She told me her name, but I’ve forgotten it. She told me her dog’s name and I can’t forget it. Rampage. After the MMA fighter.
I can already see myself, on the ground, trying to pry Rampage’s slobbery jowls and shark-sized chompers away from my jugular. Rampage is sweet though. My new neighbor tells me he’s friends with the owls, squirrels, cats and mice that all live in her yard. She doesn’t feed the mice. They don’t bother her though so she doesn’t bother them.
And she wants me to know that she doesn’t have a problem with white people. She has no issue with white people all of a sudden moving in while families who have been here for a long time move out. But I shouldn’t be surprised if not everyone is so happy about gentrification.
For example, she tells me, she has this white friend from Venice who came over once and they were walking from her house to the park, which is about half a block and they somehow got separated, and some people were not very nice to her white friend. And well I’m not sure how this ties in, but her friend was also pushing a stroller – it’s unclear whether a baby was inside of the stroller or not – but anyway, my new neighbor was about to have a word with whoever it was who was not so nice to her white friend pushing the stroller half a block to the park, and she was about to say something, because she is not cool with anyone mistreating anyone else. But then she didn’t.
Why? She stays in her lane, she says, if I get what she means. She raises her eyebrows like, six times before continuing. She doesn’t make trouble for no one. And that’s the way she likes it.
She tells me she works as a mentor now that her long-haul trucking days are over. There are some kids, rough kids, the kind who don’t like white people on the block. She suggests I might know the type and I nod that I do because I’ll apparently concede to anything. Anyway, where these kids get in trouble is they’re always smoking weed in the park. But not my neighbor. She kicks the grass at her feet – I smoke right here on my own property. I hope you don’t mind.
I assume this is a test about staying in my lane, so I nod. Fine by me. Smoke weed in your yard. Hell, mainline heroin in Marco Rubio’s bathtub for all I care, just keep Rampage on your side of the fence.
She offers her number; says she can tell me a lot about the neighborhood. Her knowledge of the neighborhood and surroundings runs deep. So deep apparently that at first she thought I was an ATF agent.
She tells me why. Four days ago: a van pulls up, a bunch of guys get out and go inside. Did I know the man who used to own this house worked as a Corrections Officer? He might be the type to narc. He might’ve been the type to not stay in his own lane and call ATF. It wouldn’t be the first time. ATF had been there before. She wouldn’t say which house, looking directly at the white house across the street, she wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing information with me or anyone for that matter about who might’ve been running around with unlicensed assault rifles. At this point her entire body is pointed in the direction of the white house with a Cadillac in the driveway. She’s not the type to say anything. Anyway, she’s glad I’m not ATF. Because if I was ATF I would have to tell her.
I explain that the van was an electrician’s and the guys didn’t speak to her because we went with the lowest bid which means we hired guys who have no professional credentials and speak an indiscernible language. She tells me I’ve hired good workers. Not the chatty type. Guys who know how to keep their mouths shut.
I wonder if I’m not making myself clear. I’m about to explain when she tells me she sells oils. She says this like I’ve just won the lottery. She’s noticed that I have a termite problem in the shed and she has a solution: peppermint oil and alcohol, but not too much alcohol because you don’t want to start a fire.
I tell her I’ll think about her offer to spray my wooden shed with a flammable substance for a fee as we inch toward summer. Then I head toward my house, which we now own. It’s full of holes and surrounded by termites, extremely virile pit bulls, and someone who was once hunted down by the ATF.
Before I can get to the door she tells me not to be alarmed if I periodically hear screaming next door. Her father-in-law is deaf. And by the way, welcome to the neighborhood!