Despite Eve’s frequent references to the lowly neighbors as a band of half-human, half-animal strays, they did in fact have names. Their last name sounded like Payson but upon closer inspection of their mailbox, Henry had seen it was Paysin, like basin.
Eve would be deep in thought working on her dissertation up in the second floor study when shrieks would assault her from outside: “Madsin Paysin, you put that back this instant!” Or worse: “Brooklin Paysin, go help your little brothah get cleaned up, NOW! Hurry it up; your Spaghetti-Os are gettin’ cold!” Eve would get up to slam her window shut only to gaze upon the remarkable junkyard behind the Paysin’s house: an old Ford truck that was surely never moving again; blue tarps and broken windows tossed into a huge pile; rusty tools, shovels, baby shoes, diapers, Budweiser cans, and a sinking frayed clothesline overburdened by gigantic bras and underwear. And the worst sight of all, Mrs. Paysin’s positively mind-blowing bottom. Mrs. Paysin was, shall we say, a very, very large woman. Who only wore Spandex pants. Which meant when she bent over—which she was constantly doing attempting to slap one of her ten horrid children or to pull a weed from her miserable attempt at a garden—a giant black moon would rise, one so wide that it almost blocked the entire scene from Eve’s view. Which would have been welcome.
The Great War had been escalating that summer between Eve and the neighbors. Plenty of grunts and groans over the fence separating the properties, Eve’s side professionally manicured with lovely flower beds, the Paysin’s side littered with old tires and dog bones. One, or possibly several, of the mongrel Paysin children had been throwing Budweiser cans over the fence into Eve’s garden, where she was obsessively toiling against all odds to grow a rare dahlia species. A man, possibly their father or uncle, had been sitting in a fold-up chair out front of Eve’s off-street parking spot, so she had to honk at him when she tried pulling in. He always took his time. Now, as the Corolla backed out onto the street, dirt-covered Kaylob Paysin leapt out from behind a tree and flipped them the bird as they sped off, little Kaylob clutching his privates for added primal impact. Ah, neighbors.
A few minutes later, the four Pendergasts were safely seated at La Forge restaurant at an outside table under the awning overlooking the grass tennis court. Lobster rolls delivered, along with cold bottles of St. Pauli Girl beer, all was right again in the world, the Paysins out of mind. That is, until Lucy decided to bring up her latest amorous adventures.
“Mom, you really should consider dating again. Don’t you miss sex?”
Albert looked like he missed the Paysins.
“Why in the world would you think I’d want another man after all those years of imprisonment with your father?” Eve puffed her Pall Mall.
“But don’t you miss THE SEX?”
“Keep your voice down. Not all women enjoy being on their backs the way you apparently do,” Eve looked around disgusted, exhaling smoke over her shoulder.
“I think I know what your problem is,” Lucy pushed on. “Your problem is you have repressed all your physical desires for so long that you’ve become frustrated and miserable.”
“Actually, I’ve never been happier.”
“Was Dad a lousy lay?”
“Oh, please Lucy, shut up,” Albert writhed in his seat.
“Well, we can’t all be eternal virgins like you,” she shot back at her brother.
Eve had become even more dangerous now that she had crossed over from mental patient to budding psychologist. “Lucy, have you ever considered that your promiscuity is a symptom of some larger issue? That possibly you are a little too desperate for attention, which is why you throw yourself at every man who crosses your path?”
Lucy giggled. “There is nothing wrong with intimacy, Mom. God, you’re such a prude.”
“Well, if you must know, I found sex to be positively revolting.”
“See! I knew it. How many lovers have you actually had Mom? Maybe you’ve never been with a man who knew what he was doing. Have you ever even orgasmed?”
Henry blushed. Albert groaned. Mrs. Astor at the nearby table asked to be moved indoors.