We have a neighbor named – well, we’ll call her LaRhonda. She’s lived in our neighborhood for what sounds like 30 years, and our yards connect. The first time Bryan met her, he thought she was some sort of door-to-door evangelist who was having a health crisis.

“Hello?” Bryan asked when he answered the door to find a woman, bent over at the waist, breathing heavily. “Hello?” he tried again. “Are you ok?”

The woman extended her right arm and pointed her index finger in a “hold on a second” gesture, her body still in an L-shape.

“Ok..?” Bryan answered, glancing into the living room to look for my help. Unfortunately for him, I had taken shelter in the kitchen, avoiding all contact with the evangelist.

The woman gasped for breath, her body still hinged like an “L”, then swung up, arching her back, hands on hips, face turned toward the sky, still breathing heavily. Her waist-length single braid narrowly missed Bryan’s face as she propelled herself upward.

“Sorry -” she wheezed. “That hill – Just walked up that hill -” She pointed down the street, which gradually rises in elevation as it approaches our house. We’re situated at the top of the hill, which makes me kind of like the queen of a castle.

The woman appeared to be in her 60s with a weathered face. She was petite, very skinny really, wearing a windbreaker suit that was a little too large. From the kitchen, I wondered why she wouldn’t have just waited to catch her breath before knocking on our door.

“Damn, Ashley,” she yelled. “You’re heavy!”

After a brief moment of confusion, Bryan noticed a baby stroller parked in our yard a few feet away. He leaned forward, peeking out of the door to get a look at baby Ashley.

To his surprise, Ashley turned out to be a very plump, tan Chihuahua, dressed in a doggy dress and laying on her back in the stroller, her four legs sticking into the air. She blinked back at Bryan as they made eye contact.

LaRhonda, finally catching her breath, introduced herself. She pointed out her house and then launched into 10 minutes’ worth of stories about other neighbors we hadn’t yet met. “Oh! Ok! Wow!” Bryan feigned excitement.

“Well anyway, y’all call me anytime. We’re a nice bunch ’round here. I’d better git Ashley home for dinner. C’mon Ashley, y’old lard.”

“It was nice meeting you,” Bryan said, as LaRhonda wheeled Ashley through the grass.

“I’m just glad y’all are here,” LaRhonda called back. “The lady who lived here before you was mean. I mean mean! No one liked her, no way. One time, I saw her push her dog’s eye back in its socket after it popped out.”

“What?!” Bryan asked, startled.

“She had pugs,” LaRhonda nodded as she turned out of view. And with that informative conclusion, she was gone. I emerged from my hiding spot behind the refrigerator.

“She seemed…nice,” I said. “But I couldn’t see her baby. Is she cute?”

“Not really,” Bryan replied in a confused daze.

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