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Authors: Saralee Rosenberg

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead

BOOK: Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead
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Dear Neighbor,

Drop Dead

Saralee Rosenberg

Dedication

To my parents, Doris and Harold Hymen, with love and grati-tude from your funny girl.

(Now will you buy a copy?)

In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Kindertransport, the British rescue operation that saved ten thousand Jewish children from Nazi persecution

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Confidence is that feeling you have, right before you understand the problem.

Harold Hymen

Contents

Epigraph

ii

Prologue

“Listen to her message.” Mindy Sherman replayed the call

for…

1

One

“Have you seen my Costco card?” Artie brushed and spit.

6

Two

Beth Diamond was the next-door neighbor from hell.

Stunning

to…

19

Three

It was after two when a bedraggled Mindy arrived home…

30

Four

“Girls! Knock it off! I can’t take all this screaming,”…

43

Five

“I can not believe your mean, irresponsible daughter!”

Beth

shouted…

55

Six

For most families, the day before a vacation feels like…

66

Seven

When you learn that a loved one has possibly had…

77

Eight

It drove Mindy crazy whenever Artie insisted on asking his…

91

Nine

Mindy was trying hard not to be negative, yet she…

102

Ten

Taking the kids to see the Ringling Brothers Circus was…

115

Eleven

If deleting spam was an Olympic event, Mindy would be…

124

Twelve

When you marry a man with the same first name…

134

Thirteen

If you live long enough, you see everything. So said…

147

Fourteen

As pocketbook parties went, it was a decent turnout, particularly…

160

Fifteen

The last thing Mindy needed after her all-night “cerealathon”

with…

172

Sixteen

When had marriage become as disposable as a lighter? Good… 182

Seventeen

It was fine with Mindy that Rhoda refused to speak…

195

Eighteen

Unlike need-for-speed Beth, Mindy was a cautious, courteous driver

who…

207

Nineteen

Aaron had gone from being enraged in the morning to…

218

Twenty

“Does that really help?” Mindy watched Artie pace as she…

231

Twenty-One

There were times Mindy felt sure that Long Island was…

241

Twenty-Two

Why was it that when you were in the middle…

253

Twenty-Three

Mindy and Beth did not know how they were supposed…

266

Twenty-Four

It’s never the stuff you worry about that happens, it’s…

276

Twenty-Five

It was déjà vu all over again: Artie, Aaron, and…

286

Twenty-Six

It took five days for Mindy to be able to…

299

Twenty-Seven

Finally! Noah Blum, former-boyfriend-turned-hummus-selling psychic, got back to Mindy. “Fortunately…

307

Epilogue

On an unseasonably warm November morning, ten days before Jessica’s…

315

Acknowledgments 320

About the Author

Other Books by Saralee Rosenberg

Credits

Cover

Copyright

About the Publisher

Prologue

August 2000

“Listen to her message.” Mindy Sherman replayed the call for her husband.
“It’s Beth from next door. I’m free today between four and
six.
” “What do you think she means? Is she saying, let’s hang out for two hours, or is it more like an open house sort of thing?”

“Beats me.” Artie pulled a desk lamp from a moving box. “Just show up at four and see how it goes . . . man, this is ugly. Where should I put it?”

“In the shed along with everything else your mother gave us.”

“Wish I could.” He made a sad face. “The Kramers took the shed, remember?”

“Oh, right . . . I still can’t believe we didn’t notice that at the walk-through. Anyway, don’t worry. I’ll buy you one for your birthday.”

“That’s a long time from now . . . maybe when you go next door, ask if we can share theirs. Did you see the size of it?”

“Yes.” Mindy peered over at the Diamonds’ backyard. “My 2

Saralee Rosenberg

mother’s condo isn’t that big. . . . What do you think I should wear? I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard.”

“You look fine the way you are. Please stop obsessing over this.”

“I’m not obsessing. I just want to make a good first impression

. . . did you notice her license plate? It says FSHN CRZY .”

“Fishin’ crazy?” Artie stretched.

“Duh, this is Long Island. Try fashion crazy. Nadine is totally intimidated by her.”

“Quick. Name three people who don’t intimidate Nadine.

And you can’t go by your friends. Besides, we’re here one day . . .

you really think she expects you to be all decked out?”

“Yes . . . how does my hair look? I should have let Josie cut it one last time before we—”

“Mindy! Stop! You’re a very nice person. She’s gonna love you.

I’m sure you two have lots in common.”

“Like what? That we both drive silver cars and have ovaries?”

“Exactly.” Artie hugged her. “You’re the next Lucy and Ethel.”

“You know in real life they hated each other.”

“In real life they laughed all the way to the bank.”

“Which bank?”

“Oh.” Beth opened the kitchen door. “You brought the children.”

A red-faced Mindy shifted three-year-old Jamie on her hip while five-year-old Stacie clung to her leg. “Sorry,” she started to sweat. “Turns out they didn’t have work today, ha-ha . . . No, see, my friend Nadine was in Mommy and Me with you. She said your daughters were around the same age, so I just thought—”

“They are the same age, but this is my Calgon hour.”

“You’re taking a bath now?”

“No, it’s my time to relax. My au pair makes sure the girls are occupied. Do you have a live-in?”

