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Marlene would never deny that she was eavesdropping, participating in nosey neighbor behavior, the by-product of tight living and too little to do—and Marlene certainly had little else to do. Because she wouldn’t smoke in the house (or rarely smoke in the house), cigarettes on the deck became the routine as well as a way to pass the time, and eavesdropping became entertainment. And it was not just the Frank and Honey show; there was a deck on the other side of her house as well, other privacies to violate. There was the ancient, little, brown mouse Catherine and her lady companion (Sissy or Missy, Marlene could never quite make it out), both of whom spoke in near whispers, Marlene pulling words like “trust,” “dinner,” “Sunday,” “money,” and filling in the blanks to create her own story. There was Martin, the sailor who house-sat on the other side of the lane, who simultaneously cursed and roared with drunken laughter at sit-coms, Miami football, and the blaring, bright-white news he watched every night. So many voices.
But then there was her own voice; her voice on the phone with her children, girlfriends, her husband, her voice from a dark deck lit only by cigarette. Marlene tried to imagine what her voice sounded like when she talked with her husband—was it anger, resignation, the voice of a friend or foe? Was the girlfriend/children voice tearful, happy, unsure? And then there was her voice when she talked with her lover, the voice that was reserved for him alone; the kittenish, seductive notes of desire and need, the need for touch when there was not another body present. He was a master of arousal by word and tone, by provocative, graphic sentences with breathy pauses that underlined the lust, revealed intentions, that would give way to urgency. Unlike Wendy who screamed during the day, Marlene screamed in the night. She screamed from atop her pillow top bed, she screamed through the sheets and the walls and through the windows and trees and fences and through all the boundaries of neighboring homes. She screamed in ecstasy, with abandon and sated pleasure. She screamed as if no one were listening. And she would hang up the phone and lie still after the screaming and wonder if the brown mouse next door, if Honey or the sailor had heard her, if her neighbors listened to the radio show that she broadcast several times a week. She wondered if they created a story around her.
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