Trespasser (Part III)

It has been several weeks since the passing of ole Sammy D and the entrance to Bryer street had never been busier.  At first, it was the bankers who came to look through the now empty home.  They walked through its vacant rooms with an appraiser, a small weaselly sort of man who hid behind his spectacles and mountains of paperwork, placing tags on everything of value.

Friends and neighbors watched on as the entire life of three-time war veteran, and one time loving husband, was divided into categories and worth.  Most watched in sadness as they remembered the life of one of the kindest men they had ever known.  Some remembered him for his figurines, while those old enough remembered him as a man who had gone out of his way to help those in need.

Sammy Dryden had fought and killed a countless number of ‘the enemy’ for the country he loved, and when it came time to lay down his weapon, he continued to fight for his and his neighbor’s freedom in the only way he knew how.

Things weren’t as they were when he was a young man.  Before he joined the service, children played outside.  Crime was only an occasional report on the radio and when the reporters ran out of things to say, airtime was filled with live action skits or by music from the most current artists.  Most people trusted the other and were willing to say ‘Hello!’ in the very least and there was very little fear about living the life you chose to live.

Times had certainly changed.  He knew, because he had watched the metamorphosis with his own eyes!

As freedoms were extended to women, he couldn’t have been more overjoyed.  And when, after a few years had passed, his wife suggested taking on a part-time job to help pay the bills, he had stood proudly behind her.

When tensions increased between the whites and the blacks, and when this tension reached even his small community, he chose to stand behind the few Negroes who lived near him.  There were many nights when he had worried for his and his wife’s safety, but neither were willing to stand down from the injustice being inflicted upon their friends.

Time seemed to pass very slowly during this period of fear and hatred, but he and a few of his army buddies managed to spread a message of their own.  When they came hidden beneath their white sheets, wielding their baseball bats and their misguided beliefs, they were met by a small platoon of men of mixed color, each wearing their own uniforms bearing the American flag, armed with a standard issue rifle.

There had been no words spoken during this encounter.  Each stared at the other with defiance in their eyes, but ultimately is was the Hidden Haters who turned and left, never to return.  The Dryden and the Robinson family had ever remained friends, and the latter would continue to live on Bryer Street even after the passing of their friend.

Soon, children began to vanish from the streets.  Oh, they played outside from time to time, but never with the vigor of the generations before them.  The Age of Electronics was coming in full and most prefered to stay inside with their eyes glued to their TV screens.  Those who did come out were the ones who couldn’t afford their own video game devices.  They ran together and most times, though not all, they were only doing so for nefarious reasons.

When his wife died, he began taking long walks that began through his neighborhood.  It got so that this was a daily routine and he would often stop and talk with whomever would listen.  As days stretched into weeks and weeks into years, talk turned into something more.  He used his general knowledge of mechanics and carpentry to help his neighbors fix their cars or work on their projects.  Once, while he was still healthy enough, he helped install a below-ground pool.

When his body began to fail him, he spent more and more of his days sitting on the front porch, peddling to his secret passion.  His friendship with his neighbors remained strong as each made it a point to visit him daily.  Soon, the daily visits, much like the wood he worked with, whittled down to maybe once per week, but this didn’t bother him in the slightest.  He often carved things for his friends and neighbors that personally applied to the something he knew of them.  For Davie Robinson, he had carved the likeness of a Klansman which appeared to be running in fear, only he was tripping because his pants had fallen around his ankles.  For the Hammonds, who enjoyed their sports team way more than most, he’d created the likeness of the coach who had once led their team to the Super Bowl; Hank Stram.

Sergeant Sam Dryden was the last man standing of his platoon.  He had survived his wife and children, three wars and countless presidents.  He was respected and loved by those who knew him, treated as if he were an extended member of each of their families, and so it was hard on each and every one of them when he passed.  Even the children had a special place in their hearts for the wrinkled old man who made their pretty wooden dolls.

The watched from the sidewalk as the bankers and their appraiser came and went.  They attended the auctions that were held, and by no small miracle, every one of his possessions went back into his beloved community or to his own extended family.

