ariella (1) the perfect bun

a letter from Cheryl, on being a good neighbor. New Orleans, Louisiana

The little girl next door is me crazy. I think she wants something from me. Tucker says I'm just it. She must be about thirteen now--a Spanish girl with her hair tied back in a perfect bun. In the two years that I've lived next to her she's grown about two feet and her first real bike ? a Wal-Mart mountain bike that at first she only ride around the small yard and cracked sidewalks in front of our houses. But now she's gone biking for hours . I'd tell you her name but I've blocked it. She knows mine, I don't remember ever telling it to her.

Since we both live in shotguns, the alley between our houses is maybe five feet wide ? like at our old place, smaller. Since I started growing tomatoes, bananas, eggplant and I can get to grow in my backyard, the little girl has been on the wood stoop outside her bedroom, overlooking my backyard. Ariella. That's her name. It just on me when I wasn't trying to think of it. I just turned thirty and I'm already losing my mind.

Ariella likes Buster. Is that a hot dog? she'll ask. A basset hound, I'll say. Why's he so short? He was made like that he could under bushes in the woods better when hunting foxes in France, I explain . Does he actually hunt? No, not really. Well, yeah, but just chicken bones and beer and french fries and stuff when we go on walks. If there were foxes in New Orleans, he might them, but I know there aren't any.