Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Neighbor

My neighbor was in Vietnam, and about two weeks ago, we heard this throbbing outside our door. It was a little after midnight, so at first I thought it was a car passing. After two minutes, I realized it was right by us, so it wasn’t passing by. It was audible, but faint, so about three minutes after that, I thought it might be my brother falling asleep with the TV a little loud. Maybe two minutes after that, I got up and went to the kitchen and looked through the blinds and tried to see what was out there, because there was no way my brother’s TV was that loud and he was still asleep, and there was no way he was listening to country music, either.

I looked outside and didn’t see anything, so I went and laid back down and thought about it and forgot about it. One of our neighbors, Steve, is a legendary drinker. He lives with his elderly mother, and is independently wealthy because he slipped on a patch of ice outside a hotel, and got hurt, and sued the corporation. He apparently got a ton of money. It wasn’t just a superfluous suit, either, apparently. My Mom told me that he had to have a colostomy bag for awhile after the accident. So I’m not sure exactly what organs or appendages were ruptured, but Jesus Christ, if it was serious enough to warrant a bag, we all thought, than he deserves that Mercedes wagon. The Mercedes wagon was missing a hubcap, also, which seemed sort of right.

Maybe two or three minutes later, I heard one of our inner doors opening and I knew my mom was awake and was coming out. She looked at me, half sleepy, and like me, half expected the noise to be coming from here, from within the house. It was instantly obvious that it wasn’t me, so she also parted the blinds and looked out and said, is that coming from Paul and Joanne’s? She opened the garage door and looked out the window that faces Paul and Joanne’s house, and sure enough, Paul’s truck was sitting in the driveway, its headlights were on, the engine was running, his driver door was open, country music was blasting out of the speakers, his leg was draped out over the door opening, and he was smoking a cigarette, even though he quit for Joanne maybe three years ago.

Probably only two days before this, we had a robbery on our street. A car had been broken into a couple years ago, but nothing appeared to be stolen. This time, though, Paul’s truck had been opened, and he lost something. Papers between the front two seats had been rifled through, and two of Paul’s handguns had been taken. My mom knew from Joanne that the guns were not registered. I said, this is how criminals get guns that are used in murders.

My mom looked out through our garage window, and said, I think it’s Paul. He’s sitting in his truck listening to music. The temperature at this time was maybe 19 or 20 degrees. My mom started putting on her slippers. I said, what are you doing? She said, it’s Paul out there, I think he’s been drinking, and she laughed. He’s sitting out there in his car. I said, Mom, do not go out there. Joanne is going to deal with it. If we can hear it in here, she can hear it from in their house, and she’ll be out in a second. Don’t go out there. She looked at me with her fleece pullover halfway over her arms and said, Danny, what if he had a heart attack? I need to go out there. I said, he didn’t have a heart attack, do not go out there. What if he just got robbed and that’s why he’s sitting there, maybe knocked out? Joanne will go outside in a second. My Mom said, I’m gonna go talk to him. My Mom secretly had a minor heart attack maybe two years ago. My brother was really upset. She told me the week it happened, and I was in Chicago, so what could I do? But I said, well, you know that you need to start eating healthier. I don’t know why she didn’t tell my brother then, but she didn’t. She eventually did. He was upset, I think even angry. My Mom went outside because she thought about heart attacks.

I un-paused the TV episode on my computer, and listened to our garage door open. The inner house door closed, and my Mom walked out.

Probably six or seven minutes went by. I watched TV, and I once got up to look outside, to check on my Mom. I didn’t see anything through the garage window, except the two beams from the headlights of Paul’s truck. My Mom came in after about nine minutes, shivering. I thought she was going to laugh about Paul blasting music outside while his damn wife was inside, not coming out, and not doing anything. Instead, she toed off her slippers and said, I forgot that Paul was in the war. He was in Vietnam. I didn’t say anything. She said, He said, Anne, sometimes when I listen to these tapes, and I think about the guys I knew over there, I get emotional. I get a little emotional. So he was listening to cassettes. My Mom went out there.

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