Monday, March 31, 2008

Our Stand (2)

How had we come to this place? We had come to this place because WE had been viewed by those that we had considered to be representative of us, of our lives as we knew them, to be parasites on the system . That we did not serve the larger plan and therefore had to be brought down a peg. And we, we had brought much of it on ourselves by being complacent , by taking the easy road, by letting those in charge make the tough choices instead of enduring minor inconviences ourselves. We had surrendered authority by failing in accepting our responsiblity.

I watched as my students struggled to recreate on paper the facts that would earn them a good grade. Their world was not about learning but about socialization and training. There was a difference between loving a subject and answering a state approved multiple guess test on a general education. Echos of Montag walking the teacher in "Farenheit 451" flashed in my head. Four times four is sixteen , eight by eight is sixty four, twelve times twelve is one hundred and forty four...learning by route not by heart. We had fallen in our educational rankings - we had failed to behave as good human animals and allowed our children to be the losers. It became about budget instead of education. Its what the system demanded. I wondered if we had to be satisfied with what the system provided or could we do more. Most of us already were stretched thin on time as we were. Papers rustled under sweating student hands, hoping to provide an adequate rationalization not to be retained in a lower grade. Bell, the students stood and handed me the state test as they filed to lunch. I put the papers in the proper approved envelope- I would not correct these- they would be graded by computer in New Jersey , provided of course , the students had exactly followed the rules in marking answers and changing those necessary. There would be another testing session like this after lunch.Tests show facts, they don't show heart or thought. Smiling, I handed the papers to the office proctor who removed them from my custody as soon as I had collected all of the answers. "You are all individuals, you can all think for yourselves," crossed my mind. Only they couldn't for they did not know how . I wasn't allowed. There had to be a better way. We were raising good consumers but not good managers of consuming. We were raising these children to lose. To be consumed by an uncaring environment that had already demonstrated that it believed in sacrificing anyone who did not fit their tight little niche. I had no children of my own but I had children who were mine over seven hours a day. I could not think of another single animal who voluntarily led their offspring to the slaughterhouse. It disturbed me. The lack of care in our human ecosystem screamed that perhaps the system itself was unhealthy and self destructing. I wondered if it were too late to turn it around . What did these children need? What had my teachers given to me that wasn't being given to the children today?

Wal- Mart , Neighborhood Market was smaller sibling to the Super Wal-Marts. It was in but not of the neighborhood. Not in the way that Crowell's Market used to be . I wondered if Mr Crowell had less of a problem with theft and employee loss because they had intereacted all of their lives. The neighborhood market stretched before me like a huge factory supply house. Very impersonal- and more disturbing that the lower rungs were filled from the neighborhoods which surrounded it but the managers had come from somewhere else. They had been removed from their support system. Wal-Mart not only replaced Crowells' but the consumer's parents and families as one moved up the chain of command. Was this what the children saw when they looked at the adult world? I wondered as I wandered through the factory like aisles buying packaged foods made by other factories. Where were the people in all of this? I saw corporate logos and image- but even in the ethnic foods, there was no ethnicity. It all came from research and development commissioned by the marketing department of a corporation intent on profit and loss and not on people. I returned my corporate commissioned prepackaged meals to their respective shelves - went in search of hamburger, mixed vegetables,cheese and potatoes . I was going to make the Shepard's Pie that we had made in our family for generations. I was not going to give up. Were there others like me? And how did I find them?

Julius, in a rare spirit of gracious generosity , offered to do dishes. I countered , saying that I would wash if he would wipe. I wanted to talk with him . I wanted his balance to my observations. " Start simple." He advised. " Start with people that you know, everyone knows how to do something." Who did I know? I knew a portion of my neighbors and some of my students' mothers. Fathers were less apt to show up at teacher conferences. "What are you planning to start ? How can I help? What needs doing? Between the two of us , we have two fairly good brains." He was right. I didn't need more to do, but no one goes into education for the money or the praise.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Our Stand

I heard the dripping of the water somewhere behind me in the darkness, as the gutters begain to run. The wrought iron man had added Spanish influenced scroll bars just yesterday. Too many homes , in our formerly "nice" neighborhood had been invaded by kids seeking quick money or drugs.

