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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cops and Robbers

by Susan Matthewson

“I swan,” my Texas grandmother drawled. “I swan” is Southern for “I swear,” but since Southern ladies don’t swear, they can only swan. Grandma was swanning because our sedate little neighborhood had just been visited by the police for the second time in a week.
The first visit started Monday morning with two patrol cars in front of the Robinette’s house and a phone call from Mrs. Nordgren to report that 3-year-old Andy Robinette was missing. I called Meg immediately and told her we had an opportunity to use the detective skills we’d learned by reading Nancy Drew books. “Get to my house quick and we’ll find Andy before the police,” I said. We snuck into the Robinette’s back yard and were peeking in a window when one of the policemen yelled, “He’s here. I’ve found him.”
“Dang,” I moaned. “They already got him.”
Turns out Andy had been asleep beneath the covers and a bunch of stuffed animals tumbled at the end of the bed. Andy’s mom saw the empty bed, couldn’t find him anywhere, decided he’d been kidnapped, and called the police. It took a trained policeman to know to look under the pile of covers.
I guess Meg and I should have been happy Andy was safe, but our hopes for a mayoral commendation, the newspaper front page, and free movie tickets vanished before we ever got started.
Two days later, Wednesday night, I saw a police car’s flashing red lights race down the alley. I was supposed to be in bed, but I snuck down the back stairs to the kitchen door and slipped out the alley gate.
Two police cars were parked in the alley behind the Samarzia’s house. A crowd of neighbors had gathered and Mrs. Duckworth, who lived across the alley from the Samarzias, was clutching a bag of golf clubs and sobbing into a wad of kleenex. Dr. Samarzia was attempting to remove the golf clubs from Mrs. D. and Mrs. Samarzia was saying, “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Duckworth. I thought you were a prowler or a burglar.”
Through her sobs, Mrs. D. clutched even tighter to the clubs, wailing, “I am not a thief. These clubs were in the trash. I was salvaging them for the church thrift shop.”
“But Mrs. Duckworth,” said Dr. Samarzia, “I play with these clubs.”
“Then what are they doing in the trash?” she asked.
Dr. Samarzia paused, then turned to Mrs. Samarzia, “Well, Rosie, what are my golf clubs doing in the trash?”
But Rosie was gone. Mrs. S. had eased through the alley gate and was slinking through the back door. “Good night, all,” she called with a jaunty wave. “Everyone go to bed. Come on, Sam. So sorry!  Just a mistake.”
There wasn’t much to do but leave.
The next morning mom, dad, and grandma were annoyed that I’d sneaked out but so curious about the excitement that they got over their mad.
  “So why were the golf clubs in the trash?” my dad asked.
“Mrs. S. never explained that,” I said. “She just went back into the house, closed the door. Not even the police know what happened.”
“Well, I swan,” said grandma.
But, you know, I have a sneaky feeling Dr. S. is not swanning; I bet he’s swearing because I don’t think those golf clubs got in the trash by mistake. And I’m going to find out. I swan by Nancy Drew.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cassie and Garrett - Part 1

