by Winnie Kay
Friendship knocks when you least expect it.
I don’t know why I remember the particular details of our first encounter. Perhaps the sight of the white poodle relieving herself on my prize azaleas stirred the retrieval of files from the dusty vaults of my mind.
I had led a relatively happy, but uneventful, existence in my small wood-framed house for over a decade. After a twelve-hour work-day as manager of a local bank, I was content to come home, feed the dog, put my swollen feet up on the couch, and watch mindless TV.
Minding my own business, I hadn’t had much dialogue with the neighbors. I didn’t really care whose car was in whose driveway all night or if the blue-haired lady directly across the street bent her blinds to see if my boyfriend was coming in for a night-cap.
At forty-one, I wanted to keep my life uncomplicated and free from a parade of I-just-wanted-to-stop-by-and-say-hello people ringing my doorbell. Solitude was safe. Solitude was easy.
On one such quiet evening, my doorbell did ring. I frowned as I muted Cagney and Lacey, knowing I would miss my favorite show. Damn!! Plodding through my twelve-by-twelve-foot living room, I swung the door open without any thought of home invaders on my porch...or worse. After all, it was 1988 and humanity was a bit more trustworthy than in today's world.
The petite intruder looked to be in her mid-fifties. She was dressed in neatly pressed denim shorts and a bright yellow, spaghetti-strapped top. She wore stylish flip-flops with a big yellow flower over the neatly painted toes of each foot. The shoes perfectly matched the summer top and the yellow comb in her short, red, salon-styled hair. A subtle whiff of expensive perfume floated into the room.
“I hate to bother you,” the woman said in a soft, tearful voice. “I’m Jean Butts, your neighbor from across the street." She pointed to the big brick house to the left of Blue-Haired Lady. “I’m looking for my dog, Lulu. Have you seen her? White poodle? Medium size?” A worried look crossed her tastefully made-up face.
I opened the door wider, my irritation replaced by my concern for her dog. “Please, won’t you come in,” I said, smiling like an idiot.
As she glided inside, I detected the posture and moves of a graduate from Mrs. Aster’s Finishing School. Suddenly, I became conscious of my faded Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger t-shirt and my stringy cut-offs. I looked down at my bare, unpedicured feet and felt under-dressed in my own house.
“I‘m Winnie. We’ll find your dog, Ms. ..." I felt awkward calling her Mrs. Butts, even if it was her name.
“Please, call me Jean.”
“Okay, Jean, I think I know where she might be. I’ve seen a dog like that around here a couple of times. Follow me.” I led her through the kitchen and out the back door.
There in the corner of my back yard was Lulu, the white, pedigreed slut cavorting with my little black, God-knows-what-breed, Sammie.
“Sammie, get your butt in here! Uh... Sorry, Ms. Jean.”
Sammie and Lulu came running through the back door as Jean and I dodged the playful lovers.
Jean looked down at her pet. “Lulu, you bad girl.” Lulu wagged her stump of a tail and smiled at her owner, and Jean laughed. It was a refreshing laugh that was pleasant and fun. We sat at the kitchen table, and I laughed with her as Sammie chased Lulu through my small house.
“Looks like Lulu and Sammie have a thing. Would you like something to drink? Coke? Coffee? Tea?”
Wiping the tears from her eyes, Jean said, a little apprehensively, “Do you have any beer?”
“Sure,” I said as I thought, Hmm...I think we might just get along fine.
My TV show forgotten, I cracked open a couple of Millers. Jean asked for a glass. I drank out of the can. Lulu and Sammie dozed on the couch. Jean and I talked.
Several Millers and several hours later, Jean’s husband, Donald, came looking for her. When he rang the doorbell, Jean said, “Uh oh...I know who that is.”
We opened the door, and as if we’d known each other for years, we laughed as Donald said, “Are you coming home, soon?”
That was almost thirty years ago. Lulu and Sammie have since moved on, but not before Lulu gave birth to a little black mutt named Bingo who gave much joy to the Butts' household for many years. To this day, Jean and I still cherish a special bond between each other. We've experienced many adventures together—but those are stories I'll save for later.