“Jackie? Le Ann?” I yelled. “What’re
you up to?” They were too quiet. “Huh?”
When I got up with my wine, Jackie
yelled back, “Nothing, Grandma! Just looking outside.”
In the biggest living room window,
they were huddled, drapes behind them.
“Nothing,” they both said.
The cat was into everything.
All-white, Snowball, or Snowflake, his name was. Nowhere to put my wine, so I stood,
“Baby,” Jackie said, “gimme those
glasses.” Le Ann was six, but eight-year-old Jackie still called her Baby.
“You had them long enough!”
“What glasses?” Babysitting was not my
thing. Tonight was karaoke at the Post, with cute Oswaldo running it. And Baby
John bartending. With my lime-green hair and huge tits, I was still hot shit.
Zena, my daughter, worked nights at that
diner, American Pie. She took after me: a good heart, but bad news. Both girls’
dads even worse. Jackie’s lived out of his truck. “Broke-Dick Willie,” Zena
called him. Le Ann’s was in jail . . . again. Le Ann had his same eyes, like
“Grandma!” Jackie said. “Make
“Le Ann!” I yelled.
The drapes moved frantically, as they struggled.
I gulped the wine and yanked
the drapes aside.
The “glasses” were binoculars, which
Le Ann wouldn’t give up, even with
Jackie grabbing her wrists.
Where the fuck, I thought, did they get those?
“Snoopy!” Jackie called Le Ann, before
running, sobbing, out of the room.
You’d think she was the “Baby.”
Snowflake joined Le Ann at the window. She stroked
his fur as they “snooped”
together. I knelt on the couch beside her.
Outside, it felt later than 9 P.M. Streetlamps
did shit. This block was supposedly safe. Nobody grabbed you from behind. Or,
at least, it didn’t make the news. Neighbors minded their business.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Across
“This crazy lady,” she said, “on the
third floor. She’s cooking again.”
Suddenly, I smelled food. But we were
too far away. Zena had left something on the stove, I realized. That I’d
forgot to heat up.
Le Ann lowered the binoculars.
Snowflake stretched, so his tail was in her face. “Grandma?”
Something felt off. “Yes, Baby?”
“When you cook . . .” She smiled. “I
mean, when Mom cooks, she uses stuff from on top…”
“The shelves over the stove?”
“Or from the fridge. To make food
taste good.” She looked down at the binoculars. “Not from under the sink.”
I sat up. “What?”
“Is something under the sink that’d
make food taste better?”
Under my kitchen sink . . . Roach spray, bleach,
Mr. Clean . . .
“In a weird-shaped bottle?” She looked
so scared.” Where you screw off the
I jumped. Jackie was back. “She’s
doing it again, isn’t she?” She grabbed
My throat felt dry. “Kids!” I croaked.
“She’s putting it in the food!”
Jackie told us. “Like today.”
OMG, I thought, looking around for my phone. Where
“After school,” Le Anne said. “We
watched her then, too.” She buried her
face in Snowflake’s fur.
“The guy . . .” Jackie grabbed at
my hoodie. “We watched him eat the food.
That she put stuff in.” She handed me the binoculars. “Like he’s doing now.
I could hardly talk. “Get inside!”
I waved them out of the room.
But I couldn’t look. I hid my face, sunk
down on the couch. Behind me,
Snowflake’s tail brushed my neck.
I was shaking. Was this murder? In this “safe”
neighborhood? Where nobody
But the girls had seen . . .
What . . . had they seen?
And . . . what . . . was going on, now?
I got up on my knees. Half-drunk, green-haired,
all “snoopy,” the drapes
enveloped me like a shroud.
Through the binoculars, I saw them in the kitchen.
She looked crazy, all right. Laughing uncontrollably.
The guy gagged, then retched. Puke shot out, all
the way to their window.
Making me gag, too. I’d never seen puke that color.
Except for my hair, not much was.
Then he collapsed.
Where the fuck, I thought, was my phone?
But it was too late.
Like she’d read my mind, the crazy lady
leaned all the way over, to make
sure I could see her.
And waved goodbye.