Mrs Canty , who has lived in this neighborhood since my mother was a child, was punched in the face by an intruder not more than 96 hours ago. When she fell , her head had hit the white oak apothecary coffee table . I know her house as well as my own. I used to go play Green Ghost with her daughter Carol and son Bobby in their basement. Teenagers have tormented her since Robert Sr died a few years ago . They run through our yards like a pack of wild dogs, stopping to beat on her windows and ring her bell at all hours of the night. Rather than risk the stairs in the dark , she had taken to sleeping on her couch. That was how she came face to face with the intruder.Helen was frightened but not frightened away. She wanted to stay in her own house. I understand that. The young girl, not more than fourteen had fled as she had come, out of the dining room window, her flight to leave was what pushed Helen into the table.

I had inherited my grandparents' home, a tidy two and a half bedroom white and green Cape Cod on two floors. Some of the neighbors had finished their basements. We never have - flooding is a problem in the Spring- even with the sump pump running. We did , however , put padded rugs on the cement floor. We took those up in the winter ,in anticipation of early flooding by thaw. New England winters are funny- sometimes they are not over when they appear to be. The basement had its own bathroom, laundry facilities by the stairs and some furniture a little worn for the living room but good enough for a den.A slightly soiled slipcovered that my grandmother had called a divan had weathered all three of the Super Bowls that had happened since we had moved in. Grandpa's leather recliner sat in the corner near the fireplace - it had not been used in years, probably decades we had promised ourselves that " when our finances straightened out, we would have both this one as well as the one in the main living room checked out and repaired if necessary.

The wooden stairs to the cellar were steep with a pole bannister on one side.. It was the reason that my grandmother had moved out after having lived there for over forty years. She could not do either set of the stairs anymore. If she could not do the stairs- she could not check the furnace which was also down in the basement. She could not get to the bathroom on her own during the day for there was one in the basement and one at the top of the stairs near the bedrooms. None on the main floor.So , she had moved to assisted living and my SO and I had taken over the house. I loved my grandmother's kitchen -it had a breakfast nook as well as a formal dining room . It had a sun porch where my grandfather, a short man of five feet four inches, used to sit in his leather recliner listening to Curt Goutie call the games for the Sox. He was a manufacturer's rep- what Arthur Miller would have called a salesman. But he was no Willie Loman . I hated Miller's play because it made salesmen look like losers. Many of them were not. My grandfather had the gift of the gab - with taunting Scot eyes.Sometimes it was hard to tell when he was kidding. He had lost much of his family's money through no fault of his own during the Depression. He accepted it with the best of sportsman like behavior - ate peanut butter sandwiches while on the road- and bought my grandmother her house- cash in the middle of it . There was a porch divan with poplin green slip covers which rocked slightly. Bored with the baseball , I had been known to fall asleep on that divan. He had quit school and supported a widowed mother and his two sibling, a girl, Olive and a boy, Jack. All three were dead by the time that I came along . He had sent himself to both a Catholic and a Baptist seminary and did not attend church. He read everything and accepted little on face value.

In the Spring white and pink lilac trees bloomed next to their two car garage.. You can see it from the breakfast nook which was wall papered in red roosters on a yellow background. When they were in full bloom, my grandmother, a large woman of six feet in height would cut me armsful of those sweet flowers. In front of that , my parents had a small vegetable garden . I was not allowed near the gardens -for my grandparents lived close enough to the Blue Hills that rattlesnakes and cottonmouth were known to frequent their land.
In the Spring of my eighth year , my eighty year old great grandmother, moved down from her farm in Chester , NH . She was a firey Irish woman who had grown up Catholic- she could quote and believed in her bible. Born in County Cork, she moved to Nova Scotia with her family, met my great grandfather, Martin , bought a farm in NH and converted to Protestantism because it was the closest church. When she moved to the United States, she never spoke Gaelic again because she was now an American. Americans spoke English.

