“I am going to win!” Leslie slapped her hand on the table vehemently. She lifted her head to stare at the blue morning sky. “Do you hear me, everyone? This one will be mine!”
“I know I can hear you.” Rob winced. His fingers wiggled one ringing ear.
Four months of headaches from hammering nails and buzzing chainsaws had passed, as Rob and his wife sat on their deck watching their new neighbors and the various remolding projects. A deck built, and outdoor Jacuzzi installed, a picket fence laid out. The Darnell family wanted to have the best house in the neighborhood, while Leslie and her husband furiously filled out their bingo cards. Rob’s simple game had turned into a competition between them, with the winner picking the restaurant of their choice for dinner.
Rob had already won. Twice.
“Not again. I only need one more, please?” Leslie clapped her hands together and looked upward at a passing jet that left a vapor trail in its wake.
“I only need two,” her husband replied softly. His face jerked backward as the rolled-up Sunday newspaper bounced off his forehead.
“Humph.” Leslie lowered her hand and lifted from her chair. As the oven timer buzzed, she strolled into the house as the screen door banged closed.
The smell of fresh baked cookies wafted through the open kitchen window. Rob licked his lips. He recognized the scent immediately. Fresh pecan bars. Leslie’s signature cookies, and Rob’s favorite. Unfortunately, the treats were for the church bake sale.
Sighing, Leslie’s husband tried to take his mind of the enticing aroma. He amused himself by studying the house across the street and the Darnell family out in the front yard. The grandmother stood at the side of the house, taking dry laundry down from the clothesline as her adult daughter, Kelly, worked nearby replanting the flowerbeds that she had changed for the third time. Kelly’s daughter, Chloe, tossed a new frisbee at her dog who ignored the toy for more interesting things, such as looking for the next jogger to bite.
“Fetch, Rover, fetch!” Rob could hear the little girl call out with hands on her hips. She stomped her foot in frustration as the grandmother walked up carrying the full laundry basket.
“Chloe, his name isn’t Rover anymore. We decided to name him Buddy. It sounds much better.”
“Oh.” Chloe moved aside so that her grandmother could enter the house. The girl retrieved her frisbee and tossed it again. “Go get it, Buddy.”
“Wilbur. His name is Wilbur, now.” Kelly ducked from the thrown toy as she ripped a perfectly fine marigold plant out from the ground. She tossed the flowers into the wheelbarrow and grabbed the wooden handles. “The name Buddy is so plain. Wilbur is nicer to say, and no one around here has a dog named like that. It makes him one of kind.”
Rob choked back his shocked laugh. He hurriedly glanced down at the newspaper when Kelly pushed the wheelbarrow toward the shed. Then he glanced back up and watched Chloe as she contented herself by just throwing the frisbee around without calling for the dog to play.
Regaining his composure, Rob snatched up his bingo card and furiously began writing. When Leslie came back out onto their deck carrying a tray of extra pecan bars, her husband leaned back in his chair with a smug grin on his face.
Sighing, Rob’s wife sat at the table. “What happened now?”
He held a hand at the side of his mouth and whispered. “The Darnell family has remodeled their dog.”
“What?” Leslie shouted, then lowered her voice when the neighbors looked over toward them. “How can someone remodel a dog?”
“They did it by giving him a new name every other week. Unfortunately, he’s been called by so many names that he doesn’t answer to any of them now.”
“The poor thing,” Leslie shook her head in sympathy. Then she caught a glimpse of Rob’s paper. He had crossed out the phrase, improvement to the outdoor lights, and changed it to, improvement on the dog. “You cheated! You wrote that into the square just now!”
“It’s allowed.” Rob bit into a pecan bar. “Remember, we agreed to give ourselves one change per bingo sheet. Now the game is tied.” He tapped thoughtfully at his chin. “I’m thinking about picking the Malibu Bar for dinner this time. There’s going to be a football game on and I don’t want to miss it.”
“Cheater.” Leslie searched for something to throw at him, but she had already sent the newspaper airborne. So she bent down to take off her shoe when a purple frisbee clattered on the deck boards by the table.
“Sorry,” Chloe yelled. She pointed across the street and asked her mother if she could go get her frisbee. Kelly Darnell shrugged her shoulders, not caring, as she kept her attention on her flowers.
Leslie and Rob watched the little girl as she crossed the street. They turned over their papers for the Remodeling Bingo game, feeling a touch of guilt about it, while thinking about the youngest Darnell. The only child in a six-block radius, she always appeared bored out of her mind whenever she was outside with her new toy of the day. With both her grandmother and mother too busy showing off their superiority to the neighborhood, Chloe seemed left out of everything, since she was the one object that neither Darnell adult could remodel over. Rob and Leslie wondered how Chloe was dealing with all the changes, many of them unnecessary, that made up her entire world.
When the girl picked up her frisbee, Rob offered her a cookie. She smacked her lips in pleasure after the first bite. “Mmm. May I have another, please?” she asked politely.
Rob gave her another as his wife left the deck to enter the house. Five minutes later, Leslie returned with a recipe card in her hand. “This is for you, Chloe. It tells you have to make the cookies, since you like my baking so much.”
Chloe’s face lit up as she took the recipe card. Then she gasped. “It has my name on it!”
Leslie nodded. “Yes. Chloe’s Special Pecan Bars.”
“Look!” Chloe turned around and handed the card to her mother as Kelly approached Rob and Leslie’s deck. Kelly read the card, frowning.
“Pecans, how quaint. But I think it might taste even better if we used something else, like maybe almonds, or macadamia nuts?”
“No, Mommy!” Apprehensive, Chloe bit her lip. “They’re my cookies. If you do that, they won’t be special anymore.”
Kelly knelt down to her daughter’s height. “But if we change the recipe, then the cookies would be your very own. I’m sure that Leslie wouldn’t mind if we tweaked at the ingredients just a little bit.”
In a very mature manner, Chloe patted her mother’s hand reassuringly. “It’s all right, Mommy. Things will be fine just the way they are.”
Rob, Leslie, and Kelly’s mouth popped open in surprise.
As she eagerly grabbed her mother’s arm, Chloe said goodbye and pulled her parent back across the street. Along the way, she chatted happily about how many pecan bars they were going to bake, while Kelly was still handling the shock of what her daughter had said. Smiling, Rob and Leslie watched the pair enter the house, then heard the clanging of baking sheets through the open window.
Rob scratched at his head, suddenly filled with a new respect when concerning his neighbors and their quirks. Meanwhile, his wife quickly snatched up the pen and turned over her game sheet. Then Leslie waved the paper triumphantly at Rob as her husband leaned forward to read what she had inked in.
Improve on a mother/daughter relationship.
“Bingo!” Leslie said slyly.