Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hands up! Spread 'em!

Saturday morning I didn't feel like doing the laundry I needed to get done in order to not have to drag out the really fancy undies to keep from going kamikaze until I could drum up enough enthusiasm to make the trek downstairs, outside in the cutting winds, across the ice-rimed paving stones arranged so artfully around the side of the house, through the gate and around to the laundry room door with an unwieldy basket of clothes. So I stayed in bed with a few books. I didn't even venture into the eye searingly bright sunroom to check my email or gaze in rapt awe at the mountains outside the window over my desk hidden behind the gray wall of mist and clouds until past ten. When I finally shielded my light sensitive eyes and walked into the light I expected to see the quiet Saturday street preserved in winter white. What I found was a teeming mass of people bundled up against the harsh winds and flying shards of sleet weaving between cars cruising for a parking space in the packed parking lot my neighborhood had become. I was still immersed in Arthur Miller's play about The Man Who Had Too Much Luck and hadn't landed back here in my quiet, predictable world. It took me a few minutes to realize everyone was battling the cold to see the St. Patrick's Day Parade and 5K run (I just found out about the 5K). I briefly considered putting on a sweater and jacket and braving the cold for hot dogs and excitement before climbing back into bed with Miller.

The rest of the day crept slowly along in a haze of plays and movies I hadn't had the time to see and considered sending back to NetFlix unviewed, basking in the warmth of the space heater next to the new chaise where I lounged with my books, paper journal, pens, and ever present bottle of water for the rest of the day. I finally roused enough to check my email only to find the street outside deserted except for four police cruisers and a K-9 unit circling the block again and again. The cruisers looked like giant's toys scattered haphazardly on the street where the giant's child dropped them at his mother's call. There were no cops in the cruisers so I edged closer to the window and looked up and down the street looking for them like some nosy old woman scenting gossip on an errant wind. I'd have peeked through the shutters or drapes if I had any, but my windows are bold brazen eyes staring down onto the neighborhood without even a veil strategically draped, which accounts for me wearing more clothes when I work -- that and because it's also a mite chilly in the sunroom even with double-paned windows in vinyl frames.

It is always so peaceful and quiet here on the west side of town, so peaceful people think twice before locking their doors at night, certain there is no evil in the world we share here, so it is doubly unnerving to see a cadre of cruisers parked on our quiet streets with no cops inside. In other times, other places I wouldn't have looked twice, knowing they were after some drug dealer or fleeing felon (especially once having had my home invaded by cops in pursuit of someone as they burst in through my front door, racing past me as they jerked open the back door and jumped off the back porch), but here such a show of force in the absence of a donut sale at Dunkin' Donuts raised the hairs on the back of my neck.

I scanned the houses and streets for some sign of the cops while the K-9 unit circled the block every two minutes. Nothing. No cops. No shots fired. No crackle of unintelligible cop speak through the open windows as I shook with cold and waited...

...and waited...

...and waited...

...and stared as four cops burst through the tangle of winter bare weeds and piled branches between the brand new house and the modest Victorian across the street. The K-9 unit paused briefly as they trampled through the crystal powder swirling across the brown and yellow grass then drove on. The cops got into their cruisers and drove away, leaving behind an uneasy sense our peace had been irreparably shattered. The mountains hid behind the thickening gray wall of mist and clouds and shards of ice ticked against the windows. Evening closed in and the yellow light of the street lamps wavered through the thickening night beneath skeletal branches scratching wildly in the rising howl of the wind.

I locked my door and crawled back beneath the warm lap blanket on the chaise, flicking through the channels before finally turning off the TV and diving back into Miller's Brooklyn world where an old salesman faltered and fell into brighter memories of the past where the cruel harshness of the present intruded indiscriminately.

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