FEATURE

Seven Years: A Short Story

What happens when the girl next door decides to move away?

by Herbert Gold ’46CC, ’49GSAS Published Spring 2010
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“A juice, Dan, a fresh juice they make here. So I can fight off the ravages of time.”

He learned to like Jenny anyway. He liked her a lot.

Noises came through the wall when she had guests for dinner. He tried for paternal, or at least avuncular, to avoid jealous. It didn’t work perfectly; his internal software was full of glitches and viruses. But she was still terrific.

Sometimes it was a couple of couples — he could hear laughter through their shared wall — not just one similarly bike-riding, skiing, aquatic young alumnus of a major university. She never invited him to those little dinners, although once she left a fantastic feast of leftovers at his door (“We’re on our way to Squaw for the weekend”). Since he was a bachelor of a certain age, divorced, occasionally subject to gloom, and since she actually enrolled in a cooking school one fall, had taken a year of courses, because that was the practical California girl way she went about things, learning to do them right, and since he bought her coffee many times, sometimes juice . . . Well, it was nice to leave the food at his door. She wrapped it in foil so the neighborhood cats wouldn’t get at it.

Sometimes he heard art rock sounds through the wall, a whole season of Talking Heads, and only a low rumble of laughter. And then, despite his resolutions, his avuncular and paternal maturity, he felt an ache of jealousy, unjustified, illogical, the emotion that does no work. Yet he felt it.

Once she seemed sad and explained, “I liked this one. He turned out to be a rat.”

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