So this house was our history and I loved it. Julius, who had come from a family of apartment dwellers was thrilled to have a permanent home. I loved the white built in china cabinets in the corners which housed my great grandmothers tea pots and cups from Ireland but alson my grandmother's mismatched best Limoge china from sets gone by. Her red mahogany table filled most of the room except for a red mahogany buffet along the left wall. Above that was a gold framed mirror. When my grandmother transferred title to me, I kept her furniture. When I sat at that table , on the crimson, olive and gold striped seats- I heard my grandmother's voice ,even years, after her death asking me to remove my feet from the wrungs of the chair, just like when I was 5. Sometimes I would put my feet there just to hear her voice. That grand table was always covered by a linen table cloth that her mother had embroidered. The braids in the rug under that roan tinted table had been done by hand by her mother, in deep jewel tones of garnet, emerald, sapphire, charcoal, as well. We used to take her to the woolen mills to buy remnants which would be braided or hooked into rugs for the house. I used to walk the rounds of the braided rug in the front entryway.

In the upstairs bedroom to the right of the stairs , there were dormer windows. You only see them now in the really old movies. Something where Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney would want to convert the two car garage into a theater to save the neighborhood library or other worthwhile project. I changed the wall paper because the pattern of diagonal roses in that bedroom with the mahogany rice carved bed and bookcases - tended to shift whenever I was ill , making me more nauseous than I might have been, still I loved the room though the closet space was small. Between the two bedrooms was the bathroon with its 1950's white and black tiled floor. The guest bedroom sported twin beds. a maple dresser and dressing table with cherbic crystal lamps. The half bedroom through that, had been converted to my office from where I corrected English papers in the evenings after dinner, far away from the noise of the television on the first floor.

My grandparents had had a good life, though not always an easy one in this house. It was in the days when there were families of responsibility living there. When ownership meant commitment- and pride, something that I found lacking in the recent changes. At the end of our street, Wentworth's drug store had been sold to CVS. I had known Sam, the father and Bob , his son,the owners, all of my life. They made me my first cherry coke using soda water, syrup ,and real cherries. Sam, a chipper man built rather like Monty Wooley, had wasted away of cancer, working until he could not any more and dying a year later in a nursing home. Bob, who looked like Robert Cummings, had told me how to make tomatoes so that they would taste good- he had sold my grandfather and I copies of the Boston Globe and The New York Times, as well as magazines about the Monkees and the Beatles. I bought a hamburger plate lunch at their counter the day that I went to see Thunderball. He told me about Robert Matheson's writing and helped me tie square knots for Girl Scouts. Bob died about four years after taking over the business from his father. Two men not from the neighborhood had come in demanding drugs and money- they shot him ANYWAY, after he filled their wishes. Tribally the neighborhood grieved. One of their own was dead.

It used to be quiet on my grandparents's street. Children used to ride their bikes and be safe.
a wakeup call was sounded when the little girl two streets over , a teen really for it was the day after she turned fifteen , when she disappeared. My grandparents , too old to join the search , helped man the phones and passed out cookies, sandwiches and water to the searchers. Metro police rang doorbells and called friends . Maryanne was no where to be found. Her mother wept on tv and her family's priest asked us all to pray. She was found in the spring in a state forest one hundred and fifty miles away. Some Boy Scouts braving an early spring on an over night camping trip, found her rotten body tied to a turpentine pine. Her head fell off when they touched her. It was then that the realization that no one really knew anyone shot through us like a bullet. A few months later , the manager of a nearby shoe store was arrested- at the time that Maryanne disappeared, he lived in the apartment building behind the swamp that abutted my grandparent's property below the lilac trees. She had been raped and abused. It could have been me. It could have been any child from the neighborhood.

As termites eat wood, so does change consume what is known . Change is destruction and destruction sometimes engenders growth. Plants become mulch and old habits die. With what they are replaced is our choice. If it beneficial or deadly. One must be cultivated , the other culled.

