The Skip

The universe has given me the answer.

The question appeared in this post. The “Is Someone Dead In There?” house: the answer was yes.

My block has been an abode of skips for the last year, buggery-hell, the people across the street (a radiology tech and his wife, who is the daughter of my next door neighbors, which is just fucked up, even more so when you think her brother and HIS wife live on the opposite corner) bumping out their top floor and discarding two truckloads of structural debris and superannuated furnishings. Skip #3 made its appearance with a resounding boom and clatter sometime before I wanted to wake up on Monday; this one was positioned in front of the house that every neighborhood has got, the place where the county finally has to come in and mow the grass once every year or two, the place where newspapers pile up on the porch and walk, getting soggy and slimy, and the windows gradually attain the patchy filminess of old mica. It used to irritate me. It takes no freaking effort to go out and pick up the paper.

I saw the woman who lived there a few times in the seventeen years since I moved in; up to a point, she had a red Jeep in the drive, and was even seen getting into it. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I saw it. Around Christmas, the old bat next door, mostly notable for her habit of leaving nastygrams on the windshields of cars parked without a local sticker, unbent for some reason and made a point of telling me, in a rare chat, that whatever-her-name-was — I seriously cannot remember — was a hoarder, and their family had tried to help clear out a couple of times but the house was awful, just awful, and… she drinks. Given that Old Bat’s wedded spouse has been seen breakfasting on Budweiser (I would, too) this must have meant something serious.

Brisk striplings were heaving dreck of unimaginable provenance into the skip, and as I drove past on my way to the gym I glimpsed box after box, the commercially designed things the movers sell you, stacked in the front yard like a levee or military breastwork.

The sight of the laden skip pushed my freakout buttons, such that I spent the whole afternoon’s break holystoning the basement and zinging any useless drogit I could find into the trash. As I was taking it out my neighbor down the hill pulled up to park her car.

“I didn’t know she’d died,” said Carol. Apparently Old Bat’s daughter had gone over to check in, and could see through the window from the porch that Red Jeep Lady was in there and seriously dead, and her husband, the medical technician, had some legal waiver associated with his calling to summon a locksmith and get inside. I would have just called EMS. Whatever.

It feels as if a dam has broken, but somewhere in the next state perhaps, silently, the plumes and walls of water finding their level at the far end of a telescope.

They have these neighborhood meetings where I live, people stick up a sign every month exhorting you to come, and they talk about street lamps and improving the school playing field, and everyone preens about how wonderful it is to have neighbors. I wonder how many of those people noticed the skip.

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6 thoughts on “The Skip

    • It really gets up my nose the way my small incorporated county-as-a-city likes to call itself a “community of neighbors(tm),” when what they really mean is that every voting precinct has a civic association which is more or less a social club for people who like to yackety-yack about things like crosswalks and bake sales. Extra points if you have kids and can bang on about the schools. It’s high school all over again really, with the same forget-you attitude toward people who aren’t preoccupied with doing the Cool Things, the definition just having changed a bit. Neighborliness, however you define that, doesn’t really come into it.

      I think the Old Bat Clan knew Red Jeep Lady at all because one of their trees came down on her deck back in 2003 and they had to work out the insurance. Carol apparently used to run into her once in a while, on walks (Carol, that is — Red Jeep Lady never really came out of her yard).

      And why didn’t I ever go over and knock? Quite honestly, I’ve had one severely self-neglectful, dysfunctional hoarder in my life, and I was married to him, which is enough for a lifetime. But then, I don’t claim to be a champion of social inclusion. Still — the whole thing is sad.

      • This is probably a universal problem. Down here for some reason it is customary to fence your property England style with high walls, so even if your neighbors are sitting on their front porch you don’t see them. Couple that with automatic garage door openers and it makes for a real non community. I still don’t know a lot of neighbors and I’ve been here 10 years. Every Christmas someone organizes a neighborhood beach party but its a (gag) kiddie-fest. Even worse, a few years ago they tried to get everyone to put lights on their house for Christmas to get us all in the festive spirit (in the Southern hemisphere where it gets dark at 9:30 on Christmas. It’s totally fake and done by the people who joined dorky clubs in high school and are trying to rekindle their social skills post partum.

  1. ­­­­­­­­­­you seem to be living in an eccentric neighbourhood, or is all the Washington area awash in that?

    • Just my weird luck. It is an older ‘hood where I suppose people have had a chance to define their eccentricity, and in which some houses are paid off and can be lived in for the cost of local tax. Around the corner there are two Elrods (the kind of guys who drive an old pickup and do odd jobs and questionable car repairs). And down the hill, in between the hospital administrator and the two-income gay couple with the manicured yard, there’s a drunk guy with a face like a corned beef brisket who cycles up and down and all around all summer long with his shirt off and bags of stuff on his handlebars.

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