115 Kindly dilute

“Oh, yes!” _____ _____ responded to the echoes of one of Ross Valley’s near neighbors.
When she said anything to the relic of A Better Time (“. . . before these little punks! moved in here! and built these idiotic houses! . . .”), it was repeated word for word, but with a question mark.
“And he turned down Ross’s job offer . . .”
“He turned down Ross’s job offer?”
“Well, yes, he could afford to. The Cellini medallion makes the Trophy of Virtue priceless.”
“Priceless?”
_____ _____ figured this must be deflected, so the neighbor wouldn’t look back that evening and feel foolish. He and his wife would soon be her neighbors, after all, and cordial relations were of utmost importance if she ever petitioned for a variance.
He was able to relax after _____ _____ crossed her eyes and said she adored Ben Turpin, and that she was buying in Ross. A little place on Glenwood Road.
“So!” He recovered from the jolt, saying the emanations of “Ross!” that crossed the fence were about real estate, then? The jolt was from the quick math he did, the 5,200 square feet on four-plus acres at the topographically low end of the street, conjoined with her age, known world wide to be significantly under thirty.
All along he’d thought the breathy Rosses had been about love. And so his wife believed, earlier, as she read comfortably and sipped watered-down orange juice under their porch umbrella.
Ross took it well, this drifting of her attention. His healthy but vast ego was glad for a movie star like no other. He moved across the lawn like a party balloon, bobbing among the sporting children and other old time neighbors and all the ninjas except the one summarily dismissed – and the strangely absent Frisco Ninja. Then he was at her side.
_____ _____ was perplexed, after hearing so much about him, and after actual back-and-forth with him on the cell phone. Now that she’d purchased an estate in Ross, an all cash deal via the same cell phone in the Mustang en route, setting records at the title company and bank for blowing through, in the native parlance of Alain de Tochigi, chop chop; and having a good one under the oleander with Ross (the man); and securing story ideas galore about heroism in the Plip Plop Coffe Shop, for that day ahead on the other side of the camera; and had charmed the Ross Valley viejos and being charmed in return by their Normandy Invasion sincerity; and sipped and discovered the best lemonade she’d tasted in her life; all that remained to perfect the day was a face to face introduction to the ninja who was the crux to it all.
Meanwhile, Aunt Kar ladled from the Baccarat punch bowl and sipped for relief. She was troubled, in the manner perhaps of a prophet. If Ezekiel tilted his head to heaven and inbibed revelation . . . Aunt Kar blinked and shook and looked at heaven warily – she must be happy at this, she told herself, if true. “But it is true, true, absolutely true.” She’d never been Mrs. JoJo Guss, not one moment, despite knowing the untidy circles within seedy circles in the anathema of Alder and Yolanda avenues, living for years trapped in the disgrace to the American dream.

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