When the FOR SALE sign was hammered deep into the trimmed, front lawn of Miss Shimner’s house, the neighbors took notice. Miss Shimner had lived on the cul-de-sac longer than the others. She was not married, but very sociable, and very attractive. And everyone, especially the females of the couples living in the detached homes on either side of her, wondered why she was single.
The cul-de-sac formed a half-circle on an elevated ridge, and the Shimner house sat on the highest point. Her view, therefore, was the envy of the neighborhood. From her spacious kitchen she could see the wide, green, Funnell River, arch out to the east for a few miles before disappearing into the western countryside. And from her cozy living room she could see the Alice Mountains that rose just high enough to snag a few clouds now and then.
The loves of her life, neighbors agreed in gossipy discussions over their stockade, backyard fences, were her cats. She had six. All in-door types, never messing in anyone’s yard, never fighting in the middle of the night. They stayed in the house, doing the cat equivalent of “hanging out.” They slept most of the time, ate twice a day, and seemed to enjoy playing hide-and-seek with each other and with their baby-talking “mother.”
During the next two weeks, the slim, beautifully dressed blond, who had hammered the FOR SALE into the ground, showed the Shimner “Cat House,” the neighbors sometimes called it, to at least four excited, young couples. Each time she pulled up in front of the house in her white, four-door BMW, she was wearing a different outfit. One day, wearing gray slacks and a pale-green, sleeveless blouse, it was June, she struggled for a minute in an un-lady-like stance to yank the sign out of the ground.
The following Saturday, the Plunketts next door had a cook-out, honoring their beautiful, friendly neighbor, soon to be an ex-neighbor.
“I just decided I wanted a change,” Sally Shimner announced after a few sips of delicious Chianti Classico, “Look, I paid a hundred twenty-five thousand for my place, and I just sold it for twice that much. So, Alice, the drop-dead-gorgeous agent, bought me a tiny place on the Chesapeake Bay for half the profit I made on this deal.”
Her next sip of Chianti came at the end of a toast delivered by Frank Plunkett: “We will all miss our favorite MISS, especially we MISTERS. Sally has been a delight to know and the Chesapeake Bay will be a more delightful place as soon as she arrives on its sandy shores.”
It took the movers only two hours to relocate Sally’s furniture and her minimalist belongings from the brightness of her spotless home to the darkness of their musty truck.
And another two hours to drive to Chester View, the bayside community where her new home was located. “Twenty steps from the bay,” is what leggy Alice and smiling Sally had measured when they went down to look at the place, and as soon as she and the movers arrived, she paced the steps off again. I now, at last, have a place at the beach, she said to herself, and she added, the cats will love it. Listen to those birds singing. Boy, are my babies ever going to be happy.
“What the hell is Sally Shimner doing over there in her…old backyard,” Frank Plunklett asked his wife Marsha. They both peeked out the side window. There was Sally just one day after they had waved good-bye to her, digging something up from the yard with a little, shiny shovel, and dropping whatever it was into a paper bag.
“Probably tulip bulbs,” Marsha said, crossing her arms and patting her husband on the back, as he leaned closer to the window, trying to get a better look at his good-looking ex-neighbor.
“Let’s go find out firsthand,” Marsha suggested. “I mean, maybe she could use some help. You know, now that she’s no longer a neighbor, I just might ask her why she never married.”
They left their house and walked slowly over to Sally, who was bending over on the slope of the side yard.
“Well, hello stranger. Longtime no see,” Frank said, extending his hand in handshake fashion.”
“Oh, hi. Hi, Marsh. It has been a long time hasn’t it,” she laughed, and wiped her hands off on the side of her tan Burmudas. “I’ve got a map I want to give you. I drew it myself. You have GOT to come down to the bay to see my new, cute place. Screened-in porch, awnings, great view of the Chesapeake. I’ll get it for you in a few minutes. As soon as I’m finished here.”
Frank asked, “Want some help?”
“No, thank you anyway. I’ve only got three more to go and I’m done.”
“Three more what, Sally,” Marsha asked. “Gold nuggets…?”
Sally smiled and replied, “No, no…not nuggets…cats…I’m digging up my cats. I’ve already dug up Whiskers, Bobcat, String Along, Shy Boy, and Peekaboo. I’m almost finished with Ashes, my beautiful gray, and as soon as I get Sand Paper, named for his rough tongue, and Shadow, my black beauty, I’ll get…”
“Sally,” Marsha asked more bluntly than she would have if Sally were still a neighbor, “what in the hell are you talking about? All those cats are dead and have been for a long…’
“Wrong, Marsh, wrong. They are not dead, my friend. They have been asleep. Dr. Montgomery put them to sleep. If you don’t believe me, call her and ask her. She’s up at Cats and Dogs on Ohio Boulevard…you know…the short brunette…don’t you take Skippy to her…?”