Keep your friends close is what my Aunt Tia used to say, though it was never clear to me whether she knew what a friend was. Or wasn’t. That summer day that I first came to visit with her in that steaming little town in Georgia — the day it was so hot the fire ants had heat stroke — in her little brick ranch house under the tall pines was the day I learned about Eunice.
There had been a trio of women in their Sunday finest at the door that day, attempting to make a delivery of food to my gnarled relative who was having nothing of it. Tia snarled them off, shutting the door in their astonished faces. I had parked on the street, met them on the walk, and took the meal from them. They knew me, knew that I was checking in on Tia. I apologized.
Letting myself in the back door with my own key, I placed the dishes of food on the kitchen counter after clearing a bit of space. The light switch did nothing, the bulb was burned out. Entering the next room, I called out, announcing my presence, went looking for my aunt.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement, which startled me. The movement was quick, sudden for I had surprised Tia’s long time best friend Miss Eunice as she was raiding the silver. She knew that I knew. I could see it written on her face. Aunt Tia was the next to enter the room, as she arrived from the front of the house. She was smiling, happy to have heard a voice she actually recognized, my own voice. But that expression soon melted away as she took in the scene.
“What is going on here?” my aunt asked finally.
Eunice smiled, “I think I’ve found who has been stealing from you, my dearest, oldest friend.” She pointed at me wickedly, still holding a silver tray in her other hand. My mouth dropped.