Angelica pulled up into her driveway and got out of the car slowly, then stretched as best she could with all of her aches and pains. She did feel better after her examination and treatment with Lucent Keener. Lucent was certainly intelligent and professional, but she was also warm and caring. After about five minutes with her in the exam room, Angelica felt comfortable … not totally comfortable, but comfortable enough.
Now that she looked around, however, she suddenly felt very unnerved. Across the street she saw one of her neighbors, a man in his front yard watering one of their flower beds. He stood there, just holding the hose, staring at her with blank eyes and face. Angelica didn’t really know him – and she’d never really wanted to know him – but she did know he attended Ebenezer Bible Church. Then she saw the hand parting the curtain in the front room. His wife was staring, too.
She turned around and headed for the door. Angelica was so shaken she couldn’t seem to get a good grip on the keys. They dropped onto the little portico just to her right. She reached down and picked them up only to notice another neighbor, two houses down from the blank-face man and his wife. This woman was standing at her mailbox with a handful of letters and ads staring at her with that same eerie, blank look. If she wasn’t mistaken, this lady also attended Ebenezer.
Angelica quickly tried to insert the house key into the door lock but couldn’t seem to get the damn thing to cooperate. Of all the days! Dammit! I’m f**kin exhausted and desperately want a couple of cold beers with a couple of pain killers and at least a half-pack of cigarettes! She was getting frantic. Now I’m f**kin stuck out here, out here in the open being spied on by Sloughheart’s Gestapo, and…
“Good afternoon!” came a rather friendly, booming voice. She turned around to face another neighbor but, thank God, one she actually knew and kind of liked, especially his wife Marilynn. L. Gunner Sharpe was an impressive man: not too tall, but tall enough; well-built and obviously fit as a fiddle; keen eyes that yet had no need for glasses; kind, to be sure, but in a more statesman-like manner. He and Marilynn had never visited much, or at all really, but they’d been friendly to Morris and her; Marilyn had even brought over a “welcome to the neighborhood” something-or-other. At least they were decent, well-mannered folks who might give half-a-rat’s ass whether she lived or died. At the moment, she felt some comfort in his presence.
“Looks like you may suddenly have some admirers, Angelica,” he spoke calmly enough, just stating the facts. No beating around the bush with Gunner Sharpe, then; no pleasantries to exchange. Just right to the obvious facts, and that’s they way she liked it … but would she talk to him about it? Was it really any of his business? After all, she didn’t really know him that well at all. On the other hand, with three more faces staring out of windows of the two houses now, Angelica decided to make it his business, especially since he was at her front door now and he’d ask. What the hell? Gunner may be of some help … and what’ve I got to lose now anyway?
“Yeah, kind of creepy,” she answered with a nervous half-laugh. “I’ve never really run into this sort of thing before.” Angelica looked straight at Sharpe. “You think maybe they think I’ve won the lottery or something?” She tried to make a light joke of it, bur Gunner didn’t crack a smile.
“Or something, I’d say, but…” he looked at the blank-face watchers, giving them each an obtrusive glare that turned them away one by one. “Let’s go inside for a moment, if we may.” It wasn’t really a question, and at this point, it wasn’t an order Angelica was inclined to disobey. If Sharpe could help in anyway, even keeping them from being harassed by the Sloughheart Gestapo, it would be worth hearing him out if only for Morris’ sake. He was her number one concern, and she wanted to do every damn thing she could to protect him … well, at least, to protect him from further cruelty and violent abuse.
“Well, please come in, then,” she held the door open and Mr. Gunner Sharpe entered in and wasted no time coming to the point.
“I’m the chief, you might say, of the River Oak Neighborhood Watch.” He looked her straight in the eye. “I received a call from a member asking us to keep especially sharp eyes and ears open for the welfare of you and your son.” Sharpe held up his right hand to dissuade any questions or protests. “Mind you, I don’t know all of the details involved, and I don’t think I really need to, given this particular member of the Watch.”
“Uh-huh!” Angelica half-smiled. “Give me three guesses and I’ll bet I can tell you who it is … or maybe even just one guess: Reverend Joy Brighterday.”
“Maybe,” Sharpe replied in his somewhat relaxed voice, giving himself permission to crack just a bit of a smile … for two or three seconds anyway. “She certainly has my respect and admiration, so I would probably never give her the third degree on any one of her requests.”
