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Wednesday, 30 August
Meet The Neighbors

Sunday afternoon found me relaxing outside on our deck enjoying a cigarette. Our deck is separated by the larger public pool and patio by a couple of heavy cotton blinds that we routinely leave down in the summer to cut down on the amount of summer sun that would otherwise stream through our glass-walled western-facing exposure, and thus sparing us from being roasted like kielbasas during the summer months.

After a bit, I heard some shuffling, and spied a pair of unmistakeable old man legs shambling by; whoever the duffer was, he was obviously going to the pool. Then the gristly legs stopped moving, and he stood there, outside my blinds, quivering a bit, thanks to, you know, the oldness. Uh oh.

"ARE YOU HIDING?" he roared, causing my traumatized intestines to fire a white-hot meteorite of shocked feces through the seat of my pants and downward into the earth's crust. "I CAN SEE YOUR LEGS!" he bellowed, not waiting for me to answer. My wits were scattered all over the surrounding landscape, and I squeaked, senselessly, "Busted!" Is he too old to understand my incredibly hip urban lingo? I wondered. "WHAT?" he screamed. No, just too deaf. We still had not seen each other's face; I thought maybe it would be polite to duck out from under my blinds, but on the other hand, I didn't want to.

At this point, another voice joined the fray, a female voice calling from somewhere above. "Don! Don! Don't lose your keys!" So his name was Don. "WHAT?" he howled. "Don't lose your keys!" Pause. Don's scrawny legs shifted uncertainly. "WHAT?" Sigh. "THE KEYS! THE KEYS IN YOUR HAND!" she screamed. Don's wife didn't want him losing his keys. Where was he going to lose them? In the pool?

"YES, I'VE GOT MY KEYS!" Don replied, and I heard him shaking them. Jesus. "No, she says she doesn't want you to lose your keys," I offered, doing my bit to help the elderly, and also to try and head off any more geriatric throat-singing.

There are two cotton blinds that shade our windows; suddenly, in the space between the two, Don thrust his head inside into my patio. He grinned at me in a friendly way, I think. His gums were . . . well, they were kind of black. "Women!" he rasped. "I been married twenty-three years. Second wife. You married?" My limbic system was reeling with a sudden flood of neurotransmitters. "Yes," I replied, utterly frozen. The man looked like something Rick Baker keeps around to prank people with. Now it seemed he was intent on crawling through my sun blinds. "THAT'S WHAT YOU'VE GOT TO LOOK FORWARD TO! Second wife. Been in this building from the beginning! We were the first ones here! 1963! Ah, but she's a good one." He squeezed more of his body in between the blinds and reached out for my hand. "Don," he said unnecessarily. "What's your name?"

"I'm Skot," I said, shaking his hand. The old bastard had quite a grip. He also had a stunning amount of body hair; his body looked like he was once a pretty fit guy, but age had of course cruelly transformed it into a complicated landscape of lumps and hollows. And Lord God, all that hair. He looked like a malformed burrito that had been dipped in glue and rolled into a kennel.

Over the next couple minutes, Don gave me a little personal history: he was a WWII vet, and, uh, he was still alive. "God saw fit to give me 83 years. More than a lot of people! Know how many of my friends have died?" Don also had an odd habit of lashing out and siezing my forearm when imparting some important fact. "No," I quavered, still marveling at how strong the guy was. "ALL OF 'EM!" he crowed. "They're all dead." I didn't know what to say, but good old Don didn't care. "HAW HAW HAW HAW!" I got the feeling that while Don had once a lot of friends, he also kind of thought they all punked out by croaking. He still had a hammer-clench on my forearm, and would occasionally re-adjust his grip; I still had a cigarette in my hand, and he kept getting very close to burning his arm on it. I was starting to imagine newspaper headlines: Area Man Tortures War Hero With Cigarette Burns. Or, probably more likely, Outmatched Nebbish Justifiably Beaten To Death By Elderly Raconteur.

In the end, he let my forearm go and began extricating himself from between my blinds. "I'm 83 years old," he told me again, "but I'll still wrestle with the wildcats! You just send 'em my way!" He started shuffling towards the pool again. "I'll wrestle them wildcats in the water!" he called. "Enjoy the pool!" I replied. "I will, god damn it!"

From above, his wife: "DON! LANGUAGE!" Don flapped his arms dismissively.

I peeked at him for a while as he swam in the pool. He favored a slow, methodical breaststroke, and would occasionally stop to do some sort of strange, Karate Kid-like aquatic aerobics. The underwater pool lights lit him up fabulously; I could even see his incredible torso-mane glinting everywhere; he looked like someone who had been colonized by sea anemones.

Don't ever die, Don, I thought happily. And for God's sake, don't lose your keys.


Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments

Priceless. Will print a copy for my 90-year-old Grandma.

Comment number: 007975   Posted by: Nico on August 31, 2006 02:28 AM from IP: 198.92.67.19

Priceless. Will print a copy for my 90-year-old Grandma.

Comment number: 007976   Posted by: Nico on August 31, 2006 02:29 AM from IP: 198.92.67.19

Sounds a little fishy to me. A two-man (or one man and one woman) con. The old "don't lose your keys" trip-up.

Didja check your wallet after he left?

Comment number: 007977   Posted by: i, squub on August 31, 2006 05:07 AM from IP: 216.207.65.58

damn you're funny. "malformed burrito that had been dipped in glue and rolled into a kennel."

absolutely the funniest thing I've read on the net in the past five minutes, no, make that ten.

Comment number: 008001   Posted by: Lala on August 31, 2006 02:10 PM from IP: 74.106.133.183

damn you're funny. "malformed burrito that had been dipped in glue and rolled into a kennel."

absolutely the funniest thing I've read on the net in the past five minutes, no, make that ten.

Comment number: 008002   Posted by: Lala on August 31, 2006 02:20 PM from IP: 74.106.133.183

Wonderful entry! The burrito description was truly portraiture in words... I choked on my drink and read it out loud to the hubs.

Three days ago we discovered, to our dismay, that the roof section that our apartment overlooks is not completely closed off to foot traffic. We had thought it was a forever deserted corner since our balcony door is nailed shut, boarded over and painted over-- something we discovered after we moved in, but we figured the roof/balcony must be fragile and uninhabitable and didn't worry about it. And then, the other day, a little ragamuffin with a water gun was skulking about out there...

This means that my bare legs and panties or whatever in God's name I decide to wear at the computer are in plain view, thanks to the part of the horizontal blinds over the useless door that I've been keeping up so that the cat doesn't break them when she looks out (she's old and doesn't climb). Dammit! Go inside, kid, and get in trouble for going out the window so that I can be naked in the living room, as God intended.

Comment number: 008115   Posted by: Linda on September 3, 2006 01:06 PM from IP: 68.255.104.190

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