Friday, March 14, 2008
The neighborhood where I play as a child is a typical Long Island suburb. Houses change colors like mood rings; the neighbor's car alarm is our equivalent of Big Ben. My father works an extra job pumping gas so we can move into the smallest cape on the block. My mother likes the school district.
I’m four years old when we pull into the driveway for the first time. I’m wearing my puffy orange coat with the synthetic fur hood. There is no fence separating the backyard from the front, which will soon change. Our steps echo in the empty house. Mom says every room smells like a dog. The attic space becomes our bedrooms. Mine is painted "happy, stay in your own bed at night" yellow. The kitchen has a "vintage" red refrigerator with a big gash in the front, and neighbors tell tales of an old lady who died standing at the stove, stirring a pot of soup. The neighborhood kids add some extra flair to the story. "It was a secret witch's brew," they whisper through holes in the fence. I don't like the house; I crinkle my nose and set my feet in the dirt near the stoop, refusing to go through the door. I want to go back to our apartment.
Mr. Carlo is the old man across the street. His garden is barricaded with chicken wire, off limits to the children of the neighborhood, but every so often our kickball ends up tangled in his tomato plants. Then there is hell to pay. On one such occasion, he takes a few of us into the basement of his yellow stucco house. On a high shelf is a garden snake suspended in a bag of liquid.
"Dis is whata happen to chil'ren who a go in a garden," he snickers, his bony finger waving angrily in the direction of the bag.
One day, mom has enough of Mr. Carlo. With the neighborhood kids standing beside me, I watch in horror as she storms through his gate, past his beloved garden, to knock crisply on the door. This is the same day he tells us it is okay to eat the mushrooms that grow on his lawn. We stand silent, imagining the confrontation taking place beyond his fence. Moments later, she comes through his gate, snapping it closed with vigor, and marching past us like Rosie the Riveter. Mr. Carlo never yells at us again.
Dear Internet Traveler,
Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.