By Liz Zuercher


1998
California


            After Patrick stole just about everything from me, I gave up on men for a long time and concentrated on taking care of myself.  I devoted myself to my new career in real estate, working long hours and sticking to the occasional night out with the gals I’d met in the office at Monterey Homes.  Nearly twenty years later, I was still friends with some of them, even though they’d left the company years ago, gotten married and had families.  A couple of them were divorced now and had tried to get me to go out bar hopping with them, but I didn’t drink and even though I wasn’t against going to bars, I just didn’t see the point of hanging out in a place where everyone was getting drunk.  And I sure as hell didn’t want to go there looking for a man like Gail and Trish did.  The last thing I wanted was a man who liked to drink a lot.  So when Gail said, “Let’s check out the clubs Friday night,” I declined.  My excuse was always plausible – “I have to work on Saturday and can’t be out late.” or “I have so much to catch up on I have to stay late Friday night.”  Really, you’d think those gals would know me better than that by now.
            From the minute we started working together, Sarah had gotten on a find-a-man-for-Cassie kick.  She just wanted me to be happy.  I knew that.  But why did happiness have to involve a man?  From my experience men just caused too much trouble and heartbreak, so why go looking for that?  Sure, there had been men in my life since Patrick, but they never lasted long.  Sarah said I was too picky and that I needed to relax a little and look at the positives.  But I wanted to be careful. I was determined not to get hurt again or to put all my eggs in one basket when it was just too easy for everything to get broken that way.
            Then came Garrett. Sarah and I were selling Harper’s Cove when cute Melinda and Cody Casey bought a house from us. Melinda joined forces with Sarah, determined to find me a mate.  The Caseys were USC people through and through, and they had a bevy of friends all over Southern California.  They must have trotted every eligible male USC graduate through the sales office at Harper’s Cove.  The cover story was always that they had this great friend from college who wanted to see their new house, but the story got flimsy after about the third time they brought someone through.  Here’s how it went:
            “Cassie, this is our good friend, (Fill in the blank).  We’re showing him our house.”
            They’d hang around the office talking and laughing and then when Cody would leave with (Fill in the blank) to go see the models, Melinda would hang back and say to me, “So, what do you think?  He’s great, right? And he’s got a really good job with (Fill in the blank), or he’s a lawyer, or he’s a doctor, or he’s a filmmaker, or whatever.  He’s such a great guy!”
            A few days later Melinda would call and say, “Cassie, (Fill in the blank) really liked you.  How about we all go out for dinner next weekend?”
            They were okay guys, probably some were great guys, but I always begged off until finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I gave in.  I figured Melinda was never going to give up, so I might as well go one time.  Then I could say I gave it a try, but it just didn’t work.  So, the next guy the Caseys brought by got elected.  That guy was Garrett.
            Garrett was tall and handsome in a studious guy kind of way, lanky and soft-spoken, but with a warm smile and serious dark brown eyes.  I had to admit that if I were going to fall for someone just by looking at him, it could have been Garrett.  But he was on the shy side and a little hard to talk to.  I thought maybe Melinda was scraping the bottom of the USC personality barrel with this one.  Looks he had.  Pizzazz not so much.
            We all went to a trendy Newport Beach restaurant, the kind where every surface is hard and shiny and anyone who’s anyone was there, talking at the top of their lungs, because it was so loud you couldn’t have a conversation otherwise.  It was a Saturday night and I had had a crazy busy day at work.  My head was starting to pound as we were seated in the restaurant.  I noticed that Garrett declined the wine when I did and wondered if he did that to be polite or if he really didn’t drink.  Cody and Melinda shared a bottle of Merlot and talked non-stop.  I didn’t say much and neither did Garrett.  It was an okay evening, but nothing to write home about, and all I could think of was how I could make an excuse and go home, take an Excedrin and go to bed.  But I put on my smile and pretended to be enjoying myself.  No one would ever have known I wasn’t having a good time.
            Garrett, who it turned out was an engineer, occasionally joined in the conversation, but mostly he kept silent.  It occurred to me that he was just as uncomfortable as I was and that he couldn’t wait to go home either.  I felt a little stab of anger at the thought that he might not be enjoying my company, but then reminded myself that he’d probably been roped into this whole thing, too.  Why wouldn’t he feel the same way I did about it all?
            Finally, the dinner was over and I made my excuses not to go on to a bar for a nightcap.  Work tomorrow, must get some rest.  I drove home to my peaceful condo, ears still full of the restaurant’s reverberations.  The next day Melinda called me at work.
            “Wasn’t that a great evening?” she said.
            “Yes,” I lied.
            “I think Garrett really liked you,” Melinda said.  “I know he’s really quiet, but I’m sure he thought you were great.  How did you like him?”
            “He seems like a nice guy,” I said.
            “Ooo, there’s a BUT coming, isn’t there?” Melinda said.
            “I just don’t think he’s my type,” I said, hoping that would be the end of it.