By keeping my grandmother's house- Julius and I took our stand. If it makes us snobby so be it. All are welcome to seek the dream but only if they exhibit the respect engendered by tradition. A tradition where children play safely and people donot jump at shadows. Where maple fronds are raked away not broken Budwiser and Jack Daniels bottles. We are the decendents of the Old Guard. We are the children of the Mayflower and those ships that followed, of the Puritans and those who braved the Salem trials,the Revolution, the Lowell girls,the McCarthy Hearings and Civil Rights initiatives. So donot tell us that we are not up to the challenge- we just refuse to surrender.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ritual (fiction)

It was the wrong day for this to happen. The post office had NOT delivered to the leasing office in her apartment complex as they had always , in the past done. Sarah found herself fighting to gain custody of a turtle cake that her creative 80 year old mother had baked.
She did not want to worry Mom that it had not yet arrived. The post office HAD it- but by Proctor and Gamble , she was not going to let the outside world upset her mother. Her mother had baked that cake while waiting for the prognosis on her husband of fifty eight years come August. He had collasped , his second that week, this time in the pasta sauce aisle of the local supermarket, where they had shopped for decades - the right side of his face reddening and swelling as her parents waited together for the ambulance. He was disoriented as he lay on the ivory chip floor. The assistant manager had gone to high school with their oldest daughter who was Sarah. He had married right away one of the women in their class from near the lake. , and had three boys all grown with families of their own. There was broken glass, spaghetti sauce but no blood, all around the fallen man, he did not appear to be cut. Her mother was stiffly formal with the assistant manager because though she had known him forever since his childhood , she could remember neither his name nor his wife of thirty eight years. All she could remember was that he had been a spare lad when in the cub scout pack that she had led.

It was not long before the ambulance came. In the retelling, Sarah's mom recounted that she had followed in their car. That, when her husband was finally comfortably resting, Mom had stopped back at the store and told Walter- that's right, that was his name that her husband was being examined . That he would be released the next day. Then her mom plundered the baking aisle with a vigour usually reserved for invading armies. Walter personally escorted Sarah's mom to her white Toyota and loaded the groceries into the back. " Call us", he said " if you need anything. Joyce is home all day. I hope that Bill feels better."

Before Sarah's mother left for the hospital , she stopped at the the local post office to mail the turtle cake to her daughter. She told Sarah to call her when it came. Everything depended on that cake arriving. Her mother said that she knew that Sarah's dad was going to be alright because the cake had turned out and packed up beautifully. Two out of three, Sarah thought, Damn it! No ! I am not going to lose the third and dialed the post office yet again.

" Hello, this is Ms Pine - My mother , Ellen in Middleboro , there is NOT a T AFTER THE S...There is a mother baked a cake. Listen , you moron,,,How the heck do I know if the cake was good- YOU have it and I have been chasing it for a week, No , she did not mail it from Minnesota...M_A_S_S_A_C_H_U...Yes, like John Hancock. No , not the Insurance company. No ,the package is not from an insurance company...its from my mother. How long what? No , my mother doesnot work for an insurance company. She baked a cake so my father would get better . What kind of cake? I think that she said that it was a turtle cake. You don't what? Transport live animals? Its not a live animal - its a cake. A turtle cake , chocolate, pecans , the turtle candies. No there ARENT any turtles IN the cake...yes, I will wait. Catching her breath, Sarah leaned back against the wall . Her mother was counting on her. Would the rule of three work IF she could not recover the cake and eat a piece? She was determined to do just that even if it were green and fuzzy or all dried out. Green and fuzzy cake and muzack...oh goody!!! She was NOT going to lose her father over fuzzy turtle cake and muzack. She knew she was tougher than that. What she might not outlive was the wait for the superviser- this was what , the third time that she heard the greatest hits of John Barry. She hadn't realized that there were quite so many Bond films.

Turning slightly to her left, she could see her postman carrying a brown paper wrapped box up her stairs. He swung it as he labored up the stairs, just as she opened the door. His eyes opened wide- he had not yet knocked on the door. There it was on the package, her mother's writing addressed to her. Thanking the mail man, Sarah grabbed the cake,slammed the door,tore the package open and shoved a handful of turtle cake into her mouth. It wasn't green or fuzzy and she had saved her father's life. It was no wonder that her mother had fewer grey hairs than she.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Choice ( a serial work of fiction)

I am sitting on the grey wooden stairs of the sagging ashen apartment building where I have lived for several years with my uncle and the latest of my aunts. I know the routine , if he leaves , so will I - I have lived with him since my father was murdered . My mother took me to her parents house, where she lived with me until I was almost a year. My grandparents are nice enough people- but too old to deal with a child. Especially one that my grandfather called "active and inquisitive"- which translates into always on the go and into everything. My father was my uncle's older and only brother. They both were in love with my mother. Though not my father by act, my uncle is my father by default in that he is the only parent that I have known. I would not change it- I know who my parents were . I have a good sense of who I am.

