Leslie surreptitiously looked out her window at the new neighbor across the street. Given his age she guessed he was recently divorced. But then, given the full furnishings he was unloading, perhaps a widower downsizing. So young. A shame.
She hurried out to collect her mail, and, catching his eye, she called hello. He responded with a short wave and headed into his house. He didn’t want to chat. He made that obvious. Men could be like that.
A week later, when another single man, a bit older, moved in at the corner, Leslie noted the coincidence. She hadn’t gotten more than two words from the neighbor across the street and hoped the newer neighbor would be friendlier.
When a month later Mrs. Applebaum’s house sold and another single male, middle-aged, moved in, she suspected something was going on.
“Larry,” she said to her husband. “Do you think the new neighbors are all gay? I’ve heard this can happen — a neighborhood becomes fashionable. It’s not a bad thing.”
Larry said he had no idea. He’d met the newest guy while walking the dog and hadn’t had that impression one way or the other.
Men can be so unobservant, thought Leslie. She decided to walk the dog more often and began to note that several houses in the neighborhood appeared to be occupied by single men.
She called her daughter, Judy.
“What, Mom? I can’t hear you.”
“All these single men in the neighborhood.”
“So? Listen, Mom, I’ve got to run.”
Every time she mentioned this issue to Larry he shrugged.
“I don’t object to our neighborhood changing,” she said at dinner. “If we sell, we’ll get a better price.”
He looked at her and just kept chewing, as if this were an answer. He could use words at least, she thought.
One morning she saw Evelyn Schloss in her yard, but in the blink of an eye, Evelyn was gone. Leslie decided to call her. They weren’t really friends — their kids just used to play together sometimes.
Bill Schloss answered. “Evelyn is around here somewhere, but I’m not sure where.”
“Please have her call me.”
But Evelyn didn’t return her call, and Leslie felt more and more unsettled. She couldn’t put her finger on it. She made dinner but barely ate any of it. She did the dishes. She left messages for her kids, but they didn’t call back. They’ll call when they need a babysitter, she dismissed.
One night, while Larry watched TV, she wandered through the house. Everything was as it should be, yet, in a way, felt so removed. She stopped beside Larry’s recliner and asked if he was ready for bed, but, as usual, he didn’t answer. “You really are going deaf,” she muttered.
She went up to the bedroom and stood in front of the mirror. She looked pale, gaunt. She leaned in. Maybe she had caught something. Maybe she was terminally ill and didn’t know it. Did she even want to know?
What Leslie didn’t notice is that when she turned sideways, she disappeared.
Eva Silverfine is a biologist by training, an editor by profession, and a writer by calling. From living above her parents’ hardware store beside the elevated subway in Brooklyn, NY, to a mile down a gravel road near San Marcos, TX, she has meandered through a variety of urban, suburban, and rural landscapes. Her fiction has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, Fiction on the Web, Spank the Carp, and INfectiveINk.
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