Friday, July 15, 2005


Our "crazy" neighbor lady just rang the doorbell and slam-knocked on our door. I was finishing nursing Clara, so I hooked my bra-shirt shut and carried Clara downstairs, imagining Zorca standing on the doorstep, bearing food. (I knew her by her salutation.)

"I brought you some excellent spaghetti!" Zorca yelled on the other side of the door.

I undid the deadbolt and opened to her holding a black electric pot in her hands. She smiled huge. "It's really good."

Because my arms were full with Clara, I invited Zorca to bring the pot upstairs.

"Thank you for the food, Zorca," I said. "And thank you for the last time, too." The last time she rang and slam-knocked, she bore pork with peas. This was her first time upstairs, however.

"Your husband loves you SO much," she said as we climbed the stairs.

This isn't as out of the blue as it sounds. During lunch, David told me about how this morning, while I was at my annual well-woman exam, Zorca came over to borrow a can opener. He lent her one. She came back 10 minutes later to ask him if he could come over and help her open the cans. "You know how cans are different on the bottom than they are on top, so you can't open them from the bottom?" David says.

"Uh huh," I say, although prior to his telling me, I'd no idea that the bottoms of cans were different from the tops.

"Well, she was trying to open them from the bottom."

"Huh," I say. "What's her house like inside?"

Last year, I called the cops on Zorca, before I knew her by name, because I could have sworn she was going to run her White SUV over her grown-up son one overcast afternoon. Could have sworn because I saw her jump into her Ford Explorer, yelling "I-ma gonna keeell you!" Then she gunned her car in the direction of her son. Her son jumped in his own car and gunned back toward her. They played chicken like this for 20 minutes in the empty lot next to our house. By the time 911 arrived, Zorca and her son had retired to her townhouse across the street. This was not the first time I'd seen and heard them fight, although the chicken-fight WAS a first. But it was the last time I called 911.

"Her house is nice inside," David says.

This woman traded two prime lots in Midtown Houston for a new corner townhouse. It might have been a good deal at the time, but now the trade seems ridiculous, what with current Midtown prices per square foot, Zorca having received the short end of the deal. Regardless, she loves her townhome; every day she spends an hour watering her roses and her band-aid width strip of grass. Through the downstairs, street level window, the one with a "nice room for rent" handwritten sign taped to the inside, I've spied a wicker shelf system filled with knicknacks like porcelain white rabbits, fake (or real?) IIadro, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, Spanish Dancer Dolls, ceramic Buddhas. On her balconies, hibiscus and plumeria florish. A windchime with 4 foot long gongs hangs from the lower balconey.

"Zorca wants me to make her a website," David tells me.

"What for?" I ask.

"She's a psychic."

"SHE IS?!" This is interesting news. "I wonder if she knows that we didn't eat the pork and peas," I say.

I think she really IS psychic. She couldn't have picked a better time to come over and tell me how much my husband loves me because I had been reading this sad short story by Charles Baxter about a dissolving marriage, and, while reading, I was worrying about the dim attention I've been paying to David whenever he tries to talk to me lately.

"Thank you for telling me that, Zorca."

"You're welcome," she says. She puts the spaghetti on the countertop. "You wanna do some writing for me about gypsies?" she asks. Rumor from the slumlandlord is that Zorca is, herself, a gypsy.

"Maybe," I say.

"You know, nobody knows about the gypsies. They think we are either thieves or robbers or steal the babies." She kisses Clara's cheeks. "Oooooh you such a cute baby."

"You and your husband should go out and let me babysit," she says as I walk her to the door. "I'm right across the street, you know. But you probably won't do that."

Psychic. She is.

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