Sunday, June 19, 2011
by Yvonne Ganassi
from Foul Play at the PTA by Laura Alden
That first evening I went for a walk, looking at my new town, my new neighborhood, my new life.
So this was Wisconsin.
Wide friendly sidewalks, kids tossing basketballs in driveways, people mowing lawns, the smell of hamburgers adding a hungry layer to the late August heat. And not just heat, but heat with humidity so thick you could see the moisture in the air.
Somehow I hadn’t realized that it could be this hot in Wisconsin. Hot was for the south, not for the upper Midwest, and surely not for a state that lay alongside one of the Great Lakes. But hot it was, and since my rental house didn’t have central air, I was outside on my first night, looking for a breeze, feeling lonely, and doing my best to fight off self-pity. Fall into that, and you’re toast.
A clack-clack-clack noise came at me from up ahead. There was a small hill, a curve, and a tall hedge of cedars that hid whatever it was from view. I slowed, frowning. The sound was familiar, yet I couldn’t place it. Then, suddenly, I knew what it was.
“Ooohhh noooo!” A boy on a skateboard appeared from behind the hedge, arms flailing, headed straight toward me.
Quicker than I could think, I stepped back, waited, stepped in under his windmilling arms, and grabbed him around the waist. I ran with him, slowing him down, until he came to a stop.
“Wow, that was scary. Thanks!” He stepped off the skateboard, panting. “I thought I was going to hit that!” Together, we observed one of the biggest maple trees I’d ever seen. “Lucky for me you were here.”
I smiled at the boy. “Serendipity.” He might have been nine or ten. Not that I was a good judge of the ages of children.
“Seren-what?” he asked.
“Serendipity. It’s… finding something good by accident. Or having good luck accidentally.”
He mouthed the word, trying it on for size. “Serendipity. That’s cool.”
His sudden grin surprised me. It had been a long time since I’d seen a smile that wide.
“Do you know my mom?” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, gesturing in the direction of a pale yellow ranch house. “Marina Neff?”
I shook my head. “I just moved here.”
“Yeah?” He dusted off his skateboard and got back on. “From Chicago?”
“A little further away than that.”
“Yeah?” He put his foot down, ready to push off, then paused. “Hey, do you want to come over and meet my mom? I mean, if you’re new, you probably don’t have any friends. And my mom knows everybody.”
“Well…” I did not want to barge into some stranger’s house and introduce myself. Next would come the questions and I still didn’t know what to do about the answers.
“Mom says everybody’s a friend until proven differently.” The boy grinned again. “Come on over. Maybe I’ll get to use my new word.”
I looked away from the happiness in his face. It hurt to see so much innocence.
“Come on,” he said. “Please? If you do, then my mom won’t yell at me for taking the skateboard down this hill.”
And that’s how I met Marina, the woman who introduced me to the woman who changed my life. Serendipity? More like a miracle.
Foul Play at the PTA, second in the PTA Mystery Series, will be released into the world on July 5.