Longform

Funny girl

Page 8 of 8

None of the room's decorative bric-a-brac appears out of place, except for a single bottle of After Shock liquor that's camouflaged by an arrangement of red and white poinsettia plants.

The telephone rings, and Charlotte asks Duane Parkhurst if he's going to answer it. The question is more of a command, and he obediently retrieves the call, which turns out to be a banker calling her about a late house payment.

"I didn't even hear it ring," he says, humbly explaining that his life-long job as a construction worker has damaged his hearing. "I don't hear her half the time she's talking to me."

Although Dallas County Court records show that Charlotte divorced Duane in 1994, he still lives in this house, and Charlotte refers to him as her husband. Assuming a perch in a recliner, Charlotte eagerly talks about her mulch pile.

The monologue bounces to and from various anecdotes, which she seldom completes or links together in any logical fashion. If not interrupted, it's possible that Parkhurst would continue talking for hours.

"Mike used to come over and play piano," Parkhurst says. "He's a good piano player."

Unfortunately, those days are over, and Parkhurst says her goal now is to complete her landscaping project--the city and her neighbors be damned.

Despite the city's orders, Parkhurst continues to receive mulch. In all, she says she's dumped maybe 14 loads on her and Rhoads' property, though that number is disputed.

"I did exactly what they told me to do," Parkhurst says, adding that she did indeed stop dumping, on Rhoads' side of the house. "They didn't tell me to stop landscaping completely."

Pulling on a pair of boots, Parkhurst treks outside to display the work she's done on her pile. A few blades of grass are beginning to pop through the mulch, the green streaks standing out amid the patches of steam rising into the air.

"Right there's the tree I cut," Parkhurst says, stomping on a tree stump that's poking out of the pile. Behind her, a pair of leafless trees lean out of the mulch pile.

A rare moment of silence is broken by what could be the sound of a branch breaking or, as Parkhurst believes, Mike Rhoads spying on her.

"He's opening his window so he can hear," she whispers. "Did you hear it crack?

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Rose Farley
Contact: Rose Farley