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  • The Way We Fell Out of Touch
  • Toni Ann Johnson (bio)


Maddie called and told me Phil ran into Gertie up in Goshen at one of those old-folks homes he works with. As bent over and decrepit as he looks, he oughta be living in one of those places himself, honestly. But that's her father and I held my tongue.

Gertie O'Dowd. Sweet lady. Often wondered what ever happened to her. Maybe I'll get up there and visit her myself one of these days. We were still living on Stage Road when she started working for us. Long time ago. The day we met was in the spring. Forsythia blooming all over the place. Reason I remember it so well is 'cause of the big fuss just before she got to the house that morning.

I walked Brutus up the road going towards the golf course like I had many times. We're talking back in the seventies before Monroe was so built up. Lots of pine trees, maple and birch, and coming from the city, I thought it was beautiful. Well, 'ol Brutus took a dump in what I thought were nothing but some wild plants at the edge of the woods. Looked like weeds to me. So I wasn't expecting it when Sally Gore, in a housecoat and curlers in her bleached blonde hair, popped outta the trees, like a horror house monster, screaming at me.

"I catch you lettin' your dog crap in my garden again, I'm gonna slap you!"

I stepped forward and said, "Yeah? You and what army? You slap me, Sally, and I promise, that'll be the last thing you do this side of the grave."

Brutus growled. He was a Great Dane and big as he was, that probably scared her a bit. She back-stepped and pulled her cat-eye glasses off her face. My God, that woman could've made a clock strike thirteen. And what I said must've shocked the sugar cubes out of her, 'cause her eyes went wide and her mouth stretched open big enough to fit a fist in it. Some of those Monroe white folks, honestly … I don't know what they thought, half the time. Maybe that I was gonna hang my head, or say, "yass'm," or whatever nonsense they saw on television, but she had another thing coming, even though my dog shouldn't've been doing his business on her property. I sure as hell wasn't gonna kowtow to silly Sally Gore.

A few years before that her daughter tried to commit suicide in my house. Mm hm. She babysat for Maddie. Against Sally's wishes, I soon found out. Caitlyn was thirteen-fourteen at the time, and nuts about some boy her parents didn't approve of.

Phil used to spend Friday nights at his office in the city—this was back when I was too naive to know what, exactly, he was spending those nights doing—and I'd go up to auction in Middletown. Sometimes when I'd get back, Caitlyn would stick around and chat with me, tell me her li'l junior high problems. She wanted somebody to listen to her, and I was lonely, so I didn't mind the company. [End Page 77]

Well, one night I came home and the damn kid was passed out in my bathroom. She'd taken a bottle of sleeping pills. Had to rush her to the hospital myself, 'cause I didn't trust the volunteer ambulance this little town had. But I couldn't leave Maddie alone; she was four years old. So I pulled her out of bed, and carried this unconscious teenager to the car and got her down to Tuxedo Hospital. They pumped her stomach and the head of the ER, Dr. Wagner, came out and told me she was ok. But when Sally Gore and her skinny little husband showed up and started fussing at me—what'd I do to their daughter?—the doctor let 'em have it. Wagner was a mountain of a man, with a voice to match, and it echoed...


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pp. 77-91
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