Friday, December 15, 2006

Fear thy Neighbor (Part 2)

I had scary neighbors whe I was a kid.
To our left we had Mr & Mrs. Wagner, a cranky, dried up couple who told children racist jokes. Usually the subject was dead and dismembered. It freaked me out. I'd never heard another kid talk like that, let alone an adult. Was he capable of violence? I wondered. My dad told him to knock off the jokes . I feared retribution. Would he put a brick through our window?
Melba Smith lived to our right and was capable of violence. She was an ill-tempered clot of celluite, forever screaming at her sons. People who think the "No wire hangers!" scene in Mommie Dearest was overdone have never lived next to Melba. Closed windows couldn't muffle her outbursts. Her antics set a poor example to her sons, who slapped and shoved their way into being disliked by every kid on the block.
Melba couldn't figure it out. Why were her kids shunned? Her conclusion? My family had conspired against her kids. She told people this! We were out to get them. Any injury inflicted on her kids were no doubt the handiwork of me and my brother.
"George broke his glasses at school," we overheard her tell someone. "I'm sure Namowal or her brother had something to do with it!"
She wouldn't speak to us. She stopped all gardening where our yard met. Soon a fence of dead weeds seperated us. She forbade her boys to play with anyone who played with us. Typically this resulted in kids playing at our house and her boys a few feet away doing a cheerleader squad routine: "Gimmie a B! Gimmie an A! Gimmie a D! That spells BAD! [insert name of kid playing with us] is BAD!"
Melba saved some wrath for me. Often I'd be doodling on the driveway with my colored chalk when she'd pass me and blow me a raspberry. If her maid was with her, she'd try to insult me with crude Spanish. No doubt her heart warmed when her three-year-old pointed at me and said "You sneaky creep!"
It gets weirder: the Racist Wagners and Crazy Melba got along. Sort of. Maybe because nobody else put up with their crap. The Wagners had a snotty nickname for Melba's husband (who was "only" part white) but Melba was unaware. They stopped the racist jokes around her, yet only granted her limited access to their property. Visits were restricted to the Wagner's driveway, where the three of them smoked and Melba complained. She didn't know that as soon as she left the Wagners would turn around and tell anyone who listened about what a loon she was, about what "animals" her kids were and blah blah blah. Real maturity. You're never to old to be a sixth grader.
I suppose I'm doing the same thing here, but at least I changed the names.

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