Around the Block - a narrative

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: July 29, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 29, 2019

A A A

A A A


Around the Block

Take a quiet ride with Henry and learn all about his neighbors and neighborhood. He will describe a neighborhood everyone has seen before. Learn why the neighborhood is so quiet today.

 

 

 

Hi, my name is Henry, want to ride around the block with me? I’ll show you around. My neighborhood is great, everyone knows each other here. The blocks are long so this may take a while, hope your legs won’t get tired. I live right here on this corner house – it’s a great starting and ending place for a ride. First house we see on our right is my next-door neighbor, Mr. Johns. His lawn, as you can see, is trimmed to perfection, flowers are all in rows, and shutters are in tip-top shape. “A man’s home is his castle.” It’s an old phrase he uses every time I ask him why he works so hard on his house. He is an ex-marine and keeps himself and his family in shape as well. He fixes my bike and helped me make my first go-kart last year. His kids are all older than me so he calls me his second chance to get it right. Mom doesn’t mind because my dad’s out of the picture, died a few years ago.

 

Now, as we pass his house you can tell how well kept the rest of the neighborhood is too. Mr. Johns sets a high standard and he uses his spare time to help all the neighbors on this side of the block to maintain the same standard.  He has spent whole weekends helping out everyone around. I think it keeps his mind off the fact that his kids have all moved out now. The last one left before spring. His wife grows the biggest garden in town too. She loves to share her bounty with everyone. She makes the best pie you ever tasted.  Any kid who comes to help her husband either at her house or their own is deserving of a pie. So, needless to say, we all work on our lawns. Mr. Johns says it’s a good skill to know and that we will thank him when we are older. The reward is certainly worth the sweat. Mrs. Johns can even make vegetables taste good. You should come back around harvest time, you won’t believe your senses.

 

Across the street you can see the Langly brothers siting out on their porch chairs. Probably drinking iced tea and arguing over last night’s game. I try not to wave to them anymore when I ride by. They think a wave means you want to come over so they stand up and wave you over. The problem is they usually ask you to pick sides on whatever it is they are arguing about. I don’t even understand what they are saying or why there is even an argument, so I’ve learned to not wave anymore. A headshake in their direction elicits a “Hello” and that’s good enough for me. Don’t get me wrong, they are very nice people, I’ve just learned how to work with them. Before I did I was losing whole afternoons at a time trying to figure out what they were saying.

 

Be careful!! That’s - ‘Ole Bessie’ -, she’s the largest oak in our whole town, and her roots have pushed up some of the sidewalk here so we have to go down Ms. Hazel’s driveway onto the street until we pass her. Sometimes I get off my bike here and walk the bike over the sidewalk bumps so I can marvel at how big she is.  Ms. Hazel named the tree after her own mom who used to live with her. Ms. Bessie was so quiet but incredibly strong. When she passed on, all the people she touched over the years came back. Ms. Hazel said it’s like a tree that grows strong and gives so much to everyone that at some point people start giving back to the tree. People care for a tree as they would a child. Watch to make sure the roots are firmly in the ground and water and feed it to make sure it reaches its full potential. Every fall those new parts leave and go off to do what they were meant to do. In the spring, new ones come along and give the tree another chance to share its goodness. That is how Ms. Bessie was, no matter who moved out or into the neighborhood, she took you under her wing and made sure you were taken care of. Mr. Johns was terribly upset when she passed. He was one of her first saplings, she used to say.

 

People still miss her and will leave messages on this tree with sticky notes. Somehow these notes are always gone the next day, but never blown around the yard. I think Ms. Bessie reads them. I’ve left her messages too, asked her to watch out for my Dad and Grandma. Do you want to leave a message? No? Ok, but if you don’t mind I’m going to go say hi to Old Bessie up close for a second. Besides, for some reason my legs are feeling kind of heavy and need a rest. I don’t know why either, we are about to turn the first corner, I’m never tired here. All the same, it will only take a moment….

