/ Stories / Non-Conviviality / Neighbors /
I’ve lived in a trailer park on Brunns Road in Sebring for two and a half decades now. Brunns Road as I’ve said elsewhere looks rural, trees, cows, woods, farmed land, but is actually more crowded than some areas of the Bronx: there’s no telling from a speeding car, doing 55 to 85 where 25 is posted, how many trailer residents are in the trailer parks. I don’t believe that the misrepresentation is an accident: the locals like to jam the land with Yankees so they the locals don’t have to pay their own taxes.
Anyway since 1989 I ride my mountain bike around the neighborhoods cruising the parks. I’ve chatted with a passerby or two, actually made an acquaintance or two. The other week I paused to say Hi to a woman I recognized from way back, walking her schnauzers: Mary. Not long thereafter I saw another woman, a stranger to me, walking her dachshund / mut, Becky. She reminded me of my late beloved Catherine: she didn’t look like Catherine, wasn’t within forty years of Catherine’s age, but she reminded me of her: emaciated, handicapped, unsteady of foot. (Catherine had been crippled since age two, polio, and blind since age seventy-something: handicapped and a half, and utterly sweet, helpful, loving. So I talk with Becky, tell her about Catherine, have an urge to pat her on the rump. (I’d learned to be completely loving of Catherine despite our thirty-year age difference.
Cut to the chase, or at least toward it:
Becky and I became friendly. I was taken aback when I saw her trailer: a pig stye, a hoarder. All the furniture was filled with plastic bags from the supermarket, no place to sit down. She told me she was terminal with lime disease, contracted once upon a time in New Jersey. The bandages all over her shoulder seeped pain killers into her body. She had no car, no money. I offered to take her to the store when I went: she asked if I could also take her to the WalkIn Clinic to see her doctor. I do so: it turns out she has to carry oxygen, wear a germ mask …
Now if my girl weren’t up in Nova Scotia from July to October I wouldn’t have time to meet any Becky. Jan phones a few times a week, sometimes more often. I tell her everything, or almost everything. I tell Jan what “we” have met a new friend, a woman with problems and then some. Jan smells a rat, hits the roof, forbids me to have any contact with Becky. Oh, but, I explain, I’ve already promised to do this, and that.
OK. One more word of background and I can tell the story: I report in detail to Jan on the condition of her property here in Sebring: and this entire September her lawn has not been cut. She’s left message after message with the neighbor’s son, Please cut the grass, she’s afraid burglars will see the place as abandoned. Oh, and finally: as readers here would know, if I had any regular readers: https://pknatz.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/pk-to-njmbs-trenton/
Friday, Jan asks me on the phone to check her property again, see if the grass has been cut. I tell her I just checked. Without a drivers license I minimize the frequency with which I defy the law. (The law defies me, I defy the law. I have yet to correspond with a bureaucrat who understands my point: no, they pretend to understand till it’s their turn again to ignore what you said, and demand again that you pay the fine. I don’t owe a fine, I can’t pay, I won’t pay: so: I risk imprisonment, again, again not guilty of anything but intelligence and virtue, fully believing that they’ll imprison me for life rather than hear the first word I’ve said or check its veracity. So I beg Jan not to push me to drive to her house too much. But then I said I had to drive Becky to her doctor.
Jan really hit the roof. But I promised, I protest. Well, break that poromise, she insists.
Now: I don’t believe Jan is behaving properly. But, I’m dependent on Jan, not on Becky. I have to listen to Jan whether I mistake her Republicanism for Christianity or not. (I beg her to tell me no more about Donald Trump (or the Pope) but she just keeps filling me in on both!)
Well, by golly. Yesterday I do go to Jan’s house, my neighbor Manny driving, Manny armed to cut the grass. Lo and behold, Brian had finhally done his job, the grass was cut. But I’d told Manny that if that proved the case, there was still plenty to be done, and that he could charge Jan for his estimate. Manny and I did loads of work there, place looks great: Brian had cut but Manny and I trimmed and weeded: weeds in the drive, on the walks, clearing the entrance court yard …
Jan calls last night. I fill her in on everything: Brian cut, I consulted with Mary to ask her husband’s lawn service for an emergency cut, I’d also consulted with Manny. Everything was done, Manny even fixed Jan’s mower in the shed: wouldn’t start, now it does, and Manny had trimmed all the azaleas …
I beg Jan to let me drive Becky to her doctor, she’s adamant. No, break the promise.
So Saturday I was too upset to phone Becky to apologize, to explain, to beg her to let me off the hook. Today I do call her. No. Becky doesn’t care about me or Jan, she wants her new dose of painkillers.
And I reflect: I take her shopping, she comes home with gallons of canned cocktails by Bud Light. I realize: Becky is a junkie, Becky is a drunk. Becky hasn’t understood a word I’ve said: she just want her donkey to bring her to her drugs.
Mary warned me about Becky, after I’d already made “friends” with her. So I phone Mary, tell her what I’d learned, what I thought.
Turns out Mary and her lawn care husband had driven to Jan’s checked the place out, found it to be an enormous undertaking, didn’t want to contract for all that work. I told Mary about Manny, she knew Manny, Oh, good, it’s taken care of then. And I tell Mary about subsequent experience with Becky the spaced out hoarder addict.
Watch out, Mary had warned me: Becky attacks people who’ve helped her. Mary also told me that Becky has been telling people that she’s terminal “for a very long time”. Mary further told me that Becky’s neighbors have been trying to help her all along but find that they get bitten. “Don’t trust her stories about her neighbors.”
You know, I promised. I let Jan twist my arm into breaking the promise. I see Becky’s reaction. Boy, am I glad I’m breaking that promise. Promises to junkies who’ve disconnected themselves from sentience shouldn’t be kept.
PS Becky says she had been a nurse. It wouldn’t surprises me if she’d become addicted to pain medication working in that evil industry. Anyway, if the medical industry addicted her to pain meds, the medical industry should take care of her transportation, and related problems. But of course that would be like expecting the Nazis to make good to the Jews. No, no: destroy, don’t make good, don’t even try.
leftovers to be merged:
Becky needed to go to WalMart. I’d just been, for myself, but I took her, for her. I do have one thing to do there: I visit Customer Service while Becky shops. I say, I’ll meet you by the north exit. No, wait: I’ll be in the center of the front of the store, at Books. Sure enough, I browse the sports mags, the Sudoku puzzles. Time passes, more time. I search the store. I search her pet treats section, I search the food section. Oh, there she is: by the north exit, not anywhere near Books: she did’t listen! I bet she never listens: totally selfish. No, I shouldn’t risk driving her no matter what I promised: in my former ignorance.