I am waiting on the steps for my uncle to come home. The street around me is full of life - two homeless men systematically disassemble a bus shelter including the payphone inside and walk away with it . No one stops them. I am heated in the noon sun, and the humidity clings to me . A vendor sets up to my right , and the smell of sausage and hot dogs is enticing. He is an older man, of about, fifty, I guess. Tommy James and the Shondells fills my world-he is better than the oldies station. I brush myself of as I stand, walk over and get a ginger ale and a hot link, careful not to drip the sweet smokey bbq sauce on me. I love the flood of hot grease from the link and sauce in my mouth. Across the street, artists have set up for the day. There is one on the corner wearing a brightly striped faux top hat-he is demonstrating a new kind of bubble wand that he wants passing parents to buy their whining children as they drag them past him. His wand fills the air with about a gazillion bubbles. Bright scarves adorn the tentlet next to him. I know her. I have one of her sculptures- a goddess viewing a crystal ball. It was a present from my uncle two years ago. I keep it in my bedroom . The ball has fallen off - and I need to find it- I have not taken the time yet. Its on my list of things to do.

I return to the stairs . The used bookstore across the street has put out the bin of dollar books. Sometimes , he has some really good things. I once found a biography of George Sands there. They donot teach George Sands in public schools. Too scandalous, too outrageous- too many questions would be asked. We read in our house. Not only my uncle and I but the children, his or not of my various aunts by marriage. Can one really be an only child when one has so many siblings? I have eight that I have met. My favorite story is that of the little princes in the Tower of England whose uncle had them murdered. My uncle would not murder me - I know this. My uncle is good for reading Peter Pan when I had measles,tucking me into warm clean beds, and making sure that I had lunch money for school. People say that we donot argue but I know that is not true. He is infuriating when we argue because he doesn't just shout , he reasons. and expects the same. I don't think that he has ever exactly told me that I am wrong- just that I had not considered all of the aspects of my decision. Its important to look at a thing to be decided from multiple angles. He tells me that even though we sometimes disagree, that he will always be there for me. That when I am a grownup lady, I will remember with fondness what the old man who raised me said. Hopefully it will stand me in good stead. I hate it when he says this- its too impermanent.

Its two and the ridiculous cooing woman in her large red hat and obscenely large red poppied dress and her Maltese with that silly bow in its hair are out for a walk. Baby baby oogie wooky snookums drop like cookie crumbs -The white silky longhaired dog seems to be laughing at her .I think that it knows what power it has over this allegedly superior life form.

"Do you want the rest of that?" asks my cousin, Adrian pointing to the now lukewarm gingerale. I shake my head. " Can I have it?'
"If you like" I reply then nest my chin into my balled up hand and lean my elbows onto my knees.
He gulps it down, belches loudly and shoots for the trash bin .
"Missed it", I laugh "Have to play for the Warriors because the Celtics won't have you if you shoot like that."
Adrian is half my age. His mother/ my aunt by marriage has offered to let me stay if I want. She told me that she and my uncle had discussed this. Neither would put a child in Foster- bad place that. I try to imagine what life would be like with just Maria and her son.

Four o' clock, a red car screetches around the far corner at the end of the block , followed by a dark dirty colored car- Maria yells for Adrian to bring up the mail, unaware of any of this. He is too short . I stand and retrieve it for him. He bounds yelling "Got it " to his mother. The driver of the red car parks it on the sidewalk in front of the drugstore on the corner. The driver of the second car quickly catches him, there is a popping of bullets and the first man lies on the hot cement inches from a crowded bus stop. The dark car speeds off into the day- it has no plates. The screaming of ambulance, firetrucks and police follow minutes later- the witnesses have taken their bus by now and are no longer available. They won't ask me- I am too far away.

