From TALES They Fired Your Nannybot For Telling You

by A. R. Gregory



Blondness catches your eye, sheer, dazzling, spun-gold blondness gleaming  in the crisp, March morning sunlight. You lower your newspaper, then squint out your picture window across your suburban front yard. The lithe young thing standing on the porch of the house across the street, her back to you, looks about what, twenty? You shake your head, sigh. In her tight sweater and even tighter jeans, she looks about as alluring as a young woman can. You coax your reading glasses down for a better look, wonder what she’s doing there on... Then you spot the guy, as young as she is, hugging her. You notice the casual way his hands roam down her back, from her shoulders to her...
     “Wait,” you blurt. “Jenny? Mary whatshername’s daughter?” You aren’t sure if you’ve forgotten the last name of your neighbors across the street or you never knew it. You glance toward your wife, who’s oddly setting the dining room table for breakfast. One or another of the vegetables has just ripened in her backyard garden and the kitchen table’s overflowing again with her canning hobby. You stare back out the window, wonder out loud, “What, is Jenny home from — college? Is she in college?”
     Your wife steps into the living room, cranes her neck for a peek out the picture window. Then she turns back to you, cocks her head the way she always does when you reveal your cluelessness, gives you her patented duh! look. “Yes, that’s Jenny, but as far as I know she’s still sixteen, still in high school.”
     You can’t remember the last time you laid eyes on Jenny. Maybe two, three years ago? You literally have no idea. You’ve been so busy with your work, leaving early every morning, getting home late every night. Jenny’s probably been just as busy with school. Judging by what’s she’s doing on her front porch now, busy with other things too. Your wife probably sees her coming and going every day, so she hasn’t noticed the changes in Jenny adding up. But how can you not see them? At sixteen Jenny’s become the blond, built epitome of a nubile young woman.No wonder her young friend can’t keep his hands off her.
     Jenny’s mother, Mary whatshername, always seemed nice enough, but as the only single mom in a neighborhood full of married couples and their families, she pretty much keeps to herself. No one seems to know anything about her ex-husband, except that he ran off sometime before Mary moved here, pregnant with Jenny. Everyone figures Mary needs to work all the time just to keep her house in the burbs. Seems like she’s always held down two or three jobs.
     You remember how, before you went into business for yourself, Jenny was just a skinny little redheaded girl with freckles, pigtails, and Coke-bottle glasses. Then you opened your own engineering consulting firm, started working even more. As they say, the self-employed get to pick their hours, the first twelve or the second. In the meantime Jenny must have slipped your mind. Back when you would mow your own lawn, before young Hispanics started doing everyone’s yard work, Jenny would wander across the street. You’d cut your lawnmower off, try to answer whatever new questions she had, things like why do characters in books seem more real than real people? Or why do everyday words of the old Romans and Greeks seem so hifalutin to us now? Or is she an ectomorph, or is her mother right, that someday she’ll outgrow her skinniness? At least now you know the answer to that question.
     As you continue staring out the window, it suddenly hits you, that was Jenny you saw when you got home early from work Friday to take your wife out for her birthday! The glowing young blonde lounging with a toddler on your next-door neighbors’ lawn had to have been Jenny. But you’d though she was some out-of-town daughter-in-law or niece or whatever visiting the prolific Axeltons. The way she played with that baby, hugging it, cuddling it... She seemed to have young mother written all over her. There seemed no other way to process it. When you wondered why she gave you such a familiar wave as you politely nodded back, you didn’t have a clue she was Jenny. As the inevitable remainder of the revelation smacks you, you jerk your face toward your wife. “Wait, Jenny has a baby?”
     “Jenny?” Your wife gives you that look again. ”I don’t think so.” She rolls her eyes before heading back toward the kitchen where the coffee maker’s gurgling and wheezing like a congested toddler.
     When you tell your wife what you saw Friday, raising your voice so she can hear you from the kitchen, she shouts back that Jenny must have been babysitting one of the Alextons’ many grandkids. She adds, “Maybe you need to pay more attention to what’s going on in the neighborhood.”
     You shake your head. “But Jenny looks so — different. What happened to her red hair, and her pigtails and glasses?”
     Your wife shrugs as she walks back into the dining room balancing plates of scrambled eggs and sausages and toast piled high with her homemade preserves. “You mean those flaming red pigtails? She must have got tired of them forever ago. I can’t remember how long she’s been a blond. Contact lenses too. I guess it’s called growing up.”
     You peer back out the window, stare at Jenny in her tight sweater and jeans, all that stand between the fully blossomed Jenny and her young male friend’s hands. “Maybe no baby yet,” you mutter.
     When you peek out the window again, Jenny has the guy backed up against one of the porch columns as she nuzzles his neck. It looks pretty hot and heavy to you. You wonder if it’s your lurid imagination or is Jenny a split second away from unzipping his fly? You take a breath as you stare on.
     Your wife peeks out the window, shrugs. “Remember how she was such a little bookworm? I used to wonder if she was a bit autistic. Maybe she’s just a late bloomer.” She heads back to the kitchen, then reemerges with the brimming, steaming cups of coffee.
     You remember how Jenny used to lug armloads of old books into her house from the trunk of her mother’s car, how her mother even made excuses about her daughter being such an avid reader. How long ago was that? You squint out the window one last time, then get up, head for breakfast on the dining room table....


Copyright 2020 A. R. Gregory