Ode to Good Neighbors
The man bought his son a dog when the boy’s mother left. She was white, the dog, a Malamute Husky. An elderly neighbor lady complained that the dog cried when he went to work and his son went to school. So, he put newspapers thick on the floor in the bathroom, also the dog’s water dish and food. He closed her in there whenever he and his son were not at home.
The lady was pleased by the return to peace and quiet. She asked the man how he had solved the problem of the noisy dog. When he told her, she cried, “That is an awful thing to do to such a nice dog!”
He agreed to leave the dog out, to let it have the run of the apartment, if the nice lady would listen for it and report to him as to whether the animal had learned to be quiet. Sometime later the lady reported, “The dog doesn’t cry anymore.” The man wondered whether the dog had taught them both a lesson of sorts.
One morning he heard her groan, the lady, when she bent over to pick up her newspaper. Eighty-seven years old, her back hurt. The man smiled her a good morning and went to work. The very next morning, and every one after that for eight years, the man picked up her newspaper and stood it on end by her door. He did this even on weekends, especially on holidays. He had to begin his day a bit earlier but felt better about himself for the effort.
She saved newspapers for the boy so he and his dad could line the floors of the bathroom so the good and quiet dog could do her business there. The lady had never seen such a nice dog.
One Christmas morning the man heard his neighbor outside. She was yoo-hooing and waving at the people who brought the newspaper. “Come up here, I have a gift for you!” She handed twenty dollars to the surprised girl. “You and your family are so wonderful,” she chortled. “To climb those stairs every day and stand that newspaper up for an old lady.”
The man, who had planned to tell the lady one day that he and his boy set up her paper, bit back his words and smiled. He waved at the astonished newspaper girl. He felt good about himself and life in general. The lady, not knowing about his daily deed, made the doing of it feel more special. She was not indebted to him. Quite the opposite, he felt he owed her for affording him the opportunity to learn and teach his son such an important life lesson. The recipient of his daily gift, unaware, somehow made his good deed feel extra good. The smile on the newsgirl’s face was his to share as well, a bonus. When he and his son went camping he enlisted the help of other neighbors to set the newspaper up. They loved sharing his good secret and never told the lady. They were gang members and true to their word.
Odd, the dog barked and cried on weekends but not during the week. The lady twittered and swore to the fact. The man met a woman on the internet. He and the boy moved away to be with her. The lady upstairs, a neighbor for ten years, wished them well, hugged them and cried. She knew if he kept messin’ around on that internet some woman would grab him up. He was good ‘un.
After fighting cancer for two years, weakened and listless from chemotherapy, the lady finally gave in and moved to another city to live with her son and his family. The man came back to check on her but neighbors told him she had moved away. The building where they had lived was filthy and rundown. Had it been this way before, he wondered. Had he and his son lived in such a place? He saw a newspaper on the sidewalk, picked it up and climbed the stairs. He stood it up by the door, took a deep breath and walked away.
They taught themselves, these good neighbors, listened to that voice inside that makes all the difference between good and better, to be well and let the deed be done.
© 2018 artwork, music and words
conceived by and property of
Tom (WordWulf) Sterner 2018 ©