Tonight on my way home I spotted our neighbor Shuffles, shuffling her way along our street with her wiglike dark hair bobbing as she moved. Her trim little bluejeans were much too high around the ankles and she wore black running sneakers and a nondescript blue sweatshirt. I stalked her in a stealthy manner, noting once again the similarities between her visage and that of a Cabbage Patch Doll. Not once did she turn, but I sensed that, yes, she knew I was there. She felt my beady eyes at her back, my hot breath upon her neck. She seemed to twitch when I darted behind this tree and that shubbery, although she thought it merely the wind's vagaries that caused her an involuntary flinch.
I know ye, Shuffles. I know that you stole my little cat Potatoe exactly two years ago, and keep him close by your side in your darkened house with drawn shades, the house that smells of old cabbage and bunions. I know you read your horoscope this morning, and it alerted you to the possibility that a stranger will spot you bagging groceries at the Stop and Shop and whisk you off to Hollywood, where you will star as a stripper in a low-budget remake of Showgirls.
I am aware that you set out your black running shoes next to your white this morning and thought: "I shall choose the black. Today, I shall choose the black." And that Potatoe curled around your bony white ankles as you sipped your weak tea and ate a fried egg, and the egg dripped down over your chin and you wiped it with a rag that was once a pair of faded, grey Granny undies, consigned to the cleaning supply closet. You read OK magazine as you ate, and entertained rude thoughts about Britney's midriff, and agreed with the poll that suggested her career was ruined. And yes, Shuffles, you let yourself gloat in the fact--for one quick moment--that your stomach is flatter than Britney's can ever now be. That decision not to fall in love, marry, and have children--a doom-laden sequence that leads inexorably to midriff spread--has its rewards, and they are sweet rewards indeed.
After you ate your breakfast you sorted your cutlery, brushed your wiglike hair, and wrote a letter to the mayor of New Rochelle demanding redress for all sorts of ills, including the noxious sounds emitted by the cement trucks that pass along the 95 entrance ramp. You also spoke firmly about the need to replace the stop sign at the corner with one that does not have a sticker on it reading: "No Jesus, No peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace." Not that you have anything against old Jesus, but enough is enough with the grafitti. WWJD indeed, Shuffles--why, he'd be an upstanding citizen, just like you!
I think we are sympatico in a way, Shuffles. I'll bet that you wouldn't fit in with those Pelham moms, either. You'd find them distasteful, as I do, and you would spurn their SUVs with many rude hand gestures, if you only had a car yourself and weren't forced to shuffle, shuffle everywhere. You would give them that owl-eyed stare from behind your giant, round glasses--smeared with fingerprints--and think to yourself: "Poo. I don't like them one bit." I applaud your dignity, Shuffles!
I think you don't think much of our neighbors, either. Some of our close companions here are Lumpen, unassailably stupid, and built like brick shithouses. Not all, mind you. You know what's what, who's good, and all that. You are a shining beacon of hope, Shuffles.
Except there was that odd moment the other night when, on your way home in the darkness, you stopped right across the street from our porch. You turned and stared--for a long, long uncomfortable minute. You stood still like a hunting dog, poised to lunge. I stared back, but partially shielded by one of our porch columns, so that you couldn't see the whites of my eyes. What were you looking for? I held my breath. Would you step across the street, that great divide, and confess your misdeeds?
"I'm sorry I took your cat," you might have said. "I was just so dreadfully lonely." But you said nothing. You left, eventually. Back to your home with the green shuttered door and the crappy peeling paint, head down and shoulders hunched, flipping your hair over your shoulder like some hoochie teenager and moving with that perplexing gait...shuffle...shuffle...shuffle.
I guess you can keep my cat, Shuffles. He piddled in our basement anyway, and he was as dumb as a post.