talked to her for a while. I didn’t want to interrupt her.”
Jim laughed. “Yeah, she’s a talker and a half, and she can get right up in your face too.”
“She very religious, and I find it hard to talk to someone like that. Reason gets in the way of their beliefs,” I said. “She told me she’s Catholic, but oddly enough, she channels Martin Luther.”
“Yeah, Luther is quoted as saying, Reason is the Devil’s whore. Penny sound just like that when she tosses reason out the window and argues her beliefs on the basis of faith alone.”
“I’ve never heard that quote. What does it mean?”
“Luther got tired of hearing a bunch of Catholic Philosopher—the Scholastics—try to reason—prove—the existence of God instead of accepting it on faith alone. Later, another philosopher, came along and showed the "reasoning" of the Scholastics was a bunch of crap. His name was Emanuel Kant," I said, then added, "Some people mispronounce his last name. It sounds like they’re saying Cunt. But his last name is spelled K-a-n-t, not C-u-n-t.”
“Thanks for clarifying that,” Jim said with a grin. “Don’t clarify it for Penny, though. She won't see the humor in it.”
“Tell me about it,” I said. “She doesn’t see the humor in any of my humor.”
Jim laughed. “Well, I better get back to my exercise. Nice talking to you, Sam,” he said and continued his walk up the street.