There are a few cars propped on blocks and even a goat lawnmower three doors down, but the doll-house charm holds nonetheless.
My house sits on top of one of the cute little hills, directly across Highway 301 from another cute little hill on which sits a Presbyterian cemetery. Sunday afternoons I put on sweats and hop from my hill to the cemetery hill, then jog up and down, around the fringe of the graves until my throat coats with melted exhaustion.
Last Sunday I was making my third trip around the graves, up Kilimanjaro that opens onto the first set of plots, then down into the scraggly gully, when I saw a Crown Vic parked on the up-slope across the way. It had a Rascal Scooter clamped to the back. A serpentine vein of smoke trailed from the driver's window into the bright afternoon sky and I could smell it 100 yards away.
I traversed the lowest part of the drive and started up the hill toward the car. An irritated Teacup Pomeranian shot out from the crack in the driver's door and used every inch of the retractable leash sprinting toward me.
"Crystal, get back here, girl!" a woman's voice growled. "Get, get, get, get!"
Even in her agitation Crystal was less than frightening so I stopped running, bent down and extended my hand toward her.
I raised my chin skyward to catch the air while the dog licked my palm. In the distance a portly, middle-aged man was leading a much older, thinner man by the arm through the graves. They stopped 75 yards from where I knelt. The thinner, older man loosed his arm and with a careful, labored effort lowered himself onto his hands and knees on the grave.
The old man reached a slow, bony hand up and removed the cap from his head, his fringe of white hair blowing like cotton candy in the cool wind. The larger man lit a cigarette and moved a few paces away.
The old man set about his work, moving a stand of plastic flowers then raking and pawing the loose soil and gravel around the base of the headstone. He wasn't digging, just smoothing the dirt, using his hands like a trowel to shape the earth, pinching acorns and twigs off the grass and tossing them aside.
As I knelt watching, Crystal and I became good friends. She nuzzled against my leg and in the up-slope from the gully she and I were shielded from the northerly wind that harried the silent, diligent men on the hillside.
Once the old man had fixed the dirt and flowers the way he liked he gestured for the larger man to come over. Without rising the old man reached up, took the larger man's hand and they bowed their heads in prayer. The larger man's cigarette trailed smoke away in a ghostly stream over the graves.
"Crystal, get, get, get, get," came the growl again from the phantom driver. This time the dog yipped and leaped away from me, her nails clicking furiously on the pavement as she skittered back toward the Crown Vic and hopped in.
The sun ascended to that promising angle in the sky that means spring isn't far away. Across the tops of Eudora's icing hills the wind shook tight, green bulbs on the bony arms of naked trees. As the men crept, arm-in-arm, back toward the car, I hopped from the cemetery hill, back across the whistling highway, to little our cottage.
Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or email@example.com