It’s time to talk about my neighbor, “Bessie”. She moved in across the street around the same time as us, at least that’s what I assumed when I witnessed her drag stained, ancient carpet we had ripped out of our house into her own home.
There were other red flags. Our moving truck backed into one of her many cars lining the street and she demanded $500 cash to repair the already beaten vehicle. Her grandchild is at least eight and when I met him he was running up on top of cars one right after the other in his under-roos. Their backyard is clearly the island for misfit toys and semi-broken playground equipment. Most haunting, however are the windows of her home.
Each bay window, typically made into a bench seat or treasured focal point of most homes, Bessie has stuffed with victorian dolls. Naturally, the big bay windows can only accommodate around twenty dolls. So the smaller windows have had her remaining collection pressed against the glass in a single file line. Every window has been dressed in this fashion, which begs the question… can she see out of her own home? From inside does the world look like endless planes of young girls facing away from her?
Are there more dolls inside the house? Does she have them in boxes, as “collectors items” or do they roam free–coming alive at night to tell scary stories of their era to the little boy in his under-roos?
One of my first conversations with Bessie transpired as she approached in her mini-van and called my name with more command than a friendly request usually summons.
“Are you back from college?”
“I’m visiting for the weekend, yes.”
“What are you studying?”
“English, psych…” I was standing on the passenger side of her van and a dog was hanging out the window. As I reached to touch the golden head I had a horrible realization. The dog was stuffed. She had a taxidermied animal riding shotgun, positioned to be joyfully sticking his head out the window.
“Good for you.” She said, seemingly unaware in the change in my expression as I backed away, muttering some sort of goodbye before scuttling into my home.
There are so many questions which rampage through my mind as I try to confront this. Was this a beloved pet? Does she always keep it in the car, or does she move it around with her? Does he come alive at night, like the dolls, and provide a little whimsy to the grimness of her grandson’s day to day life? Or do the dolls dismiss him, being a mongrel beneath their pedigree?
Furthermore, if she is so attached to this animal why does she have a such a severe lack of affection for the living dog tied to her back porch? Ever since I met him I have referred to this dog as “Junkyard”, not merely due to his surroundings but also because of his unimaginable breed, callous demeanor, and general tramp quality as he hides from the elements under the porch. No matter the season, during the day Bessie keeps him tied to the porch. Upon closer inspection I have multiple times noted that his water is frozen. A fact I repeatedly mention on all my calls to animal control/humane society on his behalf. Once night falls he is released to roam our neighborhood. Assumably, hunting for his food.
Often I am confronted by Bessie as I come home from work. Her voice calls to me from the cluttered maze of her porches. She is always on a fact finding mission and I try to answer her as briefly as possible; never quite sure where in the mess her voice is originating. This morning was no exception, but she was easy to spy as Bessie has now died her wiry locks magenta and her pink head shone through the piled furniture she had burrowed within.
Much like communist domino theory I worry that soon other houses will fall to the magnetism of crazy hoarding renter on an otherwise upstanding block. In five years will Junkyard have his own gang? Only time will tell.