Six o'clock , I see the vendors pack up. People crowd off the buses bearing treasures of take out bags and beer. Maria's meatloaf smells wonderful from above. I know that I am safe with Maria.
She is not intimidated by the fact that I have been with my uncle forever - longer than her marriage certainly. She swats and hugs me just like her own. I am not competition- just an older kid. She calls for me to come and wash up- dinner is ready. I love the vintage white and pink table cloth that wa her mother's . Its real linen. The dishes are also old- but unchipped and uncrazed. I scrub the dishes while she watches the news. Adrian heads for his room to do homework.

Eight o'clock . I shower and change into clean blouse and jeans. Grabbing a cup of pomigranite tea, from the kitchen I descend the wooden stairs that slightly spiral to the front door. Maria snores softly in her overstuffed chair, adding soft music to my ears. I sit on the porch steps once more.

I think of the changes that have occurred in the last few weeks. Of how our lives have changed, dramatically at first, then returned to the more usual. Of the night, that my uncle came home covered in blood. It scared me-for he was so very pale. He went to the hospital - and was sent home in the morning. Maria knew more than the doctors. She kept their room dark- very dark. She is a brave woman . She later moved to her sewing room and slept on the little cot there. Adrian saw none of this. I saw it all.

The funeral was hard-there were so many phoneys in attendance. Not speaking ill of the dead- they would have taken his last shirt and the coins off of his eyes had they had the opportunity.
I have grown to hate the smell of flowers for they remind me of that hypocrisy. It rained the day that we buried my uncles's casket. The sky was crying. Our lives changed during those days. Maria took care that Adrian never saw his father after the funeral. My uncle began to prepare to leave. For now he and I were safe. Which left the question of Me. Both of them told me that it was my choice.

Ten o'clock. My uncle sat beside me on the steps . He looked better than he had in weeks. I had always loved his dark intense gaze. I could feel his eyes on me in the dark. I looked at him. Vampire or not- he was who he had always been . I would continue as a child of light for awhile longer and he would hire some one to front for us as he posed as an absent parent away on business. We would make darker decisions later together as we had made all the others.

"I am going with you." . Together we went for my already packed suitcases, woke Maria to say good bye, and gave her a phone number. I left a note for Adrian saying goodbye and that I had gone to live with my cousin Mary in another state. Maria walked us down the stairs, hugged me once . " Be a good girl. You made the decision that I thought that you would." She smiled at my uncle . waved once and closed the door behind us.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Victim (fiction)

The neighborhood on Oakland Avenue was well worn , bordering on ghetto. The cement stairs were off center and cracked in my rent controlled building. The roof, had seen better days - it was the embodiment of the old joke that the only time that one could fix a leaking roof was in the rain- when of course, roofers could not physically fix the roof.There was no grass in the yard.I had the feeling that when the current batch of tenants were gone, commercial rentals would replace us. The cemented walled yard would make a perfect parking lot with very little work. This might have been a nice neighborhood, at one time , with families. But the nice families had all moved away to higher ground. The morality of the area was as skewed as the building in which I lived- it was off kilter as part of the back had been blown off during a DEA raid. Students, working single women , drug dealers, Hells Angels and hookers shared space with the remainder of the "nice " elderly. The niceness was not so far away- it lay just beyond the twilight, fading into the darkness of forever gone. When I looked quickly - I could just catch a fleeting glance of that perfect past. During the day , it was not uncommon to have to cross the broken sloping street a couple of times to avoid passed out drunks, sleeping homeless, and possible dead. The safest route was to mind my own business. When it was truly dark , the homeless sheltered in the covered alley between my apartment building and another house also turned into apartments ,were usually moderately quiet- not that it would have mattered , because the response time was anywhere from over three hours to never by the local police. Only the wealthy further up in the hills were entitled to prebody bag responses. Hells's Angels kept the neighborhood peace and I grew to like them, as did much of the neighborhood. No one, not wishing to be shot, ventured near the windows after sunset. Rival gangs and drug dealers donot leave forwarding addresses . Grudges die hard in economic want. People in the way ,were collateral damage and up for grabs , no matter their innocence. Everyone was either involved or up for grabs. Bullets donot ask your name.

