Thursday, May 19, 2011

Her Neighborhood

Evelyn stirred the lemon wedge in her iced tea and watched through the window from her wheelchair. The dewy glass left her fingers damp. She wiped them on her dress.
It was hard to superimpose her childhood memories over the neighborhood today. She closed her eyes and pictured Betty skipping rope on the sidewalk across the street.

I went downtown To see Ms. Brown, She gave me a nickel To buy a pickle, The pickle was sour, So I bought a flower. ...
Evelyn opened her eyes, and three teens sat on the steps where Betty had lived. They passed around an amber bottle and catcalled at passerbys. One bent to pick up a chunk of asphalt. He hurled it - hard - at a group huddled on the curb below her window.
His aim was poor: It sailed wide and slammed into the apartment next door.

Janice had lived there once. Every Saturday she’d baked pies. Strawberry, rhubarb, banana, peach, blueberry … In a year of baking she’d never repeat herself. Boys riding by would skid to a halt, overwhelmed by the smell. Kids would huddle around the windowsill where the week’s fare cooled, until she shooed them away.
The boys and girls from the curb had scattered after the near miss, revealing a mangled rat, bloody, pawing a foot at the air. One by one the group reformed. They poked it with sticks.
Muffled shouts came from inside Janice’s apartment. A large woman in sweatpants and a stained bathrobe threw open the door, incensed. “Git out of here you sons of bitches!” she kicked at the kids, who scattered again like pigeons. Across the street, the teens rolled, tears in their eyes. One almost dropped the bottle.  
Police used to walk the blocks on foot patrol. She’d shared lemonade here with Officer Clyde. Parents and grandparents pulled chairs onto the walk to escape the heat. They’d talk over beers. Kids played in the street.
These kids don’t play.
The change wasn't sudden; there was no defining moment. One by one families moved away and new ones came. If you could call them families; Evelyn rarely saw parents.
She closed her eyes again.
It used to be her neighborhood, where the boys shot marbles on a sandy patch beside the building kitty-corner.
Where did it go?
She opened her eyes. The sandy patch was still there, ringed by weeds.
A girl, maybe 10, walked by it with her sister. She plucked a dandelion from the bunch and twirled it a moment. Then she bent over and weaved it through her sister’s hair, just behind the ear.
Evelyn blinked.
“Oh,” she whispered. “There it is.”

This week's words for Three Word Wednesday: damp, incensed, skid.


  1. Sheilagh Lee said: What a captivating story you woven there. I loved every aspect of it and the ending where she saw the two girls lovely.

  2. Really nice weaving of a story here. Great ending, and the bleakness of the new neighborhood really set it up well.

  3. @Sheilagh: Thanks so much for reading.

    @ThomG: I didn't have much of Evelyn reminiscing at first. I'm glad you think it balanced.

  4. Maybe hope is in people not the place..which like all places must change..I could smell those gently yet powerfully brought us into Evelyn's world through sights, smells and dreams..moving and tender..Jae

  5. Yes, lovely blend of her memories with the reality of the present. The ending is top notch. Nice work.

  6. Hidden under the hideous dross of urban living there are fortunately pockets of the past as you describe it so beautifully. On reading this I had that longing for the old days when childhood was such a delight. This is so well written.

  7. @jaerose: That's a nice complement; I don't engage multiple senses often enough.

    @VL Sheridan: Thanks! I'm not totally sold on my transition toward the end, so that's nice to hear.

    @oldegg: I'm glad you think I captured that. Thanks.

  8. Really lovely piece, particularly the last part when she sees the girls.

  9. Nothing short of brilliant! Nostalgia for the past; dis-satisfaction with the ugly present, and then the redeeming little scene where little girls still twine flowers in each other's hair - a lovely story, beautifully written.

  10. Grim yet hopeful... Stories like this sometimes come across a bit "preachy" but you didn't fall into that trap at all. Beautifully written.

  11. Sad, but hopeful. Well written.

  12. i got lost in her reminiscing...really enjoyed the mix of here and now...loved the glimpse of hope that the past is not completely lost

  13. Beautiful work, Matt. More poignant than sad. I can see where people would fall into melancholy over it, but it's stirring rather than depressing to me.

  14. You've neatly captured the passing of time by comparing the old neighbourhood with the new one. As John says, it's quite poignant.

  15. The smells and colours were so strong, making the recollections real.
    Amazing control of pace, too. Excellent.

  16. @Old Altonian: Such a nice complement! Thank you.

    @Lee-Ann: I'm glad it didn't seem preachy. There were certainly bad neighborhoods in the "good old days," I'm sure. Places change.

    @Jessica: It is sad; I hope it redeems itself a little at the end!

    @rmpWritings: Glad you liked the mix!

  17. @John: Means a lot that it evoked some emotion. Thanks.

    @Icy: Appreciate the kind words, and I'm happy you think the old/new descriptions ring true.

    @ibc4: Pace is something I really work on. That's a meaningful compliment. Thank you.

    @Virginia: Thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  18. What a great story, Matt. I agree with John that it's more stirring than depressing. So much has changed, but a few things remain. Excellent job.

  19. Such a powerful image at the end. Great job! Now though I want pie I have some rhubarb in the fridge lol

    My submissions are Nightmares and Jealousy