When the hustle had finally died down, and the contractors had come and gone, the night of the storm was but a distant, if painful, memory to those who had known him.  He would never be forgotten.  Not by the Robinsons, who once been protected by he and his platoon.  Not by the Hammonds, who would proudly display their wooden coach for decades to come and certainly not by the small girl standing at the base of the steps leading up to the house he had once lived in.

Vanessa Rowen stood with her head down and her feet slightly apart.  She had a small object cupped in her tiny little hands, an object that was slowly growing damp from the tears that leaked from her eyes.  Her dirty blonde hair hung about her face and shoulders, obscuring this from any who might happen to see, but the hitching of her back as she sobbed could easily have given them the message.

She stood, as she had many times since he had gone to be with his family, staring down at the unfinished ballerina he had intended to give her on her seventh birthday.

Trespasser (Part I)

Most days, Bryer street was full of activity.  Children were playing in their yards, throwing their Frisbee or yelling “Ollie All in Free” as they chased one another from one hiding place to the next.  Men pulled their cars out into the driveway and crawled under the hoods while the women hung laundry on clotheslines out back.

There were fourteen families along Bryer street.  Five of their odd numbered homes stood solemnly across from their even numbered counterparts, while the remaining four filled out the cul-de-sac at the end.  Each was built from the exact design as the other, with the only difference being the cosmetic differences that each owner had applied over the years.  Where some had simply repainted their wood siding, others had replaced it entirely.

Some families proudly displayed the flag of their favorite home team on the front of the home.  At the very back of the cul-de-sac, one home had gone so far as to design the entire color scheme of their structure to that of their favorite team!  It was the only house of its kind, dark red with gold paint on the trim, and each year they placed life-sized plastic statues of the team’s players along each side of the driveway.

Everyone knew the names of their neighbors in the Bryer Street community.  They had lived together for no less than a decade and congregated regularly at barbecues, block parties, or other themed events.  Each year, the men met at a different house to watch the Superbowl, while the women retreated poolside and shared the latest gossip.

The families were tight knit and on most days they were full of activity.  But then, today wasn’t like most days. Today, every family was nestled comfortably in their homes, watching television, reading books, or doing whatever it was that they do whenever the weather turned foul.  Outside, the rain drummed on the hoods of their cars.  It filled their gutters to capacity and the storm drains struggled to swallow the deluge.

The hours stretched into an endless eternity, or so it seemed to the pale faces peering out from the windows of their homes, and it felt like the day couldn’t get any worse.  They watched helplessly as the waters flooded their gardens.  The soil had long since become saturated and the sprouts were slowly drowning beneath the weight of the uncaring waters.  Phones rang as they called one another.  Some to comment on the severity of the storm, others just to hear the sound of their friend’s voice.

Nobody thought that it would last this long.  Not a one of them thought it could get much worse.

It happened as the evening approached.  The rains had lessened enough so as to allow the waters to seep into sewers which had long since filled beyond their capacity.  Some of the families were either finishing dinner, while others were drying the evening dishes or getting ready for bed.  The only constant was that every family had finally accepted the storm for what it was.  You might even say that they had grown complacent with it.

At the house nearest the beginning of the street, Sammy Dryden was resting in his rocking chair, enjoying the fresh scent of rain.  A retired widower, Sammy was the oldest of Bryer Street’s inhabitants.  As he was wont to do, he spent his days on the front porch whittling various creatures to life from whatever material he could get his hands on. Tonight, he was patiently pulling the graceful form of a ballerina from a small piece of Basswood he had found while walking along the sidewalk in front of the Duncon’s residence.

His hands shook as he worked, but he pressed on with the patience of a predator carefully gauging its prey.  And, as the ballerina continued to appear from the labors of his skilled touch, he reflected upon a time when he was much more agile.

It was a pose common to his neighbors, all of whom spoke fondly of the Old Man Sammy and his Wooden Figurines.  Even beneath the quiver of age and deteriorating health, his hands continued to create the most beautiful creatures ever seen by the eyes of his friends.

He hunched forward as he worked, his elbows resting just behind his knees.  It wasn’t the most comfortable posture for him, but he wouldn’t think of it until she danced free of her wooden prison.  For now, he only watched as the wood shavings fell away with each stroke of his knife.