Sunday, July 25, 2010
Weeds grow wherever they can. Weeds are strong and persistent, if not always beautiful. If weeds were beautiful then, they wouldn't be weeds at all. Beautiful weeds would take attractive names and they would be cultivated, marketed and sold. And instead of being called a weed, the plant would be called a juniper or a rose or something like that.
A house surrounded by junipers and roses and things like that would be enticing, romantic and inviting. The same house surrounded by weeds, well, its sure wouldn't have much curb appeal. The weedy house might prompt the neighbors to call the bad plant authorities to complain about the blight of the block. Those authorities, those commissioners with names like Cavenaugh, Fishman or Lettieri would hold up their noses and bring letters of reprobation down on the owner of an overgrown house. "Clean it up or be fined" or "You have ten days to eliminate those weeds" are the kinds of words Cavenaughs, Fishmans and Lettiteris like to use. Strong, powerful words to get a house owner to comply.
July 25th was already a too warm, sunny day and it was only 6:30 AM. As was his custom, Chester Ralston walked to the Eet Gud bakery, up the block from his bungalow. And as usual, he came back with a cup of sweet, black coffee, two overfilled cream donuts and a cinnamon raisin coffee roll.
The coffee roll was for his wife, BeBe, although she never drank coffee. She drank Coke. The sweet, black coffee was for Chester. Coke and a coffee roll for BeBe and coffee and two overfilled cream donuts for Chester made up the morning ritual at the Ralstons. Fiber, probiotics and vitamins were not breakfast foods for the Ralstons of Crescent Avenue.
At first it was one and then two and now dozens of spindly green rods were shooting out from the almost imperceptible crack between the sidewalk and the foundation of Lily Simonelli's cottage. Lily's cottage and the next door Ralston bungalow were built by Joe Marino sixty-five years ago. Marino is long dead, yet his houses still stand. Chester took note of the lined up plant soldiers as he went for his back door, coffee in one hand and two white, waxed bags in the other. The low sun made the soldiers look like they were ready to march. Hut, hut, hut...
Lily and Agosto Simonelli bought #43 Crescent Avenue from Marino and Sons, Builders, in 1945. The Simonelli's never had children. They did, indeed, try. Poor Agosto was humping so much in the old days that he would walk to his job at the LaSalle steam plant with aching loins. Joe Marino never had any children either, but he was gay. He added the "Sons" to make it seem like he was married. Back then, if you had sons, you were married. Bastards were not in style. Back then nobody much questioned a man's sexual orientation. Joe Marino was like Rock Hudson. Nobody knew until the end. An AIDS death can get you out of the closet.
Auggie died in 1999. He wanted to bang pots, but he hopped a jet on December 23rd. He missed Christmas and the millennium. Lily carried on, barely. She wore black, first for six months and then for a year and then that's all she wore. Black, a slimming color, was a sign that Lily was mourning. Although it might seem that she should have gotten over it, Lily couldn't. She had nothing else in her life but Auggie, so once he passed she died too.
Three months ago Lily slipped out of her tub and she broke her left hip. Tubs can kill. More people over seventy-five die in tub accidents than automobile mishaps. After Lilly's fall, Chester wrote an editorial to the Trenton Times promoting his invention, an elasticized belt, the Tub O Mate, which old people could wear while bathing. The belt, which was more like an athletic supporter, was attached to the walls above the tub in three places. Chet got the three point idea from his 1988 blue Buick with the landau roof. If a codger slipped, she couldn't hit the tub's sides or floor because the rubberized pelvic supporter would keep her upright. Chester thought old people needed to be kept suspended for safety reasons. Both BeBe and Chester wore the Tub O Mate when they showered or bathed, which nowadays is once a week.
As BeBe and Chester ingested their breakfast of sugar, they both could see the weeds. A heavy, humid breeze moved the weeds in a graceful to and fro sway. For as long as they could remember, Lily kept her house in perfect shape. The weeds were like stains on a clean white sheet. Their nosh was broken when Commissioner Cavenaugh knocked on their door. He wanted to know if they were the neighbors who had complained about the overgrown house. Crash Cavenaugh said he had papers to give the owner. When CC learned that old lady Simonelli was in rehab a funny thing happened. He asked Chester and BeBe to give him a hand.
The three of them went around #43, weed by weed. Yank, yank, yank. In no time the house looked respectable. As they wiped the sweat off their faces, they, more or less, all at once saw the crone, Dillon. The shrewish Dillon lived directly across the street, #44 Crescent. Her faced was screwed up, like she just swallowed something sour. She gesticulated. The three of them shook their heads and they smiled a little. Chester said to no one in particular, "Some people".
Unfortunately, an attempt to image Dillon led to a breakdown of Cavanaugh's iPhone. This woman, though, captures the essence of Dillon. Flip, flip...