The HOUSE – Angry Dog -19-

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With all my fear of dogs, I knew something was going on in that house. Was it my business? No. I stretched my arm to close the gate, when the dog leaped toward me. That scared me to death. There was no time for me just to walk away. I pulled the gate with two hands, but it got stuck. I couldn’t close it. It was too late to run. I took only one step and the animal barged out on the street.

I had one second to do something dramatically.

“Lord, help me!” That was my unspoken prayer.

I didn’t turn my back to the dog. Slowly, I stepped backwards to the trash cans and grabbed the first one. The class I took with the Department of Defense was paying off. I knocked the big bin down and the garbage spilled on the road. The dog stopped for a moment. Then I used the bin to keep the dog away, yelling for help.

Somebody came from a few houses down the alley. The man was empty handed, but he pulled his shoe and tossed it to the dog to scare him. “Go away!” He yelled. A woman showed up in her bathing suit and approached the creature from a side. “Come on, puppy. Nobody is going to hurt you.”

“Do you know him?” the man asked her.

“No, but he is a good boy. Aren’t you, little doggie?”

“Don’t approach him, ” the man asked her, but it was too late. I was still holding the trash can between me and the dog, when he jumped and bit the woman’s hand.

The barking and squealing attracted a little crowd. The woman wanted to back off when the dog attacked her again. A man from the crowd took off his T-shirt and dropped it on the back of the animal. Another person did the same and they managed to restrain him on the pavement.

“I’m all right, I’m all right,” the wounded lady kept saying as she sat on the curb, shaking. Somebody helped her drink water from a bottle. Her arm was covered in blood.

A police car came again and the Animal Control showed up behind it. Somehow they made the dog get in a cage. “Who is the owner?” One of the officer asked. Nobody knew. “It came from this house,” I pointed at the next door building.

“Are they filming a show?” this tourist carrying a beach umbrella asked me. “Hollywood is not far, right?” The firetruck blocked the street and the ambulance stopped by the wounded woman to help her.

I didn’t answer. My body dropped down by the garage and I sat there trying not to weep. It was too much for one day. I wished Adam was there with me.

The HOUSE – Woman with a Heart -18-

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“Do you know what happened?” an elderly man asked me from the second floor of his house.

“Somebody was taken to the hospital, if you know Phillip.” Just as I finished, I realized how that sounded.

“What happened to him?” the neighbor yelled back.

I walked to get closer. “I’m sorry, it’s not Phillip. It’s somebody from his family.”

The man crossed his chest with both arms, as a person in a coffin. “Gosh! That woman again.”

What woman?

“His mother?”

“No,” he kept talking. “His mother passed away a while ago. It’s his mom’s sister who moved here from Nigeria. She was married with a Nigerian and came back to the States without him.” He looked both sides and leaned over the window to keep his voice low. “Who knows what happened to him?”

Wow, I didn’t know what to do with all that information. I was ready to say “Good Bye,” when the man continued. “That woman is strange. She …”

“Joseph, what are you talking about?” An elderly woman with a towel around her head showed up next to her husband unexpectedly. She smiled at me. “My husband loves to invent stories, don’t you my dear? You are missing your show on the Sport Channel.” They both disappeared in the house and probably didn’t hear me saying, “It was nice talking to you, Mr. Joseph.”

Right then Adam came on the alley.

“I’ll be late. Have a nice evening.” I was almost asking him where he was going, but wisely, I didn’t. He left a kiss on my cheek and went to his car parked somewhere on the street. That kiss felt precious. He never kissed me randomly, and his little gesture of affection reassured me that I was loved and accepted in his house. That meant a lot.

As I watched him leaving, I saw the gate to the house next door cracked. Pretending I was taking a walk, I stopped by that gate and mimicked I was strengthening my pants. I bent down to catch as much as possible of the yard. A black dog was looking at me from the stairs. Growling.

The HOUSE – Help -17-

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I couldn’t see well from where I was, and it took only a few seconds to get out on the street. The paramedics and firefighters might not be fond of people watching, but I stood there by the wall to keep from being in their way. The police car had stopped a couple of houses down the alley and one officer, a woman, was watching what was going on. A couple of beach goers got on the street and then turned back to come from the other side.

The events developed fast. I saw Phillip coming out of the garage and holding the door that connected it with his house. Somebody on a stretcher was carried out to the ambulance. The young man clutched his hands on top of his head in desperation. “Is she going to be OK?” “We’ll see more results at the hospital,” the paramedic answered. “I’m coming with her,” my neighbor continued getting on one of the motorbikes. The firetruck left to make room for the ambulance to get on the main road.

I crossed the alley behind the ambulance while somebody was closing the vehicle’s doors.

“Phillip,” I called, “do you need my help?”

The man put his helmet on and waved his hand, “No.”

“Do you want me to come with you?”

He started the engine and waved again. I was sure he couldn’t hear me. And I realized it was pretty unlikely for me to get behind him on the motorbike. I said a quick prayer for the person in the ambulance and for the whole situation, and watched the empty street going back to normal. If normal was a dear one who had a heart attack.

The House -16-

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How come I didn’t see it? “Where did you find it? Is it a credit card?”

Adam handed it to me for a moment, then took it back. It wasn’t a credit card.

“It’s some sort of card.” He bent it. It was pretty elastic.

“Careful,” I said, “don’t crake it.”

