“Housekeeping,” says the Odd Old Woman Next Door. “What a very strange term for the actions we perform around our home.”

She’s contemplating the never-ending list of work necessary to keep the place semi-decent and functioning. “Clean the carpets” has been registered for at least three years. When she discovered most services charge as much to clean a rug as the item cost to begin with, and the cheaper companies couldn’t or wouldn’t do the work inside the house, she was thrown into such indecision, she’s never proceeded to hire a company.

            The Odd Old Man Next Door has started making the bed. She’s helping him although, as usual, she’s several beats behind him. Most mornings nowadays, he’s half-way through the chore by the time she gathers herself together to join him. Should she allow this inequity to disturb her equilibrium?

            No, she decides. For years the chore was assigned based on the time each one arose. The last one up made the bed. Most times that was she, so she estimates she’d made the bed, oh, twenty years now. In fact, they used to have a kind of competition. If they got up at nearly the same time, the rule was that they had to crow, “Ta-dah” and throw their arms wide, to overtly mark the time of their activation. She almost always lost.

            Now they often get going at nearly the same time, so they’ve started making the bed together. The bone of contention: just what the proper manner is for arranging the final covers. They agree on the initial approach with the military method. They spread sheets and blankets evenly on both sides, tuck in using a hospital corner with a 45-degree angle, smooth any wrinkles out.

            The OOMND, having received instruction in the Marines, believes the top sheet should extend only about two inches above the blanket, then he folds the sheet edge down over the cover. The OOWND, being more feminine and inclined toward artistic design, feels the sheet’s edge should be folded down between four and six inches over the blanket. Each morning they commence a tug-of-war. He folds the top sheet down only two inches, using his four fingers as a rude measure. She then flicks the edge of the top sheet down another few inches, smooths it across the head of the bed. He pulls it up again for the proper military appearance.

            By this time, he’s bored with the routine and leaves, while she hurriedly re-positions the top sheet so it will cover the blanket by a good four to six inches. Then she pulls the spread up and over the completed bed. She believes he won’t notice her handiwork. And he doesn’t, so they’re both satisfied with the handiwork.




“Kids today have it so easy,” says the Odd Old Man Next Door to his wife. The couple has just returned from a visit to grandson Conor. Conor, obsessed with computer games, has been longing for an adult laptop for several months, an eternity for him.

            They sit down at the dining table for a cup of coffee. The Odd Old Woman Next Door stirs sugar into her drink, circling the spoon round and round for what seems like hours. She notices the OOMND frown and cast a disapproving look in her direction, so she stops stirring to reach for the box of donut holes and pushes it toward her husband. She knows this will distract him and put him in a better mood.

            He seizes a cinnamon-covered treat to pop in his mouth whole. “His dad’s going to get him the new computer this weekend. Eight hundred dollars! Can you imagine?”

            The OOWND picks up her donut hole with thumb and forefinger and nibbles delicately. “Well, as I understand it, he’s been saving for quite a while. His allowance, his house-plant watering business, the chores he’s done for us.”

            “Eight hundred dollars. When I was young, if I had ten dollars, I thought I was rich. Eight hundred was something that families lived on for a year.”


            The OOMND shakes his head as if to debate the point, so the OOWND hastily amends her statement. “At least very few families had to live on that.”

            “My first bicycle cost thirty dollars. And I rode it for ten years,” says the OOMND. “I’d go around the neighborhood after a snowstorm and shovel neighbors’ sidewalks for fifty cents. Can you believe it?”

            “And my first babysitting jobs were for eighty-five cents an hour,” she answers “I was expected to buy all my own extras with that.”

            “Now a bike easily costs several thousand dollars,” he says. “And to get a haircut for fifteen dollars, I have to go to barber college.”

            “Conor says once he saves up enough money for the laptop, he’s going to throw his money around,” she says. “I wonder what he thinks that means?

            “I can just see him with a jarful of coins, tossing it in the air, and laughing as it rains down. Trying to catch them. Batting them everywhere.”

            “Or taking a stack of dollar bills to hide all over the house. Under cushions, in the cat’s climbing tower” She sips her coffee and ponders. “Say, I bet we could throw our money around,” the OOWND says.

            He chuckles. “You already do that. Every time you see someone on the corner asking for change, you pass him a five.”

            “Well, it makes me feel good. These days lots of people have trouble making ends meet. What about you? Whenever I turn around, you’re buying a new mystery.”

            “I don’t spend nearly as much as you do on going out for breakfasts. According to the blanks in our budget, you laid out fifteen thousand on breakfasts last year.”

            “That’s an exaggeration. It includes our weekly dinners out.”

            “Still, a significant figure.”

            The OOWND sighs. “After talking about food, now I’m hungry.”

            He pushes the donut holes in her direction. “Here. Have another.”

            She holds her palm up. “No way. Each of those has about two hundred calories.”

            The OOMND stretches in his chair. “The way I see it, as regards Conor, the important thing is the same as it always has been. He worked for his money and what he buys. He values it A major life lesson for a nine-year-old. And he’s having fun.”

            “Us, too,” the OOWND answers. “We get money, we throw it around, and we have fun. We throw it around, but we don’t owe anyone anything.”

            “What would the neighbors think if they saw us flinging bills and coins up in the air in the front yard? Would they run to grab some?”

            “Who cares?” says the OOMND. “That’s one of the good qualities of growing old. Not worrying about people’s opinions.”

            “You’re right” his wife agrees.

            “So I guess Conor’s not so different from us,” says the OOMND.

            “Guess not.” She reaches for her husband’s hand and squeezes it.