The Real Rock ‘n’ Roll Movers showed up at the condo right on time on moving day. I introduced myself as I hopped in the car to take some supplies to the house.
While at the house, I noticed an odd looking couple with troubled expressions watching their dog frolic in my yard. The people seemed hesitant to enter and retrieve their dog. So, I went outside and told them they were welcome to come get him.
“No, no, he’s not our dog,” the man said.
“He’s a runaway,” explained the woman just as the little dog shimmied under our picket fence into the driveway and trotted down the road. I wished them good luck and continued my prep work.
On my next trip to the car, I found a plate of food carefully laid in the grass next to my open tailgate. Odd placement, I thought as I stepped over it to get to my supplies. I considered moving it, but didn’t want to upset the new neighbors. Maybe there was a specific need for the plate of food to be exactly in my path.
After fifteen minutes and several trips to the tailgate, I was ready to leave. As I closed the back, I noticed the woman walking toward me with a very serious expression.
“Didja find him?” I chirped.
“Noooo,” she almost whispered, “He got hit.”
“Wha?? The dog got hit by a car??”
“Yes, he made it to the highway and then he got hit and died.”
“Already?!?!” I callously wondered at the speed and finality of it all.
“Yeah, the driver didn’t even stop,” the woman said. Then she bent down, picked up the plate of food from my grass and crumpled it into a ball. I was impressed because the design of the plate made it look like a real plate instead of like a paper plate. I looked up from the ball of paper plate and ?? to find the man storming up the street. His right arm was shaking a lot, left arm not so much, and, I now realized, he was wearing black socks and no shoes. The woman followed my eyes and noted, “Oh, there’s my brother.”
“NEVER GET IN THE CAR WITH A STRANGER!!!” he hollered as he got closer. I started to explain that I wasn’t trying to abduct anyone. But, frankly, I was speechless.
“NEVER! NEVER GET INTO A CAR WITH A STRANGER!! THAT IS SO DANGEROUS!!” he hollered more, “I RAN AFTER THE CAR AS FAR AS I COULD UNTIL I ALMOST HAD A HEART ATTACK!! I COULDN’T RUN ANYMORE!”
“She wanted to help the dog too,” the woman’s voice was disproportionately quiet in response to her brother shouting at her.
They went back and forth about the likelihood of psychosis in an unknown woman who stops her car on the highway to help a stranger help a dog. I quietly imagined him screaming and running, in black socks, on the highway after a car that was chasing a small dog that was running on the highway.
I wondered which of these two was the caretaker and which was the patient. Was the brother a paranoid, anti-social comics fan type who lived with his sister because there was no hope of him ever holding down a steady job? Or was the sister an overly trusting schizophrenic poetry fan type who lived with her brother because she practically had “scam artists welcome here” written on her forehead? Or were they both a couple plates short of a full set and their parents willed them the house so that they could have shelter and look after each other?
And then they were quiet. Just staring at each other.
“Okay, well I’m gonna go…” I volunteered.
“I’m Allison. My little family is moving in today.”
Silence. But now they were both staring at me.
“I’m really sorry to have brought death to the neighborhood and all…”
“And I’m Susan. Welcome to the neighborhood.”