A couple of nights ago we stood the kitchen in the rear of the house when I heard the noise that announces that a child is at the front door. I wondered what little kid would be calling when it was so late and so dark, and Lou asked how I knew it was a child.
Door knockers are a dying hardware item here in the ‘Ville. Children always choose to announce their presence via rat-a-tat-tat, and adults always push the doorbell. This pattern has never blurred, not once in twenty-five years.
I opened the door to three children and their father Abel, who live four houses down. This was unexpected because I don’t know this family except for a smile and a wave in passing — Abel’s English isn’t great and my Spanish is, regrettably,nonexistent.
But what really caught my attention is that the two gorgeous little girls were shaking with sobs and, literally, tear stained. Their big brother, maybe nine, was stoic but not the grinning hollering boy I swerve to avoid when he and his buddies are practicing on their homemade skateboard ramp just where my street bends.
I invited them in and asked what was wrong, because something clearly terrible was afoot. The boy stepped up and explained — in colloquial American English with the wide Midwestern vowels — that their new puppy had run away. I asked the middle sister with the face of a sorrowing angel what the dog’s name was and she stopped weeping just long enough to wail “Tiny!”
The boy said “We want to make posters to put up. Would it be OK to use your printer?” He knows exactly where to find the printer — he’s seen it every day, twice a day, as he walks to and from school. It’s easy to spot because it sits on my living room windowsill, otherwise known as my office. Yeah it’s a custom made double-wide windowsill Lou whipped up one day, but it’s just a windowsill.
Then he pulled out an iPhone and his thumb flashed like a windshield wiper in a hurricane until he found this picture.
I asked the kid if he had a cable that would link the phone to my laptop, and he hustled out the door and returned in less then ten seconds. We huddled by the windowsill, an urgent ocean of quiet in a small room still echoing with uncontrollable grief. I downloaded the Apple software, we held our collective breath as the pictures downloaded into Picassa, and we cropped and edited and printed. I stroked the littlest girl’s cheek and told her about how we’d lost Calliope cat for three whole days but we found her under some shrubs three blocks away. She was unconvinced. Abel thanked me and led his tragic trio down the block.
You see, this is why I love the undistinguished street where I live. We’re not exactly snoopy, but we pay attention. Even if we’re not practically life-long friends, as we are with Char and Dale, our Next-Doors and cat sitters, we know who’s who. We aren’t afraid to ask for help or to give it. And the street’s swamped with kids who actually play outside for hours.
This just in: I walked down to Abel’s and Tiny’s still missing. He said:”My little girl, she still cry and cry.” So, fellow ‘Villians, grab that tiny chihuahua, and give me a call. That’s what we do on our street.