Making the nine house trek to my mailbox is not usually a note worthy experience, however on this particular day it became one I will remember for the rest of my life.
I walked past mostly closed garage doors on my journey. They’re closed because it’s the rule that is written by our gestapo home owners association. YOUR GARAGE DOOR MUST BE CLOSED AT ALL TIMES IF YOU ARE NOT ENTERING OR EXITING.
I think this rule was created to pull the wool over the eyes of the world and make them think that we are the most organized and tidy neighborhood in the universe.
What most earth dwellers don’t realize is that our garages are so packed that we can’t even fit cars in them. I peered into one neighbors garage and was amazed to find enough gym equipment to start their own fitness center. Further down I witnessed yet another offender. Inside their garage were two Harley Davidson’s an antique truck and an entire living room with an 80 inch flat screen TV hanging from the ceiling.
The HOA must not be aware of these clandestine living habits. I thought. But I’m no informant, unless of course they use water boarding, then I’ll sing like a bird.
The by-product of this hoarding is that we have enough cars parked outside of the garages to start an auto dealership on our street.
When I reached the mailboxes, I was shocked at the insubordination of yet another HOA rebel. I peered into the garage and saw a woman who looked to be in her early seventies. She was hanging on to the side mirror of a chocolate brown Porsche. Her other hand was clutching the antenna of a BMW. Since no one in the neighborhood only has two cars, I assumed the silver Mercedes convertible in the driveway was also hers.
She was wearing a pink colored robe and nightgown that was tied with a sash high under her breasts which revealed a swollen middle area. She wore matching bedroom slippers and her light colored hair looked as if it just left the pillow. I nodded and wished her a good afternoon and she replied softly with a strained smile.
I thought, she’d better close that garage door soon or she is going to be in big trouble and man does this family know how to buy nice cars!
I continued my journey to retrieve the mail. Our box is on the top level. In order to even see my mail I have to stand on my tip toes and hang on to the top of the mailbox with my finger tips. To actually get my mail I balance myself with one hand and scoop out my mail with the other. Most times I drop the advertisements and bills on the ground but on this day I got a bonus. The wind picked up the letters built their own little private tornado around the big black bank of stand alone boxes. I jumped down and ran around stomping the mail with my feet as I watched the envelopes take flight.
I regained my composure, gathered my unwanted bills and began my retreat home. I approached the woman in pink and noticed that she had barely moved from where I saw her last. I had assumed because of the length of time it took to handle my mail issue that she would have been back in her house by now and had closed that illegally opened garage door of hers. She was standing at the rear of the cars getting ready to make her approach to the street. I could see that she was having a tough time walking.
“Do you need any help?” I asked.
“Oh no, thank you,” she replied. Her voice was so soft I could barely hear her.
I walked a couple of houses towards home and all of a sudden I felt myself turn around and walk back to her. I put my hand under her elbow and without a word started walking slowly towards her front door. She was slouched over and looked up at me and smiled.
It’s a rare day when anyone has to look up at me, unless of course they’re eight or nine years old.
We took a few steps and she said, “I thought I could make it myself but I think you’re right, I could use your help “I’m Kathy and you are Anita from the corner, right?”
I was so surprised how lucid she was considering her disheveled appearance. She continued, “I just wanted to come around to the front patio and see my waterfall. I love my waterfall.”
She scooted her feet with ever so tiny steps and I held her steady by having her body lean on mine. I opened the gate to the front patio and saw her frown. The decorative cement water fountain was dry and presently held only leaves. Her disappointment was so apparent that my heart ached and I thought perhaps I could help her turn it on. Although I knew that was an impossibility because my “fix it” prowess has always been broken. We proceeded up the walk toward the entrance to her house. She could barely lift her foot the three inches to the landing. Fortunately there was an ornately carved, white bench a couple of steps away. I turned her frail body around and she sat down exhausted.
We stayed there for a while so she could catch her breathe. She then spoke about her cancer and how she and her husband Chuck had thought about getting a one story, but just couldn’t give up living on the lake. She loved her home and told me all about her family.
“We’ll probably go to The City of Hope if this procedure doesn’t work for me she said. “You know, last year at this time I was golfing, it’s hard to believe what can happen in just a year.”
While she spoke her little doggy, Babe was yapping in anticipation of her coming back inside. I had a hard time concentrating with the dogs incessant yelping so I stood up to get the door so Kathy could calm her.
“The door is locked.” I said.
I looked down the pathway back toward the garage. There was no way Kathy could walk back down that step nor the path that led to the illegally open garage door. The only option we had was for me to go inside the house through the garage and open the door for her. I told Kathy my idea and she agreed.
I approached the back door with caution and slowly pushed it opened. I poked my head inside only to see Babe’s gnashing teeth and hear her growling. I shut the door.
“She won’t let me in.” I said to the Porsche. “Oh my God, what am I going to do? I can’t go back to Kathy and tell her she’d have to walk back around the house and through the garage again.”
“I have no choice, I have to go in.” I said to the BMW in a panic. “It doesn’t matter what I have to endure. But what if Babe bites me? What if the bite gets infected? What if I have to get my leg amputated? For God sakes, go in!”
