It was like a movie. (act five) Benny
Oh, those first impressions, whether swelling in our chests or brushed off as just another fugitive moment, they only get one shot at the gut, feeling open to the mystery of sudden impact, depending on the direction of their sway — but whichever way, doubling over or not, here it comes:
Stay seated & avoid eye contact. This last premises is over-asserted by a scrapyard handyman whose truckdoor magnetic business card boasts a "Personal Experience!", but is also finely skilled as a short-fused quicksilver Property of Character who goes off, & adamantly on, as Benny.
His spouse has a name that I heard shouted once, then blocked out, but recall that it conjured the image of a refreshing summer cocktail poured from a blender at a putt putt golf lounge, which she probably needs to wash down the striking reality she's married to — Benny: a small, lean pork chop left on the grill overnight & fallen from its boardwalk hoagie bun that even the gulls won't eat. He strides the center of his no-laned street, madly chewing the fat, marching back & forth like a dogged solo parade float, passionately holding court on his cell in strips of words that clip like dull shears on a musty banner, undeterminable as to whether anger or delight, & usually offset for either with a "Love-ya-bruh." wrap-up. His non-infectious snicker-laughs burst in sharp rounds of three, like quick nicks carved between throbbing temples with a contaminated box-cutter.
A few years ago, Benny bought this tax bill foreclosure address, installed a 25-ft flagpole in the front yard, then stripped half the roof of shingles & covered with a tarp. Rehab complete, the couple moved right in, along with a 40-ft motorhome weathered in a rainbow of 80's beige & followed by a revolving lineup of auto auction perps they also park along the street because their driveway is occupied by dissected appliances strewn around a horse trailer storing a jumble of deconstruction next to a canoe balanced like a barricade over a snow plow attachment & a partially dismantled rototiller — mislaid altogether as a forsaken gallery of salvage curated by a wildman of all seasons-allergenic, where his year-round, debris field landscaping-sneezes ricochet in ringing hillside echoes like wet shotgun blasts.
What the driveway can't contain, however, is a baritone-barking hellhound, on the loose every morning as a breaking-light ritual, commanded unsuccessfully with "Ziggy!", usually followed by some variation of "Get back over here! Ziggy! Ziggy! Drop that cat! I said drop it! Ziggy!" Sometimes, there's a mediating addendum thrown at a spooked, quick-stepping bystander, explained "Don't worry. He's just being friendly."
On the front porch glass door, a Beware of Dog placard overlaps an expired renovation permit edging a taped piece of cardboard with "Broken" handwritten thick & stubby, though it's the same door Benny detonates open at all hours, blown outwards like either he or it are attempting their own half-hinged getaways, & slammed shut with front or hind Benny-legs, without looking back, as he also charges into the street.
He first appeared like a summertime deprecho one afternoon while I was in my front yard frisking a garden hose for concealed kinks. Gabe and Rose-&-Romeo #2 were away on remote patrol somewhere, so I felt as if in the midst of a breezy furlough — ya know: birds, bugs & beasts just harmoniously being — when a truck, towing an exhaust cloud & a flatbed trailer of trash, slithered to the curb & cut the motor, straddling my driveway entrance. I'd never seen the caravan before & called attention to the opening as the driver hopped out. He clambered over his hitch & walked into the drive, pivoting his wide-eyed gristle quickly, as if amazed, with "Well, I never see any cars parked up here."
That's when I learned his name. After I responded with a calm, almost intimate, "I don't give a fuck." — a cocktail of tone & substance I occasionally enjoy to cope & amuse myself through situations of serious absurdity — the driver identified himself in an exploding rant, pacing the street while looking skyward to begin a monologue performed like a brief to a jury of clouds. He pirouetted, barefoot in cutoffs with tank-t'd arms held out, as if a crucifix spinning a ballet of soliloquy, imploring the heavens to deliver him from this travesty of reception: "Do I get a 'Welcome to the neighborhood, Benny.'?— a How are you, Benny?'—No!—I just want to park my cars on my street & fly my flag & be neighborly—& what do I get?—Assholes!—No 'Hi Benny.'—No 'How ya doin', Benny?'—Just assholes!" He stormed off, his bare soles slapping his street like lone applause, yelling "Asshole!" — now switched to the singular form, maybe as a courtesy formality of his magnetizing mission statement professing a "Personal Experience".
I lost interest in the hose & walked up to my porch & sat down — where you & I are sitting right now — & waited. I had a feeling there would be another twist. There had to be — like a pause before a well-timed punch line — & then, there was — & it was faultless. This "Benny" was good. He stomped back & pointed towards the yard I wasn't in anymore, howling to the garden "This guy's an asshole! Asshole!" & got in the gasbomb trailer-truck, cranked the gasping motor a few times before it coughed to life with a few rev pumps, then rattled down the block & turned with a trailer tire bucking over the corner curb. The muffler faded at first, then got louder again as it approached from the other direction. Before he even got near my place, he was already yelling "Asshole!" out the window as if alerting the entire area as a service announcement, then braked to a sickly idle, fuming in front of Rita's place.
Dedicated to her neighborhood newsbeat, Rita was already on her stoop, nursing a hurricane glass, loosely live on the scene. Benny yelled through his either rolled-down or missing passenger window "Can you believe this asshole?" & Rita beautifully responded "Welcome to the neighborhood, Benny. Parking's a bitch around here." then saluted with the drink, tipped it back like a toast & returned to her hot tub. Benny grinded a gear &, as he chugged past my driveway, changed my singular earmark into a twofer "Ass! . . . Hole!"
Across the street, a blurry figure appeared then receded like a darting pupil from My Pajama Twin's murky upstairs window.
I heard Benny choke himself out down the block & try to start the motor again a few times, revving, before going silent, then caught one more thready "Asshole!" waft into a momentary, suspenseful stillness cut short by a high squeal that at first I thought was an irritated bird guarding its nest. Soon, I saw a six-ft stars & stripes climbing up his flagpole between squeaking pulleys. It hung, windless, as the broken door banged open against the side of his house with no closing snap &, services rendered, our business was complete.
This flashback has me overdue for an intermission. Let's take a break, put on some music & alter our refreshments. We'll come back to the neighborhood after a few change-of-scenery postcards, kicking off with an appropriate palette-cleanser Musical Depiction, a song named Kingdom.
For more summertime reading, first editions of Cuttings from the Tangle are available from Black Sparrow Press.