Marsha Kassner, 32, heard her son Peter, 9, yelling excitedly, and she heard a faint buzzing sound. They had moved in only a week ago, and she was still leery of who her neighbors might be. Wiping a glass with her dishcloth, she stepped onto the back porch. These houses were very old, and unlike most Southern California houses, they had front and back porches from the days when people were more sociable.
What an odd sight, she thought. There was Mr. Owens, the man next door, standing in his back yard with a hand control. He had a model airplane flying in circles over those horrid weeds of his. The real estate man had told her Owens was an okay guyjust really weird but harmless in the final analysis. The fact that he appeared to live alone and have no family or children did not quite sit well with Marsha, and she eyed the scene warily.
Peter, a solid little boy with straight dark-blond hair cut like a chestnut half on his sturdy head ran to her, pointing backwards. "Mom, look what that man's got. Can I go see?" He ran by her in a semicircle as if expecting to get her okay and continue in an unbroken path toward the mysterious Mr. Owens.
"Peter, you stop right there!"
"We haven't met Mr. Owens yet. We don't want to annoy him." Inwardly, she thoughtwe don't trust him. We want to check him out and avoid that as long as possible. The real estate man said Owens worked at the big Lockheed plant, but that he never dressed up for work, and it wasn't clear what exactly he did. Wasn't an ordinary assembly line worker, far as he knew; made pretty solid money, from what he'd heard. Of course, real estate people would say anything to close a deal, she thought. Why did everything have to be so hard in life, she wondered.
Peter jumped up and down and cried: "Mo-o-om!" in a hoarse voice.
She understood his hunger; it scared her. Was it more for the magic of a motorized airplane, or the company of a man who might in some pale fashion imitate the wonder of the dad he'd lost? "Okay, honey," she said, setting the rag and glass down. She held out her hand and he took it eagerly. "Come on, let's go introduce ourselves."
She felt butterflies as she approached the end of her neatly clipped property. She halted at the rickety wooden picket fencefresh white paint on her side, flaking ancient gray surface on his (she'd noticed the first day already, and it fit with the look of his house). "Hello!" she called.
Peter jumped up so his feet were on the 2-by-4 along the bottom of the fence. He leaned forward and hollered: "Hello, Mister!"