            “Well, don’t write him off,” Melinda said. “He’s still water.  You know, still water runs deep and all that.  Promise you’ll give him a chance if he calls you.”
            “Sure,” I said, just to get Melinda off the subject.
            I didn’t hear anything from Garrett for two weeks.  I figured I’d dodged a bullet and wouldn’t have to come up with some big story about why I couldn’t go out with him.  Then he walked into the sales office one Sunday with his mother.
            Hate was a strong word, but I really hated this situation and everyone who had landed me here – Sarah, Cody, Melinda, but mostly right then I hated Garrett.  And I hated that I had to look him in the eye and smile and act like I was happy to see him.  I even almost hated his mother just for being with him, so that I’d have to be especially polite and charming, because I couldn’t be mean to an old lady.  The worst part was that Garrett’s mother was elegant and charming, with the same warm smile Garrett had.  That made me feel like such a fake, such an evil shrew for hating them both right then, even though I barely knew them.
            Garrett’s mom put out her hand and I shook it.
            “I’m Barbara Fleming, Garrett’s mom,” she said with a gentle, refined voice.  “I’m happy to meet you.”
            “The pleasure’s mine, Mrs. Fleming,” I said in my best sales voice.
            “Oh, please.  It’s Barbara,” Mrs. Fleming said.
            Garrett hung back, his eyes cast to the carpet and I wondered if he’d found the smudge of dirt the carpet cleaner had missed the last time he was there.
            “Garrett, you didn’t say she was so lovely,” Barbara said, and Garrett turned bright red.
            Good lord, I thought, he was still a little boy, not a man in his late thirties.
            Garrett stammered a little before regaining his composure and saying, “I didn’t tell you anything about Cassie, Mom, just that we’d had dinner together with Cody and Melinda.”
            He mouthed the word, sorry, to me behind his mother’s back.
            I got back into sales mode – I was at work after all – and asked what brought them to Harper’s Cove.
            “Mom wanted to see Cody’s new house,” Garrett said.
            “Cody’s like another son to me,” Barbara added.  “Like a brother to Garrett.  I needed to see where he’s going to live if he’s moving so far away from me.”
            So they toured the models and when they came back through, Barbara had to visit the bathroom, leaving Garrett and me alone together.
            “She’s beautiful,” I said.
            “She’s a piece of work,” Garrett said, a smile breaking out on his face for the first time since he’d come in the front door. “But she’s a lovable piece of work.  I’m afraid she only has me to dote on, and she takes her doting seriously.”
            “How about your dad?” I said, hoping we hadn’t already covered that topic in the noisy Newport restaurant.
            “Out of the picture,” Garrett said.
            “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to pry,” I said.
            “Not a problem,” Garrett said.  “She’s – we’re – better off without him.”
            I felt a twisting in my stomach and a sudden kinship with Garrett.  I knew what it was like to be better off without your dad.  I couldn’t help saying so.
            “I understand that,” I said, and Garrett gave me the soft probing look of a kindred spirit.
            “Alcohol?” he said.  “I noticed you weren’t drinking the other night.”
            “Yes,” I said, “among other things.”
            “Us, too,” he said, and as if he had said all he was willing to say about that subject, he changed tacks.
            “I’m sorry I never called after our dinner,” he said.
            To my surprise, I said, “So am I.”  I realized I meant it.  He didn’t offer any explanation, but I didn’t really need one.
            Barbara came back from the restroom then and we all said our goodbyes.  I watched them walk arm in arm to the car.  Garrett opened the passenger door for his mom and said something to her that made her laugh, then he gently closed the door.  As he walked around to the driver’s side, he glanced back at the sales office, saw me watching him, smiled and waved.  I waved back, a slow, embarrassed wave that made me feel like an idiot.  He looked back, I thought.  He smiled and waved.
            I realized I was still waving after they’d already driven out of sight, when Sarah came out of her office, looked out to the empty parking lot and said, “Who are you waving at?”
            “Oh, no one,” I said, halting in mid-wave.  “Just the Flemings.”
            “Who are the Flemings?”
            I shrugged and said, “Just some guy the Caseys fixed me up with and his mom.”
            “Ah ha,” Sarah said, a sly smile creeping onto her face.  “Do we have a winner finally?”
            “I don’t know,” I said.  “I’ve only just met him.”
            “I think we have a winner!” Sarah said, doing a little happy dance around the topo table.
            “Why would you say that?” I said.
            “Because you’re waving at the empty parking lot with a bewildered look on your face.  And…you told me his name without a sneer or a groan or a rolling of the eyes.  Yippee!” Sarah danced around again like a teenager instead of a fifty-year-old woman.
            “Ridiculous,” I said. “He hasn’t even asked me out.”
            “But you want him to, don’t you?” Sarah said.
            I thought about it for a minute.  Did I want to subject myself to dating?  Did I want to see this guy again?  What good could come of it?  Probably nothing but heartache.  But there was a little flutter in my chest that defied reason.
            “Yes,” I finally said to Sarah. “I wouldn’t mind.”
            “Well, that’s a major victory,” Sarah said.  “Let’s call Melinda and tell her.”
            “NO!” I said.  “We’re not telling anyone anything about this until there’s actually something to tell.  Promise me.”

