A Parliament of Porch Pirates
Sometime last summer I noticed a squashed squirrel on the road in front of the Crooked 9. I sincerely hoped it was the bastard who’d shredded the hood liner of Ann’s 2008 Honda CRV. Justice! I wasn’t inclined to scrape it up. Let that rotting corpse be a warning. A lone magpie swooped down to investigate. Another one joined it. A few more strutted up to the buffet. Before long all that was left on the asphalt was a stain, a Springsteen lyric: “Man, that ain’t oil, that’s blood.”
I’ve reluctantly come to accept that the monster house directly across the street from the Crooked 9 possesses some positive attributes despite my critical eye. Its construction predates the current trend to subdivide traditional residential lots in order to squeeze a pair of skinny infills inside generous lines. So, mercifully, the view from here is not a matching pair of structures that resemble ersatz commercial buildings or military installations. The monster home’s design and colouring suggests an oceanfront cottage and we’ll take that Carly Simon, Cape Cod affectation over a rococo palazzo or a California ranch bungalow hooded by Spanish roof tiles any old time. I suppose it’s relatively tasteful for something that doesn’t quite mesh with the existing postwar residential architecture in a landlocked northern town.
It has too many windows; but if their shapes weren’t a home-schooled child’s educational toy array of squares, rectangles, circles and ovals maybe I wouldn’t notice them. Pythagoras must be spinning in his cylinder. But what really dances me to the edge of sanity is the octagonal home security sign on the inside sill of a square window. Red alert, it’s never on its proper edge. Ann’s a bit more sanguine about chaos. To me it’s like roadkill, I can’t look away.
The household sees more deliveries than a maternity ward. Friends don’t drop by so much as FedEx, Purolator and UPS. Groceries and prepared meals are dropped off almost daily. There’s always an Amazon box on the porch. All in all, a lifestyle a bit too modern for us, a bit too cloistered. Ann and I don’t know these people beyond their given names and casual, silent waves.
Earlier this week we were listening to an amazing compilation of New Orleans jazz and r&b called Take Me to the Mardi Gras. As I was about to photograph its sleeve for the edification of my fellow Facebook music nut group members, I glanced out the living room window. Two cartons of groceries were being hefted onto the open porch of the Martha’s Vineyard mansion. Sixty-eight minutes later I was ruminating over my next selection. I’d played Elmore James and Willie Dixon the week previous; maybe some Jimmy Reed or Sonny & Brownie? Otis Blue? The Very Best of Al Green? What would Ann prefer? I glanced out the living room window again.
The scene across the street could’ve been staged and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. A very excited parliament of magpies had swarmed the porch and the unattended groceries. I went outside to get a better view. I snapped the tab on a chilled tin of schadenfreude; I nearly asphyxiated myself whilst smoking and laughing at the same time. I called Ann outside to enjoy the show. I’ve never been a swift study and so it took a while before my sense of common decency was activated. I eventually decided to cross the street and prorogue parliament.
The grocery order had been picked and then packed into corrugated merchandising trays, open top and front. Retailers may slide one onto a shelf or stack a bunch to create a display; great idea when used as intended. The carnage was remarkable. A paper sack of sugar was torn open, but it was the fate of the pork chops that gave me pause. The Valu-Pak! was busted open like a suicide bomber’s vest. Slabs of pink, well-trimmed, thick-cut meat where scattered everywhere, on the porch, the stairs, the front walk. The magpies ceded enough territory to allow me to ring the doorbell. No response.
I walked back to the Crooked 9. The birds returned to their picnic. We were posed with a new dilemma, the terms of further engagement. We’d no contact information; these neighbours were anonymities on the community league’s “block chain” chart. Ann phoned another neighbour, the Nosy Buddhist, figuring if anybody had a number, he would. He thought he just might. We delegated the rest of the do-gooding to him. I’d grudgingly done my part and, anyway, it was time to change the music. I settled on the Staples, something uplifting about how we’re all in this together.
meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of neighbourhood curtain twitching since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is my latest book. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer.