A very observant reader mentioned the missing pictures from this story. I reread the story several times and never noticed any gaps. The mind is a lovely thing, bridging the gaping holes in our narratives as we merrily plod along, creating some semblance of meaning from the surrounding chaos. Thanks to Willy.
Yesterday morning walking back from the park with my dogs, I found a bundle of pictures being thrown out as trash. The trash cans were in front of a house down the street from where I live. We’ve always called it “the Hick House,” because the people who live there are right out of some old Ma & Pa Kettle movie from the 1930’s. Over the years there have been countless incidents where the police are invariably called to quell some drunken escapade that’s gotten way out of hand. On top of usually being drunk, the people were really loud, and fights would erupt and flow into the street ending in tearful recriminations and drunken apologies closely followed by the police who would quiet it all down, or the fire department who would put out the flames. Really, I have lived in fear that these people would start a fire & take down the whole street in flames.
But the people in these pictures are the original owners of the house, long since dead. And they seem kind of normal. Two beautiful young girls, (maybe Jon’s sisters?), a family picnic, waving for the camera, Aunt somebody putting something in her mouth (ha!). The house was left to their son, Jonnie. He’s in one of the pictures as a baby.
The caption reads “Jonnie & Bee.” Just to the right of Jonnie’s baby picture is a man standing alongside a cool old car, with his foot on the running board. “Bob,” the caption reads.
Bob is wearing two-toned spectator wingtips. This must be Jonnie’s father or uncle because he looks just like the Jon who was our neighbor. Sometimes we’d see Jon down at Herring Run Park, sitting in his pickup truck, nothing as remotely cool as that roadster. We actually wondered if he was turning tricks in the park. That’s a big leap of an assumption on our part. But we never saw Jon going to work and he had to make money somehow. He died this past fall. Mac the mailman told me that it was cardiac arrest.
As it turns out, Jon’s work was his home. He had set up his house to be some kind of group home. I say ‘some kind of ‘ because I really don’t know if there was a theme for the home. Clearly there were drunks living there, but there was also a child molester, which I only learned about a few years back when a new family moved in next door with their two sons and they told us. The Hicks were the kind of people that you tried to stay away from. You didn’t want to know what they were up to.
Once my neighbors across the street were planting a garden. One of the Hicks, Wayne, came over and tried to steal a flat of vegetables. He took off running down the street, vegetables in hand, when another neighbor, Jorge – who had seen what happened – tried to stop him. Wayne began throwing the vegetable plants at Jorge. The police were called. Another time when we were having roofing work done, Wayne approached the roofing boss and asked if there were any jobs available. The boss told him that he only hired Amish roofers, and, sure enough, all of the roofers were dressed in traditional Amish garb. Wayne, who was of course drunk, insisted that he was actually Amish himself. What luck!
I could go on with Wayne stories, and some of them were pretty funny, but drunks are only funny until they start fighting or crying. Somehow it always gets ugly.
Finding these photographs makes me sad in ways I don’t completely understand. Maybe that Jon’s life was so easily disposed of. We thought that something would have to change because Jon died. No one in that house could possibly afford to insure it, or even be responsible for it in any reasonable way. The saddest picture of all is of their house when it was new. It’s a beauty. The caption on the pictures says ‘Our home.’ Now there are busted windows patched with cardboard or rags. The remaining cedar shakes are split or missing, the roof is old & there appears to be water damage. The front porch is barely standing. Here it is today:
We were told that Jon had a sister and she must be cleaning out the house, or she hired someone to clean the house. It’s a kind of delicious pleasure, a voyeuristic pleasure to find these old pictures and see something about a stranger’s life. But this is just sad. A beautiful home trashed up and photographs from a life that no one cared enough about to keep. RIP Jonnie.