Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Neighborly, Standing Sentinel

Early this afternoon, home on a rare week day, I sat at the island in my kitchen finishing up my coffee and last Sunday's Times. I heard the familiar sound of my neighbor's screen door squealing open, and a gruff "No!" in the patriarch's voice. He couldn't see me. There was no one visible from my vantage to whom he might have been addressing his negation.

But as he shambled out onto his patio, brown shoulderblades rounded under the stark white weight of his impeccable wifebeater, I saw obliquely through my window a young man of perhaps thirteen walk across the neighbor's empty carpad and make as though to jump the fence into the next yard, looking warily over his right shoulder, face shaded beneath a trucker's cap. His arms over the fence, he let slip two red globes to the ground on the other side; through the chainlink I watched them fall.

"Sure, g'ahead drop the tuh-may-tuhs like I don't see them," my neighbor chided, resigned.

Understanding: this was about tomatoes. One of the neighborhood toughs had entered my neighbor's property, opening or jumping either of two gates, to steal tomatoes.

As my neighbor neared the boy, he jumped the fence, as though to put a protective barrier between himself and the old man. But he didn't bolt. He stood rooted to the ground on the other side, just opposite, and took his licks like a man. By the end of the encounter, my neighbor was standing just a couple of feet from the boy, hands on his hips, voice no longer raised enough for me to hear, and the boy rested his chin on his arms atop the fence. They could have been grandfather and grandson.

Regardless, evidently I lack the imagination to anticipate what the neighborhood children are capable of. Good thing I don't have Binky's garden.

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Anonymous May said...

The poor old man must have bought the little plants, watered them carefully every day and cleaned them from bad herbs. He must have felt that every ray of the sun would make his fruits become a little redder, anticipating the moment in which he could bring them to his table.
All this is spoilt, now, since it is not worth becoming a watchdog of one's tomatoes. And it is even worse to realize that one's work does not deserve other people's respect.

6:25 AM  
Blogger Moon said...

Plus, he's a salty old Italian steelworker. :-)

of course, since he often offers me the spoils of his garden, either directly or by way of his kitchen where he cooks up some delightful vegetable dishes, i have a vested interest -- i'll be keeping any eye our from now on as well.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous May said...

Italians have a special care for things and people.
How nice of him to let you taste his recipes! It must be the same type of food that his mother cooked for him.

5:29 AM  
Anonymous binky said...

My garden has thieves too, but mine have pointy teeth nd voracious appetites. One of them also dropped a whole, but half gnawed, avocado in the fish pond. Wha??? Can you imagine the little devil scampering in the tree with what seems like the mother lode, only to see it fall away and splash down?

10:57 PM  

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