“So what does this mean exactly? I mean, I guess I should be flattered, and I am thankful so many folks are willing to look after us, but … well, back to my question: What does this mean exactly?”
“First of all, rule number one in dealing with requests made for someone else is to let that person, or those persons, know the request has been made.” Sharpe was trying to find the right words. “Obviously, we don’t want to end up being the suspicious ones, so we want the individual or family to know and to let us know if this is o.k. with them. I guess I’m saying, we need to know if you would like for us to keep sharp eyes and ears open on behalf of you and your son.”
“Umm … I, uh, guess, but like I asked just now, what would this mean? What would the Neighborhood Watch do precisely? Do you have a kind of game plan in place already for ‘keeping sharp eyes and ears open?’ Do we need to do something?” Angelica kind of warmed up to the idea, but it was still vague. She knew if Morris and she were going to feel any safer, she needed to hear definite details … particulars.
“The basic security of your home would be priority number one. This would mean checking all of the doors and windows to make certain they’re secure; also, security lighting. If any repairs are needed, as long as they’re relatively minor, we would simply take care of those, no problem. Second, we would want to make certain you have the names and numbers of every member of the River Oak Neighborhood Watch, and of course that they have your number. Knowing your basic schedule, and your son’s, would be helpful, and it would really be helpful if the two of you got to know ours … which really just means getting acquainted.” These were the kind of particulars Angelica wanted to hear. She was warming more and more to the idea, and even feeling a bit thankful.
“Most importantly, I suppose, is keeping suspicious unwelcomes at bay, so to speak, like your new admirers. If one or some of us see an unwelcome walking up your front yard, we’d just make it a point to be there, too … you know, to say ‘hello,’ ask how you’re doing, and generally make ourselves a pest until the unwelcome leaves. If he or she seems to present more of a problem, then we have non-violent and mostly non-confrontational ways of ending the contact with the unwelcome, followed immediately by his or her leaving… Generally, they don’t come back.” Sharpe drew in a deep breath before continuing. “Your situation appears to be somewhat different, though. I can tell that from some folks in our neighborhood suddenly finding it interesting to stare at you, even peeking through windows to catch a glimpse … but I have been assured by our most erudite and saintly member that we would not be engaging ourselves in anything illegal, immoral, or unethical. We would simple be providing some safe covering for a woman and her son who need it right now.”
“Yeah … yeah,” Angelica could hardly think what to say, especially since she really didn’t want to connect with people right now. The problem was, she was already connected with one particular person, who might as well be the devil himself, along with so many of his minions. Here and now she had the opportunity, maybe, to connect with the right kind of people. Although she just couldn’t help asking herself in that moment, where the hell were all these good people when we really needed them? They barely said f***kin ‘hello’ to us before now. Are they like ambulance chasers? Want the thrill of a crisis to get their middle-aged, middle-class adrenaline pumping? “Sounds great, thank you, Mr. Sharpe. We … appreciate it, thank you.”
“No problem; that’s what we’re here for,” Gunner Sharpe answered with his first full smile, and Angelica could see why he didn’t smile very much, too. “We can get started today, if you don’t mind … at least checking your doors, windows, and security lighting.”
“Umm, yeah, that’ll be fine,” she was somewhat mesmerized. Suddenly she and Morris had a company of earthbound guardian angels surrounding them. I’m beginning to think that’s the only guardian angels there are; either that, or God has shit for timing, or he needs to fire some of his guardians. At least if God ever appointed any guardian angels for Morris and me, they must have their heads up their heavenly butts! They’re almost as worthless as … well, yeah … God.
“O.k. then, I’ll be back with a friend in about … oh … ten minutes,” Sharpe was already to the sidewalk heading back across the street.
“Alright then,” she lifted her right arm for a short wave. It still hurt like hell. “I’ll be waiting for my River Oak guardians.” She laughed what was meant to be a good-natured laugh but one that came out with an edge of cynicism. Sharpe didn’t seem to notice. “Thanks again!” He waved his hand back as he stepped up onto his own front porch.
Yeah, I’ll be waiting here for my very human help… Finally! And no thanks to the Big Cheese in the Sky either! Huh! Angelica wiped a tear off of her right cheek. Yeah … human help to help Morris and me out of this hell on earth that some neurotic, psychopathic God created. Alleluia!