This morning Mr. Bellis and I were taking our trash out at about the same time, just before sunrise. I feel like you never can tell when the truck will come barreling into the village, and I hate to miss a trash day, so you might have noticed I get my trash to the curb bright and early every week. Some folks put theirs out the night before, I know, but they should know better. Anyone who’s lived a week should know that you’ve got to wait until the morning to put your trash out, otherwise there’s no telling what critters will get into it, and the next thing you know your trash — well, not my trash, and not Mr. Bellis’s trash either, you’ll never see our trash blowing down the road because, like I say, we put it out in the morning. I always say I’ll know something’s up with Mr. Bellis if he doesn’t have his trash out on a Thursday morning. He and I are like clockwork in that way.
So he and I were outside this morning, before the sun was even trying to peer through the pines, but it was dawn enough and I’d had my beauty sleep and my coffee was already brewing, so I said a good hello to Mr. Bellis just to check in like neighbors do, and Mr. Bellis seemed a little funny to me. Not so funny that he wasn’t getting his trash out on time, like I said, so I guess it couldn’t have been anything too serious, but he’s normally such a proper gentleman with his, “Good morning, Ms. Marquetta, and how are you this fine day?” I swear he’s asked me that in a white-out blizzard before. I think the only time he hasn’t asked that question was the day his dog died, and he can certainly be forgiven for that. And he did ask me this morning; I think he said those very words, but there was something behind the words, something tied up in a secret room that he must have thought I wouldn’t be able to sense, but my gosh, I’ve known Mr. Bellis for twenty years. I knew something was wrong the day his dog died, and I know something was wrong today. He said the words, “Good morning, Ms. Marquetta, and how are you this fine day?” as he planted his palms on his lower back and straightened his spine as best he could after dropping a kitchen garbage bag outside his front gate, but I think he was looking toward where the sun was going to rise rather than looking at me. I wonder if he would have noticed if I didn’t respond to his question. I did, though. “Fine day, indeed, Mr. Bellis,” I said. “The sun is rising a minute earlier every day at this time of year. And my daughter tells me it’s setting two minutes later every day, so that’s three extra minutes of sunshine for us to enjoy, Mr. Bellis, every day.”
And that was enough for him to turn from the blush on the horizon. “Isn’t that something?” he responded, and I couldn’t actually tell if his eyes focused on mine before he turned back to his house. “You have a lovely day now, Ms. Marquetta. And please say hello to your daughter for me the next time you speak with her.”
It wasn’t a long conversation, I admit, and there’s nothing odd about that in itself, but I still felt there was something funny going on.