My neighbor is one of those guys who seems constantly hunched over. When he’s out mowing the grass or driving in his boxy van or walking around, he’s stooped a little, like the world and he had a fight and the world won and won’t let him forget it.
I’m almost certain he’s got a little girl. The dirty naked Barbies with small blades of grass placed precisely in their knotty hair started being left at the base of the high tension wires like little perfect sacrifices around the same time he moved in.
I could be wrong. Maybe it’s him, leaving plastic women to the elements.
His dog is broken, too. A small mutty shepherd whose back leg supports his weight as awkwardly as if it were made of wood. But the dog barks happy to see us when we walk by, and runs the length of the fence, and doesn’t seem to mind his funky limp at all, so we don’t mind it either. Mrs. Wigglebottom has long ago decided that he poses no threat. She doesn’t even bother to acknowledge him any more.
Every morning, as we walk along the backside of the interstate, he climbs in his boxy gray van with the trailer behind it, and pulls up next to us. He never stops and the slowdown is so slight as to almost be imperceptible, just enough to cause you to look over your shoulder and see a bright white hand thrown up in a friendly wave and a nod as he pulls away.
He and I are the two most predictable morning routines. After us is the old gray-bearded man who’s riding his bike up the hill. Less often than that is the man who sits at his window and knocks as we walk by. If we don’t wave, he’ll come out to shout at us “How are you doing? I, for one, am not dead yet.” And somewhat regularly is the young kid on his bike, going someplace in a white shirt and nice slacks, always happy to see us.
Sometimes, it’s obvious that he forgets how quiet the neighborhood is and he’ll shout “Good morning” as he passes us, even though we’re making only quiet shuffly noises and he’s making only the the sounds of shifting bike chain and he’s only two feet from us.
His voice is always so loud that it’s clear that it startles both of us. And he’ll start to laugh at himself and I’ll start to laugh and the dog will look up at me curiously, as if she can’t believe I didn’t see that coming.