Monday, March 7, 2011

Neighbors on West Boulevard

Neighbors on West Boulevard

“They have a Pit bull now, “ I heard my mom say.
“They live like niggers,” my dad answered, between his teeth.

I was instructed not to talk to the neighbors, to the tall boy
who was so skinny his chest caved in like a shallow bowl.
His hair was shaved on top and long in the back.
When he skate boarded by our window, holding a baby
lightly in his arms, a lollipop stuck in her squalling
mouth, my dad called Social Services. No one ever came.

My dad called city hall because they had painted their house
only as high as they could reach, a dull orange resting
on flaking blue. No one ever came. My dad had all this time
to make these calls because he was laid off from Twin Discs
for six months. Mom worked at 0 & H Bakery down
the street, getting up at four. My dad watched the neighbors a lot.

Beware of the Dog. My dad laughed at the new sign slapped
on their porch railing. “Beware of the wife!” he said. She was
a barrel-bodied, charcoal-voiced girl with a half-done cross tattoo
on her wide calf. “Close the fucking door!” she yelled to one
or all of her children. “Close your fucking mouth! “my dad said.
My mom, doling out Hungry Man Lasagna, gave him a look.

We were learning about all religions in my history class. I learned
about how Hindus had many gods: Shiva and Ganesh and the blue
Krishna. And how Hindus were to be kind to every living creature,
even cows. I carefully cut one of my mom's daffodils from her little
garden with my school scissors and laid it on the neighbor's
slanty porch. I came into our house, whistling Nutcracker Suite, bouncy

in my new Keds. Dad slapped me once on the cheek, hard.
“I told you not to go near that house, “he said. “It'll swallow you up.”

~Julie King

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