 

Thanks for waiting, I see you like to smell Mrs. O’Grady’s flowers too. They are pretty special, prize winners you know. I’m sorry I took so long I get mesmerized by Bessie’s beauty and my legs are still feeling kind of funny. No worries, let’s get to the corner, I want to show you something really unbelievable. Stop right after we turn and look across the street

 

Do you see it? Have you ever seen something so strange in your life? That’s Boris’s house over there. Boris goes to my school, nice guy, it’s his folks that keep everyone talking; they are some kind of modern hippies or some such thing. Their house has those rectangle panels on the roof to collect energy from the sun and yes, that is grass on top of the other part of the roof, something to do with insulation and natural resources. I never understood it much. Boris says it works for his parents and they don’t ask him to cut it so he doesn’t mind so much but then again, he also doesn’t have too many friends over for fear they will think he is nuts too. They pay someone special to come take care of the maintenance on the roof’s grass. Some springs his mom even plants flowers and you can see them from all the way over here. His mom once told me, “It’s better to eat off the land than to put it in a can.” I’m not sure I totally understand her but she always has a smile on her face so it’s hard to think anything bad about her for too long. Boris never had cold cereal until he slept at my house one night. Boy did his mom go nuts, she thought we were poisoning him with all those unnatural sugars and chemicals, not to mention the fats. She even mentioned some other things I’ve never even heard of. So now when he comes over, she sends him with his own food, which he dutifully eats and then has a second meal with us to - ‘make his taste buds awaken’ - as he says. He is a good son, many others would throw out the stuff they brought.

 

Hey, look over here, the triplets are at it again. They love playing in the mud and their parents say it’s healthy for them, so they turn on the hose and fill the same spot with water until there is enough mud to play in. They will be out there for hours making mud sculptures. They make all kinds of sculptures, sometimes they leave them out there until the next rain washes them away. This is not one of Mr. John’s favorite lawns as you’ve probably guessed. Good thing it’s around the corner so he doesn’t have to see it every day. When they are done, their mom will come outside and hose them off before she lets them back inside the house. She will take pictures of their work too. Mrs. Shephard, their neighbor, is not as fond of this game as the mud invariably gets on her lawn as well. Mrs. Beagly always brings her one of her prize-winning specialty breads which seems to smooth over the situation each time. What a great funny friendship they have, huh?

 

Wow, it must be hotter than I thought, I feel my head dripping terribly, I must look like a mess to you. No? Well thank you that’s very kind. If you don’t mind I need to slow down for a minute and catch my breath.  I don’t know about you but today I seem tired. This part of the block is usually the easiest as it goes downhill all the way to the next corner. I usually coast on down but for some reason today I don’t feel as in control as usual. You don’t mind do you? Wow, you’re a very understanding friend, thanks. How long do you think you will be around? Oh, not sure yet huh? That’s ok, we’ll make the best of it in the meantime.

 

Here comes Mike with his truck, we can go get ice cream and sit on Mr. Grange’s porch to eat it. He always lets the kids rest here for ice cream as long as we remember to bring him a creamsicle too. Mike stops his truck in front of this house every day, kind of like a predictable bus stop. He wants to make sure everyone gets a chance to find him. He usually waits a good half hour here and wouldn’t you know it, half the neighborhood comes by during that time. Doesn’t look like a lot of people are around today, that’s good for us-we can have our first pick.

 

 Did Mike’s face look worried to you? I hope he is ok. The triplet’s mom also looks different today. Maybe this heat is getting to other people as well. Let’s go sit down. Oh, wait let me deliver Mr. Grange’s ice cream first. That’s weird, no one is home. What should I do with it? You’re right, we’ll have to share it, can’t leave it sitting out here in this heat. This porch is great, come look with me, you can walk around the whole house and never leave the porch. Some grown up once told me it is called a Victorian-style porch, I like to call it fun. Mr. Grange is a fireman and also works on the volunteer ambulance corps in town. He is a local hero, he even delivered Ms. Patty’s baby before her husband had a chance to get home to take her to the hospital. So the baby’s nickname is “Little Al”.