* * * * *

            We sat in the car in front of my house after our first real date, both looking straight ahead through the windshield.  He asked me if I had ever been a drinker.
            “Not me,” I said.  “I saw what it did to my parents, especially my mom, and I swore I’d never be like that.  I can’t surrender control like that, surrender my dignity.  How about you?”
            Garrett paused before he answered.  “I was a big drinker in college,” he said, looking over at me to gauge my reaction.
            “And now?” I asked.
            “Now, I stay away from it,” he said.
            “Because you want to or because you need to?” I asked.  This answer was important to me, I realized, maybe the most important answer he would ever give me.
            “Both,” he said. “I was out of control for a long time until I went to rehab.”
            “What made you quit?” I asked.
            “My mother. She’s a force of nature,” he said. His hands tightened on the steering wheel. “And my wife.”
            “Wife?” I said, choking a little on the word. “You have a wife?”
            “Not any more,” he said. “She couldn’t take it, the drinking and the sulking.  I’m a morose drunk.  I don’t blame her.  I wasn’t exactly the best husband in the world.”
            I couldn’t come up with anything to say.  This side of Garrett rattled me.  Sure, he was sober now, but how could I know he’d stay that way?
            “Am I scaring you away?” he said, a combination of hope and resignation in his eyes.
            “A little,” I said.  I clutched the little black bag that held only my house key, lipstick, Kleenex, an emergency twenty-dollar bill and a credit card.  Sarah had given it to me a couple years ago for dates, so I wouldn’t have to carry my giant Coach bag.  It was the first time I’d used it, and it felt awkward, insufficient. 
            “Well,” he said, “I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to run as far away from me as you could get. But I’m not the same person I was then.” He paused and looked over at me.  “Do you think people can change?”
            “I’d like to think so,” I said. “But I’ve had bad experience with alcoholics and I’m not sure I have a lot of confidence that a person could overcome that.”
            “I felt that way, too, until I met some alcoholics who had turned their lives around and stayed turned around.  It has to come from inside.  The people who make it have a deep desire to change and a stubborn persistence.  I think most of all you have to believe in yourself and respect yourself.”
            “Do you?” I said. “Believe in and respect yourself?”
            “So far,” he said.  “A day at a time.”
            Which made me shift in my seat and wonder what I was doing there with him.
            I perched on the edge on the car’s front seat like a cat ready to leap. He leaned over and kissed me goodnight – a sweet, gentle kiss that made me question why I felt so anxious to get out of the car and run into my condo, away from him.
            He pulled away, but reached to squeeze my hand.  It was a soft touch, but strong and purposeful.  Gentle and rough at the same time.  I looked into his eyes – deep brown, searching mine – and for a moment I thought of asking him in.  Then reason took over and I just said goodnight and thank you.
            “I’ll call you,” he said.
            Was that a true “I’ll call you” or the kind that meant when hell freezes over?  He seemed sincere when he said it, but I still had that gut feeling I couldn’t trust him.  In truth, I wasn’t sure I wanted him to call, but I’d had a good time, and I decided I should give him a chance.
            “Great,” I said.  “I’d like that.”
            “It might not be for a couple of weeks,” he said.  “I have a business trip to Saudi Arabia coming up, but after that?”
            “Perfect,” I said, actually relieved that I’d have some time to think about this rehab curveball he’d just thrown at me.  “Have a great trip.”
            I put my hand on the door handle, but before I could open the door, he jumped out of the car and went around to open it for me.  That simple act of chivalry grabbed my heart.  Who did that anymore? He was such a nice guy.  Too nice, maybe.
            We kissed again briefly on my doorstep and I went inside.  I stood in the dark, my back against the closed front door and thought about Garrett.  What a puzzle he was.  Nothing about him seemed to be what I expected.  I’d gotten to be a very good judge of people in my years selling homes, but I just couldn’t get a read on this one, or on how I felt about him.  That was unsettling.  In the past I’d run from anyone I felt this uncertain about, but I didn’t feel like running from Garrett.

            I listened to his car start up and heard the sound of it fade as he drove down the street.  I felt a sense of loss in knowing he was headed away from me.  What the heck was that all about?

