What happened three doors down?
It is a cacophony many nights in my Carbondale neighborhood. Dogs barking. Cars idling. Kids playing. Music or the sounds of television filtering out of some homes. People standing outside talking to each other.
Wheel Circle is quietest mid-morning after most of us drive or bike off to work. Except for a handful of children at the preschool across the street, a few clucking chickens and the occasional dog walker, the place is quiet. By about 3 p.m., the neighborhood starts to fill and livens up. The landscaper, handyman and construction workers often return by 4 from whatever jobs they’ve been working on. School-age children return in waves. Driveways and the streets fill up with parked cars.
The neighbors across the street might be sitting around a table in their yard, watching ’hood fill up. Ken might be out working on his car, or walking his husky. New neighbors might be working on their house. For much of the year it is busy, even bustling in the late afternoon and evening. People just living their lives in all the different ways they can.
Three doors down from my house, however, the TV is never on anymore. It used to be on every night when I walked the dog after dinner. I could hear it muffling through the thin front door as I walked by. It was one of those constant sounds. Like the shout that bellows nightly from across the street — “Ahhhhh f*%#!” or “Oh, oh, oh … You have to be kidding!” or simply “Aaargh!”
I imagine it comes from a man, or maybe a teenager playing video games with a friend. The TV and the shout go hand in hand. Like clockwork, I would hear the television and then the shout every night. Some nights, a big dog somewhere nearby barked in response.
One day recently a man in one of those heavy jackets worn by firefighters was standing next to the stoop. The front door was closed, and Collette, my neighbor four doors down, was talking to him. I reckon it was about Phil and his wife.
There weren’t any cops or paramedics around. I didn’t see an ambulance either. It was just Collette and the man. If he hadn’t been wearing that jacket, I wouldn’t have thought anything about it, at least not until the next night or the one after that when I noticed three doors down that the lights were off and the television was silent.
Phil is a veteran of the war against the Nazis and Japanese. His generation is called the greatest. I don’t know what kind of soldier he was, but I thought he was a good husband, a loving one who took care of his wife who was less mobile than he. I never saw her doing anything but sitting on that couch and watching TV, but some of the kids in the neighborhood called her the Candy Lady, so I suspect I hadn’t seen everything.
What I did see was Phil, a slender elderly man doing everything he could for her. Those few times I knocked, he would answer the door and talk to me, but was quick to step away if she needed him. One time he told me to come in and wait while he set a tray down on the TV table next to her. Phil was just being polite, sharing an ear with me. His attention was hers.
Now their house is dark when I walk by at night. I used to wonder what Phil and his wife were watching. Now I wonder what happened that day when the man in the heavy jacket was standing in front of their home.
Allyn Harvey writes once a month for the Post Independent. He is a writer and media consultant and serve as a Town Trustee in Carbondale. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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