What woke me in the dark of that first morning was the sound of a regular light skinned homeless man baying like a beaten basset hound. I could hear the young thugs pounding him into the wall of the alley. His words were garbled by sleep, drugs, and drink- but the tone was that he did not have that which they desired. Their collective laughter was cold and ugly. I knew that the homeless man had survived the night- for I heard him crying painfully. I heard him shuffle off. I saw the multicolored Renaissance crocheted cap round the corner as he lowered his treasures in a Safeway cart down two stairs. The squeak of the wheels of his shopping cart headed up the hill towards the intersection with Broadway. It was late enough that there might be food in the dumpster behind Safeway- if he were not too broken up to eat. I forgot about him for the remainder of the day.

The next morning, I heard the cold sound of laughter and the breaking of bottles in the alley. I noted the scuttle of the homeless man push his cart down the hill before bearers of cruelty had reached his position. I listened hidden by drape and wall- for I had a vested interest in them being so close. Unlike the homeless man, I could not push the apartment building out of the path of their distruction. Their plans did not appear to involve me . They did not stay and finding no victim to punish in the shelter over the path , left as they had come, with loud bravado and boastful abuse for those of us who lived there. But leave, they did.

On the morning of the third day , the homeless man had not slept in the alley at all. When I looked over the railing of the porch , there was no shopping cart. As the nights had grown cooler, I thought tht perhaps, he had gone to a charity facility. I didn't care- but one gets used to the repetition that constructs reality . It was odd to have him gone. As the day grew stronger, I saw him once on Broadway from the bus. Perhaps , he had, indeed found somewhere else to sleep. At sunset, as I hurried home with my dinner of kung pao chicken and brown rice, I saw him pull open an abandoned garage door on an adjoining side street.He pushed the cart bearing all that he owned, out of sight inside the rickety structure. He left the door open slightly and gave me a small wave as I passed. Somewhere he had found a folding chair and was sitting in it.

Midnight woke the neighborhood with the screams of firetrucks and ambulances. The abandoned garage with its green cathedral like doors was a torch in the darkness of that lost neighborhood. The smell of gasoline chocked the air as the fire rose yet higher. The tenants in that neighborhood stood on their lawns. I could only think that the kids had found the old man.
The neighbors nearest the garage reported some screaming from inside towards the end. But the flames were too high, and the person screaming lost to the inferno.

In the morning, the story of the the burning garage was on page 3 of the Tribune. The bodies of what appeared to be three young men were found in a garage on Cedar Street. They were known to have gang affiliation and it was believed that a rival gang had executed them. The exact identities would not be released until dental records could provide a confirmation . The door had been bolted from the outside by a length of chain, a cheap lock and 2 legs from a folding chair.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Makebelieve Husband welcomed to the neighborhood

In the interest of security , I have been very careful not to let my neighbors know that I am (gasp ) single and self supporting. I donot know these people, nor do I wish to know them. But its nice to know that my invisible husband has been offered the opportunity to male bond with the dudes(101st Airborne) upstairs. Here is where the confusion comes in_ I HAVE a male friend who is outside of the immediate Nashville area . He has been known to do laundry while visiting. So he has been seen by the neighbors. His job allows him to come for a visit about every 3-6 weeks. We are about an hour from Ft Campbell , KY., which is where the guys from upstairs and their wives are stationed .The longest that he has stayed has been 10 days at a time - though a normal visit is about 4 days.
I have also been known to s/w him on speaker phone while cooking .
I think what confused them this morning is that I watched episode 2 of season 1 of the Riches on line, followed by last week's episode of Medium. Male voices in the lower apt.
But I am not married and donot want to be- he HAS been married and doesnot want to be. We also each like our space. So we donot live together.
I'll clue him when next we speak. He had a" terrible migraine" today - so the guys from upstairs had to be put off. He won't give me away- will probably think it funny. That they wanted my invisible friend to come out and play.
I suppose this is no more confusing that looking at my reading lists, books and blogs which deal with Cooking, cake decorating, lit crit including erotica, Satanism , music , politics, sewing and crafts. I look like a Girl Scout/ Campfire girl leader which I have been. But I am more than that.
At one time, I was a phone sex operator to meet the bills. I have an interest in serial killers. I am working my way through the works of Joseph Campbell. So all is not as it seems