“Is everything in order, Robert?”
“Yes, dear. Just waiting on the breadsticks.”
“Splendid,” she said and turned around to go wash her hands.
When the bread had finished baking, Bob took it out of the oven and set it on the table with the rest of the refreshments for the night’s meeting. Eliza returned to the dining room and sat at the head of the table and admired Bob’s handy work. He had not done anything fancy, but he had a way of making even the simplest things look fancy.
“Oh yes, Robert. You did well. Very well. Oh…would you mind bringing me some salad while you’re up?”
“Sure.” He disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a bowl and placed it in front of her. “You look nice.”
“Thank you. I figured I needed to begin dressing the part as the leader of this organization. A smart appearance can go a long way, Robert.”
Bob left her to eat her dinner in peace before the neighbors arrived. When she finished, she went to place the bowl in the dishwasher but she was intercepted by a horrible smell coming from the trash can.
“Robert! Would it have killed you to take out the trash?!”
She bundled up the trash and discarded it in bin on the side of the house—in her nice white suit. When she was coming back up the steps to return to the house, she saw an unfamiliar woman on the porch. She looked nice enough and thought that perhaps she was a citizen who wanted to speak to her as a detective.
“Good evening,” Eliza said. “If you are looking for Detective Pancakes, I am her, but I am about to host a meeting here. Do call on me at another time.”
“Eliza…it’s me,” the woman said.
Eliza squinted her eyes and leaned in closer to get a better look at this woman. “I’m sorry…me who?”
“Oh! My…what a transformation. Well, go right in, of course.”
Eliza remained at the door to greet the neighbors as they arrived with a firm handshake. All but one member was in attendance which bothered her a great deal, but she tried not to let it show. Everyone seated themselves around the dining room table awaiting Eliza’s return.
She cleared her throat. “While we are waiting for our final member, let’s welcome our new neighbors to the Courtyard Lane Homeowners Association!”
Usually Bob wasn’t into these things, but seeing Eliza so seriously trying to make a good impression, he figured that as her spouse he should step his game up too. So, he waved to the Joneses and simply said, “welcome.”
“Thank you so much, Mr. and Mrs. Pancakes,” Mary said. “This is so nice, isn’t dear?”
“Yes… Lovely,” John said.
“We haven’t met yet,” Jared said. “I’m Jared Pruett, and…oh, here comes my wife Asia right now!” He saw her coming up the steps.
“Good evening, everyone. I’m very sorry I’m late!” Naturally that was more directed toward Eliza than anyone else.
Mary jumped up to meet her. “Hi! I’m Mary Jones, and this is my husband, John. We live next door. My! You look tired! Did you run here? Please…take my seat. I’ll go sit over here in the corner.”
“No no no,” Eliza said. “We can’t have our new members in the corner now can we? Robert, why don’t you let Mrs. Jones have your seat?”
Bob didn’t even answer and got up and sat in the corner. It would have made more sense for Asia to take his seat seeing as how everyone was already seated and Asia could have sat in front of her husband, but Mary—being Mary—seized the opportunity to sit next to the most important person in the room.
Eliza attempted to begin the meeting. “Ok… Now that we have wasted 10 minutes—
“Eliza I said I was sorry for being late,” Asia said. “Kolby’s piano practice went a little long. You wouldn’t understand.”
Eliza glanced over at Bob to reinforce her proposal from the previous night. “So we’re all acquainted now. We can check that off the list. Next, let’s talk about our local successes within our own homes. Jared, I hear your son is doing quite well in school and is quite the little maestro!”
“Oh yeah, he’s great! His piano teacher says he’s doing very well.”
Eliza turned to Mary. “So, if your children ever do something noteworthy, just let us know and we’ll recognize them.”
“I most certainly will! My children do amazing things all the time. They’re so talented!”
Eliza gave her an incredulous look. “I’m sure they are. Ok, next… I took the liberty of checking on our home values, and you all would be happy to know that our neighborhood still ranks the highest of all upper-middle class neighborhoods in Willow Creek!”
Everyone was glad to hear it.
“So,” Eliza continued, “let’s all continue to work together to make sure our neighborhood remains attractive. Keep those yards clean…watch the company that you keep”—she shot a glance at India—“and be mindful of when they visit. It’s the little things we do that can go very far.”
No one had any comments, so she continued. “This next order of business may seem irrelevant to this neighborhood, but like I said…it’s the little things. [ahem] There have been a rising number of reports of truancy in our area, so please speak with your children about how important it is to stay in school. Students who do not skip school get better grades. Better grades increase the ratings of the schools. Higher rated schools increase property values, and higher property values makes us all happy.”
“Eliza…I think all of the children in this neighborhood are good kids,” India said. “None of them would do anything like that.”
“Well, India, I’m sorry to spring this on you like this, but I personally saw your son at a club with one of his friends during school hours. I suppose you didn’t know that.”
Jared hated this part of these meetings. He thought Eliza was just a nosey busy body who used her profession as an excuse to get into everyone’s business.
“Lester? My Lester left school? When was this?”
“I do not recall,” Eliza said quickly, “but it was recent. Please speak with him.” She changed the subject even quicker. “Ok…I think that’s all I had for today. If anyone else doesn’t have anything to say, then we can adjourn this meeting.”
The end was everyone’s favorite part. Mary quickly saw an opportunity to earn some brownie points with Eliza.
“Here…let me gather these dishes for you. Don’t get up! You stay and see everyone out.”
Eliza appreciated the gesture although she knew it was just a power move.