As shown in the diagram, the sister also has three dogs. Not to worry, two are shaggy old, slow moving beasts, the 3rd is a cute little pug or something that yelps on occasion (btw, I did spray the old dogs once, they shook and tottered back inside. I felt awful.)
One day, the sisters’ boyfriend was outside, working on the fence. I saw him and walked out to put a garbage bag in the bin.
“Hello”, I said.
“Hey”, he turned to me, “I’m Bernie”
No need to be scared.
“Thanks for filling in the fence. The dogs were driving me crazy.”
“Oh, those are Jane’s dogs. They drive me fucking nuts. Damn pure breed terriers. I would never get a pure breed. We got dogs, but they’re mutts, they don’t cause no fuss. Jane don’t take care of her dogs. Women can’t discipline dogs. They’re not forceful enough.”
Sweet old Bernie. I had seen him before, the one adult male in the house, ambling around the yard, doing maintenance. Old Bernie, a pretty big guy, baseball cap, a little hunched over, just a big oaf. Up till now, I had (silly me) thought maybe he was mean or angry, what with me banging on Jane’s door all the time. It took a bit of courage to walk out there and say hello.
So it was a summer like November day here, brown leaves on the ground, and winter light, but temps in the 70’s. Bernie and I got to talking. I told him I was from California, and he told me about cruising around Cali with some buddies, on his motorcycle in the early 70’s, up Rt 1 to San Fran, visiting People’s Park. Marveling at the wild people.
Back in Memphis, he had been a truck driver. Eventually got his own rig. It was pretty good work, hauling shipping containers from the train yard to regional destinations. Also, did some odd hauls. One time he hauled a full load of Jack Daniels from the distillery in Lynchburg up north into Canada. He said that load was insured for like $10mil. In Canada, he got so lost that when he finally asked someone for directions, turned out he was 50 miles from his destination.
But the economy had taken it’s toll, as had his back, and these days he was pretty much retired. Now he just went on road trips on his Harley with his buddies. They’d go up camping and fishing in the Smoky Mountains. Beautiful up there. Always brought his pistol, just in case.
Then we got to talking about my building. “My landlord don’t take care of it,” I said. “She don’t do the maintenance. Look it the gutters all full of leaves and pine needles.”
Then Bernie told me a story. Turned out that just a few years ago our building was run by a slumlord. It was in pretty bad repair and occupied by drug dealers, etc. The back yard was a dumping ground. There was a trough of dog food on the back patio, and a couple of pitbulls would hang out back there.
When our current landlord bought the place, she kicked everyone out. A couple of day-laborers showed up and spent the day hauling junk out to the curb. By the end of the day, there was a mountain of trash and abandoned junk. Then a crew fixed the place up, painted it, did a few repairs.
Bernie went on: The neighborhood had been getting better as of late. Gangs of men used to walk around, scoping out the homes, seeing when people left and came home. Anything left outside would be gone. This began to explain the dogs and the fortress like enclosure around the house. Strange though: a few houses down the street from us the homes show no signs of fear, they don't even have security doors or bars on the windows (our house has both). But seems the neighborhood is improving. I haven't felt nervous outside, even at night. Anyway, Bernie agrees it's getting better.
|Neighbors' fortress on left; Our place on the right|