Black with a golden border and the size of a regular card, there were no words on it, but a long number.

“I’ve never seen something like this,” Adam stated and took a seat on the couch. He used to work as a teller at a bank. Actually, I worked in banking in the past as well until I got sick. Many cards went through our hands, but none was like this one.

“I think it’s an access code.”

“Like for an office or something?” he asked.

“Maybe. Or for some site on Internet, for an exclusive bank, something like that. You name it. I wonder how come I didn’t find it when I looked through the wallet.”

My son placed it on the table. “It detached from the wallet when started getting dry, I guess,” he concluded and went to his bedroom. “I’m going out for the evening.”

It was the right time for me to get rid of the boxes and put my stuff away. Even though the apartment was small, when I finished the floor was empty. In spite of the little vases with flowers from Michaels, the store, you couldn’t say a new person moved in. I had a bouquet of orange peonies, and two of tulips, pink and yellow. My only painting I brought, a street detail in Paris with a woman holding a red umbrella and looking at the Eiffel Tower, was already on the wall in the living room. Adam didn’t have anything against personalizing my room. And yes, I still needed to go through the kitchen utensils again after bringing my own pots and pans and kind of piling them up on two shelves and behind the cupboard.

Then the siren of the ambulance speared the street. A police car and a firetruck followed and stopped feet away from our place.

 

The House -15-

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“Hi,” I waved at her. She was surprised to see me.

“I think I have something that belongs to you.”

The woman raised her eyebrows and dismissed me pretty rudely. “I don’t think so.”

Now that was something I didn’t expect. I watched her crossing the street and getting in the house where I met Phillip. One thing was sure. She as I was interested in the house next to us, the dead woman’s house.

“Mom, where did you get this?” Adam came in the door frame with the strange wallet, looking in it. “It’s wet.”

“I found it in the water.”

That sounded weird to him. “In the water?”

“Yeah, in the ocean.”

Then this came to me, “Hopefully nobody drowned,” I said. That thought was worrying. “I should of talked to a lifeguard or a policeman. Actually, I thought it belonged to this guy who couldn’t find his wallet in the store.”

“And you brought it home.”

For a few moments I felt like a child scolded by her father. I didn’t want to, but I started laughing. “Come on, Adam. I found this object, asked the people around if they lost it in the water, but nobody did. And guess what? As I was walking to the store to leave it there, just in case if the guy would have come back, you called and asked me to find your paper.”

“It looks rich, with monogram and everything.” He used the exact words I had in mind when I found it. “I like it.”

“Yeah, but it’s not yours.” I squeezed by him and halted by my pile of stuff. I needed to put it away.

“What is this?’ my son asked pulling out some sort of plastic from the wallet.

 

 

The House -14-

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I heard my son’s steps down on the alley. Then he cleared his throat the way my dad used to. I loved that. When he turned on the stairs, his face lit up seeing me. It was such a sweet feeling since I had to leave from where I stayed knowing that I was unwanted. Hard stuff for someone who is not young anymore.

“I’m glad you settle in.” He chuckled.

“Well, my stuff is still on the floor, but I can say I’m happy here. I’ll put my load away.” He was so generous. I got to catch his hand for a second and squeezed it as he passed by me.

“Thank you.” Tears welled up again.

I let him get in without me being in his way. “How was it?”

“I love the campus. Not to say anything about Cal Fullerton, but UCI is great. I got three classes for the summer and I’m very happy.” He took a semester at Cal Fullerton and didn’t finish.

“That’s great, son. All your hard work will pay off.”

When he turned on the water in the bathroom, the faucet screeched. “Do you need to use the bathroom? ‘Cause  I’m taking a shower.”

“No worries. I’ll be on the porch.”

Moments later somebody was at the trash cans. I saw a tanned arm lifting the lid of one of the bins and dropping a bag inside, a trash bag. I wouldn’t know who that person was if the blinds from the window I was watching wouldn’t flutter. I leaned forward to see if there was anybody in the room. That was when the person from the trash cans appeared in my sight. She was watching that window the same I was.

It was the woman with one earring.

The House -13-

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It was late in the afternoon and I was still tossing from one side to the other trying to sleep a little bit. A 15 minute nap could make me as new, but finally I gave up. Somebody in the neighborhood was playing the ukulele. I opened the News app and read a few articles from “Reuter” and “The Guardian” to keep up with what was going on in Europe. Declining economy in the South, great effort to keep the Iranian deal, refugees … Old news.

The boxes and bags with my things were still there, and I decided to put them away a little later. For the moment I took a seat on the folding chair on the porch. Maybe I could see or hear something from the house next door.

A woman’s voice sounded in the alley. “Mary, did you let the cat out again?” Then I heard Phillip’s voice, “He comes in my garage all the time.” “I know,” the woman continued,” he wanders the whole street. That’s because Mary here doesn’t care. Right, Mary?” Mary didn’t answer.

That might be the cat that showed up at our door today.

It seemed weird to me to listen at this conversation, but that was how things were on the peninsula. While across the bridge the neighbors on our street were very private and showed up only to get in their cars, it was the opposite here. On weekends or after work, people spend time at the beach or on the patio. Neighbors from 2-3 houses gather together for a glass of wine in the evening and chat and listen to slow jazz or country music.

I bent over the fence to catch a glimpse of the lady who was upset with Mary, but I couldn’t see her. The angle was too narrow.