'Buy me something from the store'
Porch Lady and the neighborhood
We lived in the yellow house that was halfway between the VFW and the McDonalds that marked the neighborhood. The old woman in the apartment next to us had the porch and the front yard. We had the concrete stoop in the back, facing the graffitied shed and the shrubs overgrowing the asbestos dump and the creek. All winter all we saw of her was the yellow window of kitchen light that was always on, but when the bees began to fly in the spring she moved to the porch and sat there in her chair until the very end of fall.
We called her Porch Lady.
She sat there quiet, rocking and watching the empty street and when she saw someone she’d yell to them:
HEY. ARE YOU GOING TO THE STORE? HUH? BUY ME SOMETHING FROM THE STORE.
Whenever she was gonna yell a message at a kid shuffling aimless down the street, she always started with HEY and just let loose a bellow to bowl down the whole street and we’d be jarred, visibly shaken. We’d wake from day-off naps to her yelling for something from the store, or second-hand hellos.
HEY. TELL. YOUR MAMA. I SAID HI.
My roommate hated her. One too many naps were ruined by Porch Lady and he’d go around grumpy and scowling and swearing at her.
She was the center of the entire neighborhood. The neighborhood women all came, sometimes, and sat with her in a row of seats lined on the porch looking over the scrabble of kids in the street. They talked about their men, were they more lazy or stupid, and they held a council in a chorus of un huh’s and said that’s right, that’s right. That’s what I said.
And the men came, in the evenings still wearing work clothes, moving the dice games up from the curb or the tunk games up to her so she could watch and laugh. They’d stand around her, leaning up against the wall and slouching down on the edge of the porch. They’d stand there drinking beers and smoking and telling funny stories about themselves and each other.
Sometimes they stood there for an hour, sometimes for an afternoon or an evening. Once we woke up in the morning to hear them on the porch in the arguement in the middle of a Hitler analogy that would have taken all night to follow.
Wow, I said to my roommate, quiet enough they couldn’t hear me, they’ve been going at it all night.
He swore, got up and went to the bathroom. I laid there, listening to the porch.