“They’re selling the house next door.” I overheard my mom saying as I went down to the kitchen to grab a bite of breakfast. I knew ‘they’ meant our old neighbor Mrs. Wilkins and her two cats, ‘Amelia Silk’, a fluffy, white, and spiteful cat, and the long eared tabby, ‘Mr. Einstein’. I thought I might miss Mrs. Wilkins. She was nice and paid me to watch her cats every time she went to visit her niece in Florida. I wouldn’t miss her cats a bit though. They were the most high maintenance creatures on God’s green earth that I ever had the misfortunate to meet and the dislike was mutual. Every time I came over, Amelia Silk would follow me around, hissing and spitting at me as if to say “You’re not welcome here. Why don’t you just go step out in traffic?” and Mr. Einstein, would hide under the sofa shaking until I left. By the way those cats reacted to me, you would think I was a monster. But the job paid well.
“I wonder what Mrs. Wilkins was like. I mean, before she got all Mrs. Wilkins-y.” Justin commented. He was standing next to the toaster, ignoring the burnt smell wafting from it. His words hung in the air for a minute. The kettle was squealing. “Do you think she was always such a character? Or do you think she was boring her entire life, until all the crazy she had built up through the years had nowhere to go, and just started to explode out of her?” My brother was always saying things like that. I was never sure if he meant it to be profound, or just couldn’t help thinking out loud. But Mrs. Wilkins, as he said, was crazy. It wasn’t the normal, slightly senile old lady sort of things, like going to the grocery store in her bedroom slippers and hair curlers. For starters, after her husband died a few years ago, she hand painted the entire house, inside and out, a bright pink. And every Saturday when her brother would visit, they would go out to the backyard with her cats, and reenact scenes from history. Mr. Einstein made a surprisingly convincing George Washington, when he was wearing his wig.
My mother’s voice broke into my thoughts. She was still looking out the window. “I wonder what the people that move in next door will be like.” Justin started scraping the black off his burnt bagel. Justin, for goodness sake do that over the sink. You’re getting crumbs all over the counter.” Mom said turning around to see the black crumby mess Justin was leaving as his butter knife flung it aside. “You’d better clean that up.” She finished sternly. Then she turned to me. “Emma, who do you hope will move in to Mrs. Wilkins’ house?” “I don’t care who moves in.” I said, a little too sharply. Opening the cabinet to my left, I took out a frying pan and placed it on the stove. Sensing Mom wouldn’t let it go, I added “I guess it would be nice to have a family with kids next door that might pick me as a baby sitter instead of always picking the more experienced girl with a car. How about you?” “Oh, I don’t know.” Said Mom, getting out a teapot. “Aw man, I got some shell in my eggs.” I muttered, cracking three eggs into the frying pan. I was always terrible at cracking eggs. Either I was leaving little chunks of shell behind, or I was sticking my thumb through the yoke. Justin crunched his over-done bagel thoughtfully from the kitchen table. “I doubt it matters. Mrs. Wilkins may not be able to sell her house for years. It’s not a good time for real estate.”