Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Il Duce e Morto

I live on a wonderful steet in the heart of an interesting small city located just inside one of the original Colonies. My neighbors are uncharacteristically friendly, waving and caring for one another, stopping to talk on the street or sit on a stoop. This is an old Italian neighborhood whose homes have undergone many changes, among them the flight of most of the original residents to the suburbs.

Of course, there is always an exception, and in this case that exception's name is Bridget. About 75 years old, she spends most of her time "associating" with the neighbors. Since you probably don't know Bridget, I will explain that when I say associating I mean governing.

Here's how a newcomer like me, a year ago, gets to find out about her: Your walking down the sidewalk obeying all pedestrian rules and city ordinances when you hear a raspy voice HOLLERING "what are you doing on my street"? Believe me, it's not the kind of thing you ignore. So you nervously turn to introduce youself and indicate where you live, but by this time she has you carrying flowerpots off the porch and into the garden. An hour or two later, after all the garden chores are done and you've been properly admonished for not wearing clean clothes, you get to go home.

This has been referred to as The Application Process for living on (.....) Street. Of course, in any other application process you are appealing to a body who supposedly has an intact memory. Here that is not the case, and you must be prepared to undergo four months of scrutiny BEFORE SHE EVEN REMEMBERS WHO YOU ARE. She will let you take her to get bread from her favorite bakery across town, but if you leave that very same car parked on a city street in front of her house longer than the allotted 48 hours, SHE WILL HAVE IT TOWED. When you go to the Mayor's office to explain, his aide will tell you "the car was in front of Bridget's house, you should know better".

About two weeks ago I stopped to sit on her porch and talk. We where laughing about something, I don't remember what. Then she said "I've got this pain in my legs". Bridget, it's nothing, don't worry youself about these things. Go inside and make an appoinment, I'll stay here and watch the cats. Maybe you'll get the good-looking doctor again and he'll want you to take off your clothes. She gave me a look for that, then went inside.

I know she didn't call the doctor, so there was little surprise when the ambulance came screaming down the street that night. I can only imagine what she put those poor paramedics through. The next day I heard they where going to keep her for a while, so I resolved to water the garden, have it ship-shape for her return. I was looking forward to hearing her complain that I was driving up her water bill.

The bad news came yesterday, and it just frikin' hit me.

People say "well, at least she didn't suffer". I say screw that, I miss her.

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