“It’s okay Babe, it’s okay” I was so frightened, but I pushed my way in. I leaned my back against the door. “It’s okay, it’s okay.”
“There is no way that I’m not going to open that door for Kathy.” I told Babe. I was terrified! “I will not abort my mission to Kathy under any circumstance. Do you hear me Babe?”
Trying desperately to muster up enough bravery to take my first step, I held my ears to muffle the her unrelenting barking. My entire dog life came back to me, that is my dog ownership life.
One afternoon in 1960 my brother Michael brought home a very large German Shepard. He came with a dog house and a story. This dog was owned by Adolfe Menjou, a famous Beverly Hills debonair silent film actor. He spoke six languages and was an avid dog lover. Adolfe, was born in 1890 and was ill therefore could no longer take care of Comrade. Michael who was his chauffeur at the time convinced him that he would be the perfect commander and chief to raise his dog. Adolfe was French born which must have been a factor in his bad judge of character. After all at 17 it was already evident Michael was in his early stages of lunacy.
I often sat on the cold concrete of my front porch to watch the older kids in the neighborhood play kick ball in the street. When I saw the limo come around the corner, I knew Michael was coming home from work and the torture would begin. He parked in front of our house blocking my view of the activities in the street, so I switched my attention to him. I noticed a gargantuan house propped lopsided in his opened trunk. I watched him attempt to remove the wooden dog house from the back of his limo. After several failed attempts he ran across the street. I assumed he was conning a friend into helping him.
I looked around to see if anyone was watching. I picked up my doll Pepper and creeped toward the car to get a better look at what Michael was up to this time. Before I reached the curb I heard the growl coming from the back seat. Then there was an explosion of vicious barking that vibrated the bones in my entire body. All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and chills sprang out of every pore. I saw the black nose slam against the window and the sharp nails scratch at the glass. The slobber began to drip down the fogged glass and I knew it was about to shatter. I couldn’t move. I was comatose.
I looked down and saw the dog looking up at me and realized it was Babe. Her fangs were showing and her high pitched yipping sounds brought me back to reality. “It’s okay Babe, It’s okay, Mommy’s right outside. I’m just going to just walk real slow by you and open the front door. Please don’t bite me.”
Babe was relentless. Her barking continued until I was back where I started with my back to the door of the garage. I looked around the laundry room for something to use to protect myself, but each time I tried moving forward Babe came closer. I leaned against the door in defeat. I closed my eyes and tried to muster up the courage to move again.
I dropped Pepper and ran back to the house screaming, “Mommy, Michael’s got a dog with rabies in his car!”
Michael and our neighbor, Karl ran back to the truck and the dog calmed down. They lifted the house onto the street and Karl laughed out loud. He put his finger on the sign that was attached to the wooden structure.
“Hüte dich vor dem Hund.” He read. “Beware of the Dog!”
No Shit Sherlock, I thought.
My mom headed down the steps wiping her hands on her apron. I was scrunched down, taking baby steps right behind her. I truly believed no one could see me.
Michael yelled, “Snitch! I’ll get you for this, I see you.”
Did he think mom wouldn’t notice an eighty pound dog living in our backyard? I thought.
“I’m no snitch. You’re crazy!!!” I yelled bravely holding on to moms skirt so tight that it began to slip down her hips. She finally realized the severity of the issue when her skirt was at her knees.
“Stop it!” “What’s going on here?” She commanded as she slapped my hand off her skirt.
Her face turned a couple shades of red as she bent over to pull up her clothing. “Good thing I’m wearing a slip,” she said giving me the stink eye. She looked around the neighborhood to see if anybody saw her. Michael seeing mom look the other way bravely snatched Pepper from the gutter and pretended to strangle her. I started screaming and ran towards him to save my baby.
Bam! The vicious dog slammed himself against the glass again and this time mom got to see first hand what was really going on. The limo was rocking back and forth as the lunatic canine ran from window to window.
“Really, are you really going to let him keep that dog?” I asked my mom. Even at the age of 10 I knew it was inappropriate for a Jewish family to adopt a Nazi for a pet.
He behaved quite well most of the time, probably because he didn’t understand one word we said. But then Michael decided to learn German. After that he would yell out German words which would set Comrade off running through the house. He ran up and over the furniture and slid on the wooden floors knocking down the dining room chairs like a bowling ball. When Michael stopped screaming, then and only then did Comrade lay down by his side.
I was always cognizant that at any given moment Michael might whisper something to Comrade in German and I’d be a goner. I felt the hot breathe against my leg and then the teeth. I expected to see Comrade coming to take my life, but looked down and saw little Babe. I was so relieved that it gave me the energy that I needed to overcome my present situation.
“Back Babe” I said. “I’m coming through!”
I marched to the front door unscathed, flung the door open with Babe yapping beside me the entire way. I put my arms around Kathy and she gave me a warm hug as though I had been gone for hours, which at one time was a strong possibility. We stood there hugging for several moments and time stood still. She gave me an endearing kiss on my cheek and went inside.
A few days later Chuck took Kathy and all of their children and grandchildren to a beach house get away and as Kathy enjoyed her family for the last time, she closed her eyes and said goodbye.