An Overcast Morning on Mulberry StreetI take my coffee out to the front porch
and settle into my green painted rocker. Doesn't
match the rest of my porch furniture, but I can't
get rid of it because sinking into this chair on a
cool morning with a book and an oversized
cup of coffee on the small wrought iron table
beside me is probably the best feeling in the world—
except maybe eating strawberry ice cream in bed.
The neighbors on my left have carried two
loads of luggage out to the car already and will
be leaving soon for the fortieth anniversary cruise
they've been planning for years. It's only their
thirty-eighth now, but his heart attack last year
reminded them life has no guarantees
and so they decided not to wait.
Across the street, the German couple whose
name I can never pronounce seldom comes
outside anymore since their son was taken away
in handcuffs. From my bedroom window last
night I saw them sitting together on their
front porch glider at almost midnight—
two sad silhouettes against a dark quiet house.
I couldn't hear their words and closed my
blinds to keep from feeling their pain.
Anyway, they'll have to make an appearance
soon because the front yard is in disarray
with broken twigs and fallen leaves from
last week's storm and that grass will need
at least one more cutting before winter.
Little Marcella from two doors down
is all grown up now. I can almost close
my eyes and hear the scraping of roller skates
up and down the sidewalk on summer evenings.
Word is that she turned down a full ride
scholarship at a local college and opted for one
several hours away just to get away from her folks.
They say she doesn't come home very often,
but some relatives traveling near campus
dropped in for a surprise visit to the address
on the envelope of last year's Christmas card—
and discovered her roommate was not a girl after all.
She stopped by for a visit last month when
she came home for her mother's surgery and
confided to me that she doesn't really like
the school but can't come back home now
because folks would call her a quitter behind
her back. Doesn't think she's really in love
anymore, either, but can't bear the thought
of hurting him or being by herself. Said life
is too hard and she sometimes wishes she could
push rewind and go back to roller skating
up and down the sidewalks on summer evenings.
I watch two familiar neighborhood figures
jogging ahead of the early morning rain
promised by the meteorologist on last night's news.
They slow down as they pass the house on my right
where yellow crime scene tape still circles
the house and flutters now in the strengthening
winds. First story on the evening news
a week ago, its fame has now dwindled to a few
of the curious who sneak into the yard and
place hands on the windows to peer through
the glass when they think no one's watching.
The trespassers talk mostly in whispers if at all,
but I did overhear something yesterday
about blood and hardwood floors.
Spotting me, the joggers stop and
head in my direction. I lay my unopened book
aside and prepare to pretend pleasure in their
visit, totally disappointed at having my morning
interrupted, but not wanting the street's
gossip machine to label my address unfriendly.
The rain arrives almost as if it has followed
them and I could call out and ask them to join me
in the shelter of my porch, but wave to them
instead as they cover their heads and turn to
hurry homeward. I thank the rain under
my breath as they leave, because I realize at the
last minute from fragments
of their conversation as they come nearer—
they are not lamenting the tragedy
next door and the diminishing value people
place on human life, but only the effect
it will have on property values on our street.
Alone again, I take several sips of the coffee
which has now cooled to a perfect temperature,
pull a blanket around me as the shower
becomes a hard driving rain and
open the book I started and put aside last week.
An avid reader and longtime fan of
murder mysteries, I remove the tasseled bookmark
to begin the next chapter—
wishing this once I'd chosen a different book.