"You know what will sell your house?" Mabel Pyle leaned against the Remax sign recently planted in David Hickman's front yard. David, being a serious man, tucked his hands into his back pockets to ponder Mabel's question. "Some new annuals," he said, considering the flowerbeds, newly awakening. "A welcome mat."
"No, no, no." Mabel frowned. "That's not it at all."
"Paint?" David said.
"Well, I'm not buying a new roof." David studied his roof. It would hold. He hoped.
"What you need," said Mabel, giving off a mysterious smile, "is St. Joseph, patron saint of people selling their homes. Or maybe it's realtors." Mabel put a finger to the top of her nose and pushed gently, as if the main of her thinking took place there and needed to be squeezed into service. "But no matter. St. Joseph will get the job done."
"I just don't go for that..."
Mabel gestured to her own garden. "Look at St. Frances there."
David looked. An overabundance of birds were gathered around the statue in Mabel's garden.
David scowled. Those birds pooped all over everything.
"I don't understand how it works." Perhaps it was the birdseed Mabel secreted in her garden before sunup every morning: While Mabel believed in miracles, she also believed in helping them along a bit. "Shall I get Joseph, then?"
David shook his head. "I don't think so, thanks." He walked up his sidewalk and paused to pull a weed from his flowerbed, thinking about how much he hated those sparrows soiling his yard.
Mabel followed, yanking up a weed of her own and poking a finger into the dirt to test it. "You can dig a hole right here and plant St. Joseph. Upside down, of course."
David righted himself, let the blood drain from his head. "Good Lord, that's torture. Standing a man on his bean all day long."
"I'm telling you, it works," Mabel said, wide-eyed and lips thin and pious. "He sold the Dickels' house in two days. And the Marty Kreigles?" She leaned in and whispered. "Sold before the house even went on the market."
David shook his head. "I'll pass."
"You'll be begging for it in two weeks," she said. "When your floors have been muddied by too many boots. When you have to leave your house with Toto on his leash. It gets old, I tell you."
David shrugged and walked into his house.
From behind her lace curtain Carolyn Snidegrass watched the goings-on across the street. She narrowed her eyes. That Mabel Pyle. Always putting her nose into David's business. Ever since his divorce, Mabel had been trying to get David interested in her. Carolyn wouldn't be surprised if Mabel had caused the split in the first place. Evelyn. Poor, sweet Evelyn. She always made the nicest pies. But anyway...Carolyn shook her head. All's fair and all that. And Carolyn Snidegrass had her sights on David. No way was Mabel going to mess that up. David was not going to sell that house. Because if he sold that house he would have to move away.
* * *
The next morning, while it was still dark outside, Mabel scattered birdseed beneath her azalea bushes. "Good morning, Frances," she said. She imagined he nodded. Then she walked to David's house and dug a tiny hole. "Do your work, Joe," she whispered, patting the dirt around his feet.
As soon as Mabel returned to her home and shut the door, Carolyn's front door opened. She crept across the street and began digging in David's garden.
At the same time, David tiptoed out of his side door, a gallon of bird repellent in his hand.