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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Front Porch Stories

Neighbor kids and adults bike by at all hours in front of the corner house I rent from my roommate.  Sometimes they ride on the sidewalk; sometimes on the street.  A little neighbor girl goes by in her little electric car that can never quite negotiate the tightness of the turn.

Today a little boy wandered down and asked my roommate if she had a kitty cat he could pet.  She did not.  "How about a dog?"  Not that either.  Fortunately other people came by walking their dogs, and he could pet them, and he was pleased.

Meanwhile, our next-door neighbor produced a hose from somewhere amidst the beat-up cars and mountains of stuff surrounding his house.  He handed it to a lean, gray-haired man in a stained T-shirt and a Sherwin Williams cap and warned him, "It'll come out like a fire hose when it turns on."  And the gray-haired man twisted the spout and blasted his bicycle clean.  He rubbed it dry with a rag that he then balled up in his hand.

That older man's name was Dean.  I know that because he parked his bike in front of the porch where my roommate and I were sitting, and called up to us: "Doesn't look like fifteen years old, does it?"

We concurred that it did not, and praised the bike accordingly.  This was enough encouragement to entice Dean to walk up into the hostas at the side of the house, rest his arms on the porch rail, and talk with us for the next two hours.  During those two hours we learned:
  • All about the previous previous owner of the house: his devastating break-up, his fight with cancer, and his eventual death by suicide somewhere in Nebraska.
  • How Dean knew our next-door neighbor from their respective trades as a painter and a floor guy.
  • How Dean met several of his previous girlfriends, and what became of them.  He illustrated these stories with yellowed newspaper cuttings featuring the women in question.
  • The improvements he made on a house down the street in his job as a painter.  These stories were accompanied by pictures as well: a disintegrating packet of realty photos printed off in color.
At one point, Dean asked us how the shower in our basement was working.  I looked at my roommate.  "Shower??"  Here we were, under the impression that the house had nothing but a claw-foot tub until we moved in.  But apparently there was a little shower under the basement stairs where our laundry machines now sit.  Dean used to use it to clean up after a day's work before hanging out with his friends what is now my roommate's house.  "I have a picture with the old owner, right there in the dining room, but I don't have it with me in the truck."

While Dean stood twisting his now-dry rag in his hand and reminisced about days gone by, our little neighbor friend returned.  We still had no dog for him to pet.  But would he like to play with the remote for the LED lights on our porch?  Indeed he would!

He started kindergarten today and his teacher was "Mmmmrs Mmmmmiller" and he couldn't remember the name of his school but he liked it. 

"And do your mom and dad know where you are?"
"They're right there by the silver car," and he pointed a few houses down toward a heavyset lady in a turquoise shirt.

So he scampered around turning our porch lights from red to green to blue and back, and asking at intervals if he was big enough to ride the bike still sitting on our sidewalk; the one that Dean had polished up two hours before.  And Dean kept talking from the hostas, and soon the little boy's mom started yelling for him and he went running back down the street (where he got an earful from his mom and I had to go explain that he had thought his mom could see him and hadn't meant to run away).  And dusk overtook the street, ending another interesting evening on the front porch.

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