To Be Continued

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Louee by Nancy Grossman-Samuel

This is from a novel in process. Franklin and Louee have been together since their days at UC Berkeley where they met the first day of Louee's freshman year - Franklin's junior year. Louee is a dyed in the wool new age girl who has never given up her innate love of the spiritual and esoteric. Franklin's always gone along because Louee's heart is as big as the whole outdoors and they truly do love one another. They've been married for more than 40 years, and their differences are coming to a head.



              Franklin opened the back door with a sigh. He blankly looked at the brochures in his hands.
              Louee galumphed down the stairs, her wooden clogs announcing her arrival like the enthusiastic footfalls of a puppy. She saw Franklin standing in the kitchen and a big smile crossed her face. “Oh good, you’re back. Where were you? You didn't tell me you were going out! I would have…” she looked at him confused. He was not responding to her at all. “Honey, are you okay?”
He didn't answer. Just looked into her face. She noticed the paperwork and brochures in his hand, and tilted her head to read them. She felt the blood drain from her face and felt weak and disoriented. Her eyes started to fill with tears.  “What? Franklin. What is this? Are these yours?” she asked trying to take the brochures, but he pulled them away from her hand.
“I’m sick, Louee, what do you want from me? I’m sick and I need to figure out what to do.”
“What? How did you… when… why didn't you…”
“This is about me Louee. I wanted to take care of this myself.”
“I don’t understand,” she said in an uncharacteristically serious, mocking, and almost angry tone. “We are a couple. You can’t just say, well hell, I've been diagnosed with, what is it, she said pointing to the brochure, cancer? And then just go on as if nothing were the matter, or saying I’ll take care of it as if this doesn't affect us all.” She waited for a reply that was not coming. “It’s not fair Franklin, this affects both of us, all of us.”
“Why can’t you just let me be sick and let the doctors take care of me? Why do you always have to get involved? Why do you always want me to do things the way you want to do them? Why can’t you just let me be who I am?”
              She coughed air, “Wha…. What do you want me to do, pretend I don’t know? I don’t even know what I don’t know. You have to tell me what’s going on. Please. I want to help. I want to be here for you. We’re partners. Why are you pushing me away?
“Because I know what to expect from you Louise! And I don’t want to participate in that. I don’t want you fawning all over me. I don’t want you to tell me what to do, how to live my life.”
“I don’t want to tell you what to do. I just want to be part of this, part of your treatment, your healing.”
“Louee, I don’t want mumbo-jumbo prayers and chanting and discussions about how my energy needs to be changed. I don’t want to take the remedies you’ll find in books or in your crazy stores. I don’t want you make me stop eating foods I love and replacing them with foods I can’t stand that YOU THINK will make me better.”
“Frankly Louee, I am not even sure I want to get better. Maybe I’m just tired of it all. Maybe I just want to stop.”
              Louee stood there looking at Franklin. She had never heard him speak like this before. She was unable to speak, unable to come up with any words that would make any sense. She finally blurted out, “So, you’re saying that the children and I are so horrible that you don’t want to be around us anymore? How could you say you don’t want to get better? How could you say that you want to leave your children…”
“They aren’t children, Louee, they’re adults. They’re young adults.”
“They will always be our children Franklin. Always. Why would you want to leave them now? What are you trying to escape from?...” Her eyes opened wide, and she shivered as if a bolt of lighting impaled her.
“Oh my God, that’s why you’re sick. You’re trying to escape.”
 “No I’m not,” he said immediately, but then paused a long time looking at Louee. He shook his head and grunted a laugh. “Maybe yes. Maybe I am trying to escape.” He sat hard in one of the kitchen chairs, and Louee sat across from him.
“I do love you Louee, but I just, I just, ehhhh, don’t want to live like this anymore. We’re too different. I’m really not a mumbo-jumbo kind of person. For 40 years you've tell me how to breathe, what to eat and drink for my Soul and my energy. You tell me to think good thoughts and make affirmations and ideal scenes for what I want in my life. You know what Louee. I just want a normal life. I want to feel loved and appreciated for who I am. I don’t want to feel like an experiment anymore. And now, the thought of what you will try to do…” He starts to laugh and continues, “I feel like you’re a mad scientist, and me and the kids are your experiments.”
“I have no idea how the kids put up with this, but they’re gone now. They've escaped. And maybe I thought my only escape was to leave this word because I didn't want to hurt you by divorcing you.”
Louee became aware of the hot tears that were rolling down her face. This man was a stranger to her. She knew he was scared and didn't mean anything he was saying, but it hurt none-the-less. “I’m sorry,” she said pushing away from the table and standing up.” I need to go meditate. I need to do something healing for myself.”
“Of course you do. Go do something for yourself! Everything you ever do is for yourself.”
“That’s not true,” she said calmly. “But I’m not fighting with you,” she said, tears falling down her cheeks on to her brightly colored cotton shirt. “If you want to talk, I’m here for you, but I can’t listen to you telling me I am a control freak who ruined your life and is now responsible for your death. As a matter of fact I need to go out for a while. I’ll see you later. I’ll take my cell if you want to talk.”
              “I love you,” she said, “I've loved you for over 40 years. I think maybe you’re scared. I think maybe that you are scared and that you love me and you feel safe taking your fear out on me. And that’s okay, but right now my heart hurts, and I can’t stay here with you right now. I’m sorry you’re sick. I’m sorry you don’t want my help. I’m sorry you think that dying is a better alternative than living with me and seeing your children. I won’t take this personally, but right now, I need to be alone.”
              She picked up her tie-dye cased cell phone from the counter. It had been a gift from her youngest daughter who had followed in her parents’ footsteps and was in her sophomore year at UC Berkeley. She took the phone, dropped it into the pocket of her long skirt and walked out the front door closing it quietly behind her.

