When Hattie was seven years old, she dreamed of becoming a spy, like those mysterious women wrapped in long trench coats who hid in the dark shadows of alleyways on the black and white picture screens that papa took her to see every Sunday afternoon. During the summers, she practiced her covert moves hiding in bushes and tall, leafy magnolia trees to watch her neighbors and report their behaviors in her little marble notebook.
Eight years later, Hattie hadn’t outgrown her dream, although marrying her high school sweetheart, raising two kids, and volunteering at the local library had gotten in the way of roaming the world and catching bad guys. These days the spies had changed, too. Now her grandkids took her to giant cineplexes where movie stars in skintight dresses and lycra bodysuits wiggled through air vents and typed on fancy, space-age computers. They made buildings blow up and raced through city streets in slick black sports cars. They exposed too much of themselves, Hattie thought, shaking her head. There was something to say about leaving a little to the imagination; she should know, having been married for sixty-five years.
Modern spies weren’t subtle. That’s why they got caught and their photos were posted on the evening news. They could take a lesson from the old world spies. To this day, her neighbors had no idea she knew which ones overwatered their lawns, came home early on Thursday afternoons, and left their cars running in the driveway when they ran in the house to grab the coats and lunches forgotten by their kids. Every month the Johnsons fought on the 15th when Mrs. Johnson asked her husband for a check to pay her outrageous credit card bills. And Little Janey Mills liked to climb out her window and jump into her boyfriend’s truck during weeknights. Guess she wasn’t so little anymore, Hattie noted in her journal.
In her old age, she was bolder, sitting on the front porch to observe the comings and goings of everyone on her street. They would hardly suspect a gentle old woman who smiled and waved and uttered trivial comments like “such nice weather we’re having” was tracking their every move. Yes, she was most discreet in her operations. No flaunting pouty lips and strutting around in skimpy undergarments to get the information she needed. All a good spy required was two sharp eyes, or a nice pair of bifocals.
“Mom, why does that old lady sit on her porch all day?” Jonas Mills asked his mother as they climbed into the car.
“Miss Hattie? She likes to spy on all the neighbors,” chuckled Mrs. Mills, turning to look through the rear window for kids playing in the street before she backed out of the driveway. “I guess she gets a better view from the porch.”
“Doesn’t that bother anyone?”
“Nah, she’s harmless. I hope we’re all giving her a good show.”
– Written by Miss A on November 17, 2012