 

If you look to your right you can see the next turn coming up. We have about seven houses left and then we will turn again. Sitting on this porch you can see a fenced in yard over to the left. That’s Sammy’s house, he is another kid our age but he doesn’t go to our school. The fence is there so he can’t get out and get lost. Sammy is in a wheelchair and he likes have adventures so he once took himself for a ride around town and the whole police precinct was out looking for him. So, for his own safety the town got together and helped his parents set up his yard so he would not want to leave. They didn’t want him to not have any fun so they built a kind of an obstacle course in the back yard to keep him busy. Some of the kids who have skateboards come over and play with him. It opened up his life a bit, gave him a chance to make all kinds of friends. He goes to a school in another town, one that is made to accommodate his chair and other needs. My school is an old one and only has steps everywhere. Sometimes he comes to Mr. Grange’s with me to have his ice cream. We tell jokes the whole time, he has the best one liners. You should meet him some day.

 

Ready to go? Let me check the door again, seems odd that no one is home here. Actually, for a regular evening it seems quiet all around. I wonder where everyone is. Whoa, I stood up way to fast, my head is spinning. No one answering still, guess he is working today. I still feel out of breath a bit but the rest of this part of the block is downhill so I’m sure I will perk up soon. As we ride this way you can see all the new saplings that were planted by the town. Many of the old trees had some infestation of bugs and had to be taken out so now we have these small ones. Coming up on your right you can see the oldest house in town. Mr. Packard lives there, he is a third generation Packard who has lived there. It’s not a big house but it sure is pretty. Rumor has it that it was built for a vacation home for one of our presidents. Can you picture that?! Living on the same block as a president of your country, must have been a sight huh? All those secret service people hanging around your street.  I’ve only met Mr. Packard once, he came to our school to talk about the history of our town. I guess he is a good source. His grandpa was one of the first people on the town board to decide where to put buildings like the library and hospital and such. He had old maps of town that didn’t even include our whole block. Imagine that.

 

Weird how quiet things are today, I thought I heard a siren a while back but since then nothing. No one seems to be out. Maybe we are crazy for riding in this heat. Let’s pull into the next house and use their hose to get a drink, maybe get some water on our heads under the helmets to help cool us off. No, no one minds here. We are all like family, everyone looks out for everyone else. It’s a great place, one where you know you will always be safe and always be cared for. OOOOO, that’s cold water today. Feels good running down my back though, adds a bit of relief to my headache as well. Not sure if my helmet is too tight or what but I sure am off today. Next time you come I’m sure I will be much better and we can do the whole ride with no stops. Ok, maybe we can stop by Mike’s truck again. Ready to move on? Me too, but slowly. Let’s get to the end of this part of the block and you will see the library across the street. It’s great having one so close. You want to go first this time? Stop at the corner, I’ll be right behind you but be careful the hill is quicker than it looks.

 

This part of the block has the most children on it. That’s why if you go to the library during story time there are no seats available. The librarian lets us big kids sit up on tables or has us put one of the young kids on our laps. You can see each yard has a lot of playing equipment. Some have basketball hoops, one or two have nets in the back for racket games, I think there is even one with a pool, and so many of them have colorful riding toys sprawled out all over the place. So you might want to be careful there isn’t anything on the sidewalk before riding, I like to call this my own personal obstacle course. When I’m having a good day I challenge myself to go as much as I can without hitting something. I think the farthest I’ve gone is four straight houses. It can be tricky here, sometimes things shoot out at you because people are playing. I used to have a friend on this part of the block but they moved away. You would have liked him too, we used to do homework together all the time, now he lives in Seattle. We write to each other a lot and I saw him last summer because he came to visit his grandparents and other family members. I think he will be back this summer too; you want to come back then? I’ll let you know when he is coming for sure.