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead

3

“The cleaning lady slept over once when we had a wedding in the city.”

“I meant do you have a nanny or an au pair?”

“No. Should we maybe come back another time?”

“Would you mind?”

Oh my God
,
that wasn’t a serious question
.

“Mommy, are we havin’ a playdate now?” Stacie tugged at her shirt.

“Maybe another time, sweetie.”

“I’m five.” She waved one hand at Beth.

Jamie stopped sucking her thumb long enough to hold up three fingers. “I’m dis many.”

“I guess you might as well come in,” Beth sighed. “The kids are in the den with Bridget, but I don’t like any running around before dinner and baths. I need them in bed by seven.”

“Oh, wow! I’m lucky if I get these guys down by eight thirty.

My husband doesn’t usually get home until—”

“Whatever.” Beth ushered them in. “Bridget! Upstairs!”

Mindy didn’t want to appear like a gawking tourist, but the kitchen was nearly the size of her whole downstairs, and the gray granite was so rich looking against the black lacquer cabinets.

Ah, but maybe Artie was right that they would find common ground. Oprah was on.

“Your kitchen is gorgeous,” Mindy gushed.

“It would be nicer if the tiles weren’t cracking . . . we’re suing the contractor . . . Bridget, I need you now!”

“Hallow little cuties.” A tiny blond appeared, no bigger than a child herself.

“Mindy? Bridget. Bridget? Mindy. What are your girls’ names again?”

“This is Jamie.” Mindy stroked the baby’s hair. “And this is Stacie.”

4

Saralee Rosenberg

“Let them do a quiet activity.” Beth handed Bridget a laundry basket.” And take this down with you. And for God’s sake, no Play-Doh. I’m still finding pieces in the carpet.”

Bridget nodded and took the girls’ hands.

“She seems sweet,” Mindy said.

“Don’t ask.” Beth rolled her eyes. “I’m calling the agency before my ninety-day guarantee is up . . . Do you like tea?”

Uch
,
no!
“Sure. Who doesn’t?”

“Herbal or Lipton?”

There’s a difference?
“Whatever you’re drinking is fine.”

“Do you have a crazy neighbor from hell?” Oprah laughed.

“Oh, this is gonna be a good show today. . . . I can hear those cell phones ringin’ now!”

“I saw this one already.” Beth started to change the channel.

“No wait,” Mindy blurted. “I didn’t.”

“Listen to this next story,” Oprah said. “It’s from twenty-eight-year-old Marie Morgan from Cranberry, New Jersey. Her next-door neighbor was so mean that she invited the entire block for a holiday party, but left out the Morgans because she said their house was an embarrassment. . . . Then she had the nerve to borrow Marie’s coffee maker and not return it.”

“I swear they make half this stuff up,” Beth turned to Mindy.

“And whose business is it who you invite to a party? Don’t you agree?”

“Absolutely,” Mindy gulped.

“So do you do a lot of entertaining?”

“Not really. The holidays I guess, but it’s mostly family.”

“Good. I hate reciprocating strictly out of obligation. What does your husband do?”

“Oh, um, he’s an optometrist. He works for his dad.”

“An optometrist? That’s not a real medical doctor though, right?”

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead

5

“And Marie, how did you feel when this neighbor put you on the spot?” Oprah asked.

“I’m turning this off.” Beth took out mugs. “I’m sure you’d rather hear about the crazy neighbors who live around here. Believe me, I could tell you stories. . . .”

Dear Oprah
,
please repeat this show right away. I am in very big
trouble. Love
,
Mindy.

One

Eight Years Later

“Have you seen my Costco card?” Artie brushed and spit. “I could have sworn it was in my wallet.”

“It was.” Mindy dried her face. “Then I confiscated it.”

“I knew it!” His baby browns were on high beam. “What the hell did you do that for?”

“Because normal people who go in for batteries and a roast chicken don’t walk out with six cases of Gatorade and a kayak.”

“Not just Gatorade. Fierce Grape! You know the kids go crazy for that f lavor.”

“Fine. But a kayak?”

“It called out to me.”

“Hello? I’m your wife. I can prove you once got seasick in a hot tub.”

“I was on medication.”

“It’s not funny, Artie. We are so broke right now.”

“You still shouldn’t have returned it without asking.”

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead

7

“Hey, you bought it without asking. Besides, I had to get it out of here before you gave it a name. Remember Fluffy Cat?”

“You were just as sad as me when she ran away.”

“Whatever.” Mindy shrugged. “Just tell me what’s so important that you have to get.”

“Can’t. It’s a surprise.”

“You want to surprise me?” She swatted him with a towel. Say to me, ‘Mindy, honey, I made a big deposit. We get to keep the house for another month.”

“Why do you always have to be so negative?”

“Damn! That’s right. I was supposed to pop the champagne when our checks bounced.”

“I told you that wasn’t my fault. It was a bank error. Now can I have my card back?”

“After you tell me what you’re up to.”

“Okay, but you’re ruining my secret. They got in these really nice sheds for the backyard and I thought, wow, perfect birthday gift for Mindy.”

“A shed from Costco,” Mindy repeated, “for my birthday?”

“Well, technically for both of our birthdays. You promised me one when we moved here, remember? And you’re the one who is always complaining about getting all the crap out of the garage.

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