Bluff

A Story

by Pete Fromm

The doorbell bongs twice, high-low, and my toddler, Atty, leaps to answer. The Jehovahs have been relentless since we moved in, and wondering how they’ll do with baby talk, I keep after the onions, chopping left-handed, my right too jittery to trust with any knife. When Atty says, “Mommy,” I turn to find a woman standing in my kitchen, some adult who would follow a toddler’s invitation into a strange house. I dip my right hand behind my back and stammer out, “Um, hello,” without a thought beyond wondering when I last washed my hair. It’s not the most gracious welcome ever delivered, but it beats “What the fuck?” which feels more appropriate.

“Hi,” she says, a woman maybe a few years older than me, a hell of a lot fitter. She could be a Patagonia ad—My name is Winter, and I love running triathlons in chill mountain air. But she says, “I’m Janice, from across the street.”

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