              Franklin stood, staring at the door. The keys to his car were still in his hand along with papers and brochures he had gotten from the doctor. He dropped them all on the kitchen table and walked into the living room with its comfortable, over-stuffed furniture, and bookshelves filled with metaphysical tomes as well as classic and popular novels and books on history, philosophy, and rows of high school and college year books. He looked around at the dozens of family photos. It looked like a happy family lived here. An unconventional, happy family, but he knew that he needed something different. He loved Louee, but sometimes she was too much. And all he wanted was peace. He took his senior year Blue & Gold yearbook from the shelf. Louee had been the editor, and their pictures were all over the place. He started to cry for the first time. He knew from now on everything would be different.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cassie's Neighborhoods

By Liz Zuercher


           Up the street from her house was a playground, a small tot lot really, where the kids in the neighborhood went with their moms or nannies or the occasional dad to play on weekdays.  Cassie used to go up there sometimes on her days off, her Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  She didn’t really want to talk to anyone there – she got enough talking in her job selling new homes. She just wanted to watch the kids play, see the joy in their faces and listen to their laughter.  She ended up chatting with some of the moms, but when they found out none of the kids belonged to her, they began to keep their distance.  People were so suspicious these days.  They all thought someone was out to take their children or harm them in some way. 
All she wanted to do was relax and watch the children play, but somehow that got twisted into something sinister.  So she stopped going to the tot lot and spent Tuesday or Wednesday in her own condo on the balcony listening to the gentle gurgling of the water fountain she’d installed all by herself.  She was happy and comfortable there, so it was no great loss not to feel welcome at the tot lot, but it made her sad not to be part of that innocent bit of neighborhood life. 
            As much as she knew about the ten or so neighborhoods she’d put together over twenty years of selling new homes, she knew almost nothing of the one she lived in.  In her work neighborhoods she’d been in every home. She knew who lived in each house, how old they were, what they did for a living, how many children they had, what their pets’ names were, how much money they had in the bank, whether they liked wood, carpet, tile or stone on their floors, how they’d upgraded their new house, if they’d upgraded at all. 
She knew if the husband was kind to the wife or if the wife belittled the husband behind his back.  She knew what kind of parents they were.  If they weren’t yet parents, she knew how hard they were trying or that they were too busy with their careers to have kids.  She knew where they’d lived before the house she sold them. She knew whether they preferred coffee or tea with their cookies and if they liked the oatmeal raisin or the sugar cookies better.  She knew if they’d had health issues or financial problems or if their parents were helping them out.  She knew that one couple had paid cash, while another had financed everything. 
She knew which kids were well behaved and which ones were going to terrorize the neighborhood like Little Chad Grissom. She knew which of her homebuyers would have their landscaping done right away and which ones would take a year to do it like Eddie Petrocelli. 

She knew all this and more about every neighborhood she’d ever sold, but she didn’t even know her own next-door neighbor’s name.