Nobody got away with secrets on Lorna’s street. Affairs were unlikely. Teenage liaisons: failures from the start. Unemployed, and unable to sleep, Lorna was a one-woman neighborhood watch.
“New car?” she asked at the door of any neighbor whose driveway sported unfamiliar wheels. Several times a week she’d turn off the stove, leave on the TV, and go out knocking. And she already knew who was home, so there was no pretending you weren’t.
“Hi, Lorna. Sue’s brother is over for dinner.”
Lorna didn’t take hints. “How nice. Is Paul staying long?”
She stood with her arms crossed over her sagging, unsupported chest barely concealed by an over-worn purple blouse. Her left foot stuck out, as though ready at any moment to slip inside the door.
“Just today. Better not keep him waiting. Take care.”
When the Branders to the East put up a garage between their houses, Lorna gave them up for an entire year. But not without withdrawals. She and her daughter Mary—who often sat lounging in their driveway after Lorna watered the pavement with a garden hose—grabbed the aluminum arms of their lawn chairs at the sight of the Branders, and swiveled their ample bottoms to face the other way.
This left Lorna to turn her attention to the west, slicing her hand in front of her neck to stop Mr. Fletcher from mowing, or beckoning to his wife, Nancy, while she hung clothes on the line out back.
“I don’t know why he had to go and move us out here,” Lorna said of her husband, Earl. “California has post offices, too! How do you stand this place? I’m so miserable.”
Nancy clipped a pair of Hawkeye boxers to her clothesline and asked, “How long have you lived in Iowa?”
Lorna’s eyes widened, accentuating the charged look of her black and gray striped hair. “Twenty-two years next month! Can you believe it?”
Across the lawn, Earl felt for snakes in the landscaping and flung them windmill-fashion into the cornfield.
Lorna called over to him, waving her arms wildly. “Earl! Watch your hands! We don’t need another trip to the emergency room.” Then to Nancy she said, “I’ve never met a more accident-prone man. I won’t let him near the kitchen. I’m Italian, after all, not Cajun!” She laughed and then stopped abruptly as she spotted another neighbor through the houses. “There’s Sheri. Her mother passed away last month and she’s taken up the bottle to cope. I’m gonna go say hi. We’ll catch up later,” she said and took off.
“Thank God,” muttered Nancy.
Most of Lorna’s neighbors endured her intrusions with good humor. Those who didn’t moved away or installed deadbolts. Yet despite her meddling, Lorna’s neighbors felt secure knowing that their children were safe and their spouses faithful. And there was something to living with such an assurance.