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Crusty Old Bachelor

When friends gather at the house for a July Fourth BBQ, they have to park their cars in front of neighbors’ houses. The elderly gentleman across the street, struggling with some combination of alcoholism and dementia, is none-too-happy about the cars. Eventually he accosts a party-goer, questioning the hubbub, indicating that he knows “what’s going on,” suggesting that “the queers over there” are having a party. Auntie Ann-nuh’s response: “Well, that’s just inappropriate.”

Since then, Daddy hasn’t spared many kind thoughts for the guy, despite his sad, lonely predicament, the whole thing really just an example of how time, though generally cruel, does remedy certain ills, including this particular brand of bigotry. Whatever he imagines is “going on” over in the queers’ back yard, it’s a toddler or two that ends up on a water slide over here, you know, sporting Mardi Gras beads…naked…with a plastic shovel…for no reason, just cuz, some version of which randomly happens behind every other house with young kids. Nothing newsworthy here.

No, not many a nice thought to spare for the guy since the party…until…

Last night, Daddy and the twins play tennis in the driveway: green turtle out, new rackets in hand, balls whizzing across the street into the old guy’s driveway. Out he comes and up a notch go Daddy’s shoulders, bracing for the exchange…

Johnny (for the tenth time now): Hi, I’m John.
D: Hi, I’m Mike.
J: Who is this?
F: Fisher.
J: Who?
D (louder): His name is Fisher.
J: Fisher? (Hearty laughter.) And this one?
D (Cory silently sweeping a tennis ball from under a car): She’s Cory.
J (big smile): Cory!

Johnny’s eyes roam around, as an awkward silence ensues, twins staring.

J: Well, I’m just a crusty old bachelor over here. And I..
D: We’re just playing tennis. I hope the balls flying into your yard aren’t bothering you…?
J (struggling): Oh, no! I just…
D: Yes…
J (making eye contact): Well, I know what’s going on.

Daddy keeps smile on his face, thinking here it comes.

J: Yes, I know what’s going on over here.
D (continued smiling): Yes?
J (adjusting cane and reaching out a gnarled hand): Well, and, I want you to know that I am on your side.

Daddy shakes his hand. Johnny smiles, shuffles back across the street, and spends the next half hour working to pick up any tennis balls that enter his yard, carefully bouncing them back over to us when no car is coming, laughing up a storm, and having the time of his…well, week at least. At one point, he yells over to us, laughing, “Your kids are just so wonderful!”

There are many interpretations for “I am on your side,” but it’s probably worth a clean read here. Guess there are other remedies available, besides the march of time.

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