 

See that pink house? You want to hear why it’s pink? There used to be a very nice old couple who lived there, they loved to take walks. Then something happened to the old man, I think he had a stroke or something. Anyway, he started to walk again but would end up on different people’s front porches so the family painted it a color he would always remember. There have been two families who have lived there since but no one wants to paint it. It’s become kind of a marker for some people. It’s right in the middle of the block, almost exactly and people use it for reference, even the people who live there. The newest people are the Smyths. They have barbeques all the time, and invite everyone around who wants to come. One time they slipped a flier into everyone’s mailbox–it was a grand ole time. Their immediate neighbors even brought out their grills to accommodate everyone who showed up. Do you have anything like that there where you live? No? Well, it’s not like we have it all the time; but when it happens it’s a lot of fun.

 

To your left you will see another blue house with beautifully sculpted trees. That is the Barker’s house. Mr. Barker is an artist so he uses his lawn to show off his latest work. He buys trees and ivy so he can mold them into what he wants it to look like. He will add all kinds of things to it too but I don’t like those kind they look unnatural.  One time he went snooping through everyone’s recycling cans and pulled out all kinds of stuff – next thing we know we can see our own garbage being displayed in some funky fashion. His wife is a schoolteacher at a place that doesn’t even have an art class. Kind of funny. Isn’t it.

 

We know we have come almost to the end of this part of the block when we see the white house. No, the outside isn’t white, but everything else is. The people who live there own white cars, white bikes, their dog and cat are both white and my friend went inside once and said all their furniture is white as well. So we came to call it the white house. I’ve met the misses once when she was out gardening but never really had a chance to speak with her or her husband. They moved in about five months ago. My mom met them and said they’re are no different than any of the other characters who live on our block.

 

Ah, my favorite house on the whole block, the one that is two houses from the corner, on our side of the street. See it? Yeah, that’s right, the one with the green door. This is Mr. Grey’s house, he lives there with his five children, his mother and his sister. His wife died last year and that is when his sister moved in. She is a bit crabby for my liking but the kids love her so I guess that is what matters. The door was painted green because his wife wanted it to be. One day she said to him, she wanted their house to stand out somehow but not be gaudy. So, green it was. Besides that touch of eccentricity, the rest of the house reminds me of something you would see in a movie. All the right touches, everything in its place all the time, it’s almost too quiet. This is the house where all the action in a movie would happen. It’s so unassuming. The back yard is a bird’s paradise, full of bird houses and bird baths. They must have a dozen of each. Their kids play in the front yard a lot because of it.

 

When the kids are out, I like to stop by and play with them. They have the most imaginative games you can think of. I don’t mind playing “pretend” with them because they make it so different from anyone else’s version. One time we even got the mailman to take his break and play with us. However, as you can see, no one is outside here today either. What a crazy day, I’m not sure I’ve never seen our block so quiet. Maybe you can come again another day when there is more activity.

 

Well, now comes the hard part. Making it up the last leg of the trip. This hill is so big we won’t be able to see my house until we are half way up the hill. Are you ready?  No, I don’t mind waiting a few minutes. Do you want to rest under Molly’s almond tree? Molly goes to school with me too. She is one year older than us though, but she likes to ride bikes with me a lot and many times we even share our lunches and snacks in school. Her parents work so much all she has is her babysitter to keep her company. Melissa, yeah that’s the babysitter’s name. Molly is the oldest of four children. Her siblings go away to friends a lot which is why they aren’t here today, that’s my guess.

 

Did you hear another siren? Maybe it is me, oh well. As we work hard to get up this hill you will see that many people on this side of the block are also crazy about keeping their lawns perfect. This side of the block has a garden contest each spring and summer. Judges come by and vote in the spring and then come by twice during the summer. Everyone is graded on a point system and the results get printed in the community paper. It doesn’t get you much except bragging rights for the year. Mr. Henly has won the past two years in a row. He says his secret is to match the flowers to the house so it looks “even more natural than nature itself.” He is so funny, he makes everyone laugh all the time. He spoke at the July 4th fair across town and had everyone rolling on the floor. You should have seen it. Not a dry eye in the park because we were all laughing so dang hard.

 

I don’t know about you but my head is really starting to pound right now and my legs feel like jelly. Can we please stop at the next house and ask for more water? Yes, we can use the hose again, that’s fine with me. Although my head feels so drippy that I’m not sure I will be able to tell what’s water and what’s sweat. We can stop at the next house, it’s about half way up and they have a hose in the front so we don’t have to go too far for the water. How do I know that? I come over a lot to play in the sprinkler. Like I said, we all know everything about each other around here. Mr. Morris likes it best when we spend some time in back and some in front so he gets his whole lawn watered while we play.

 

Also, Mr. Morris put in this really great hammock on his front lawn. I’ve been caught napping there once or twice. Want to lie in it with me? It’s so big three people can lie in it. I’ll go first so you can see how to get in. Leave your bike next to mine by the tree there. See? Just what the doctor ordered. A bit of rest to catch up to ourselves. We’ll only stay about 10 minutes, and then I think I’ll be OK to trek up the rest of this hill.

 

Let’s get one more drink before we get going. We are about half way up but the second half is not as steep as the first. Ready? OK, so let’s start up again. I’m fine why do you ask? Yes, I do feel a bit wobbly on my bike all of a sudden, but we’ll manage, don’t worry about me, I’ve made this trip a hundred times already.

 

I hear voices up ahead, do you? Hey, what’s everyone doing at the top of the hill? That sure explains a lot doesn’t it. I see the ambulance too. Hey, that’s my mom on the floor!!!! She’s bending over and yelling something. We’ve got to go full speed ahead, she must be hurt. “I’m coming Mom! I promise!” Oh, I sure hope she is OK, I don’t want to live with my uncle. What am I saying, she is fine, must be all those people are there to help. I see Mr. Grange, and I see Mike there too but why is everyone looking down shouldn’t they be looking at her?

 

What? You don’t think they are there for her? Why not? Hey, where did you go? Oh, man I can’t go look for him now. He can’t get lost, I’ll find him later, I’ve got to get to my mom. I hear her. “Mom! I’m coming” Why isn’t she answering me? Why can’t she see me calling? I’m pedaling as fast as I can I can’t get there any faster, dang hill.

 

Everyone is crying and looking around. I’m going to dump my bike here and run the rest of the way, it will be quicker. Mr. Morgan won’t mind if I leave my bike here for a little while. Let me through, move out of the way!! Why can’t I push through these people? Why is Mom crying so much? Hey, whose red Corvette is this anyway? I don’t recognize this from anyone around here and why is it halfway onto the sidewalk?

 

My head is killing me, my legs are like jelly and I can’t get my mom to hear me. Stop crying everyone!!! I’m trying to get my mom to hear me. Oh, man, one more scream and then I’m going to knock on some heads.

 

“MOM!!!”

“Oh, my baby, you’re back! Oh, honey, I’m so happy to hear you and to see your eyes open. You gave us all quite a scare young man.”

“Henry, it’s Mike, can you tell me what hurts?”

“My head and my legs. Mom, where is my friend? I was riding around the block and as I came up this side I saw you on the ground. Are you ok?”

“Honey, you’ve been in an accident. There are no friends. Some foolish guy in a corvette hit you and threw you onto Mr. Morgan’s lawn. I’m on the floor because I’m holding you. Mike?”

“He’ll be ok, probably trauma.”

“My friend, where is he? We rode together, I showed him the whole block.” Oh, there you are, this is my mom. You knew that? How did you know? Why don’t you introduce yourself? You can’t? I don’t understand I’ve been talking to you all this time and you…..

“Henry, we are going to bring you to the hospital now. On three everyone, 1, 2, 3, lift. Your mom is coming with us”

“Henry! We got to go everyone! Clear out”

I hear the sirens again do you? Are you going to stay with me? Good, I like you too.

 


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