Digital Ischemia

06/08/2017

My Neighbour’s Baby

The parents’ squabbling catches my attention. My quiet Sunday breakfast with a wildlife magazine shattered. Peer Gynt capers on in the Hall of the Mountain King. The squabblers slam from room to room, swatting and shrieking at each other. I lean to the window and pull back the gauze curtain, searching for explanation. One of their children sits on my front grass. Just sits, not playing, not eating, not moving, not seemingly hurt, but I don’t read children well. The parents barrel on. Another figure slinks by – another neighbour, inspecting the unattended child. My gut flips – some pre-verbal fear. In a reflex I knock the window. The neighbour starts and glances at me. I wave. Frustratingly her momentum carries her out of my sight. The parents separate, hurling only intermittent complaints. The child remains immobile.

I unlock the front door to look closer. Mostly I want to help, but I need more information: what happened? I seem to be too late. The neighbour is out of sight. The child sits on the grass, freckled and bewildered. I don’t want to approach in case this aggravates the situation. I don’t want to interfere. Or should I move her to a safer position? What would be safer? In my house is far too ambiguous. I have no relationship with this child. Her parents seem to be calming. I return indoors and glance out the window. The child still hasn’t moved. I can’t settle back to breakfast; I wander ineffectually about the front rooms, reviewing the incident, assessing my choices. I keep glancing out the window.

Suddenly the parents launch a fresh bout of shouting. I check the window: the child is gone – in a matter of seconds between my glances. I can’t see anybody, any movement. I open the front door and see the parents hopping and shrieking along the pavement. I can’t read their distress. Still no sign of the child. My eyes flit to another movement. Beneath the bordering hedge I see my neighbour’s legs saunter up the path and out of sight. The parents are hysterical. Why didn’t they do something for their child before? Why didn’t I? I peer again between the trunks of the hedge. I look very carefully to catch a glimpse as my neighbour’s path curves back into view. In a moment I see what I’m looking for: the shape of the child, carried away.

There was a moment when I could have acted. I chose not to. To let others’ choices play out. I may have delayed things by rapping the window, but that’s as likely to have increased the suffering as not. If I had the chance again, I’d lift that baby and bring it indoors. I’d suffer the guilt of upsetting the parents. My experiences lead me to believe that my neighbour simply wanted to play with the child. A distorted behaviour that has its roots in natural instinct but has become torture. I have some responsibility for that. I could do better.

If it had been my neighbour the sparrowhawk who found the young blackbird, I would be more comfortable with that. A reasonably quick death for food. A domestic cat I’m much less comfortable with. It doesn’t feel natural to me. Still, I have too little information. I had a moment and I only half-intervened. Bless her.

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11/06/2017

Over the Hedge

Filed under: Flash — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 16:00

Insect buzzes and humming breezes are punctuated by hedge clipping.
A cheeky nagging female calls, “Have you still no’ finished that?”
My neighbour retorts, “Ach, wheesht! I’d like to see you reach this bit!”
“Oh, I wish I could; I wish I could, but, as you know, I suffer terrible with my back. You’ll know yourself, eh? I don’t know how you manage.”
“Oh, I’m OK so long as—”
“I see you’re doing OK, right enough, going at that hedge!”
“Well, I—”
“You picked a good day for it, too. It’s been braw this month. I was only yesterday saying to Lisbeth how the farmers are toiling with it being so dry. Well, you can’t please everyone…”
My deafening thoughts overtake me.

I must confess. I’m sitting on my arse, among the shrubs and insects, eyes closed, lapping up the Scottish sun – 18° with a light breeze: perfect. I hear my neighbour, Bill, gardening away. But that’s not my confession, that’s just scene setting.

Her voice is so clear and loud, it sounds like Jessie’s out the back with my neighbour. They’re both church-goers, both single, widowed; maybe that’s enough to sustain a friendship in septuagenarians, a relationship, even. Mentally I shudder, despite the heat.

Curses. Jessie, the plague of neighbours gardening and dog-walkers alike. Anyone within earshot – and that’s a quarter mile for her shrill diatribe – is liable for a good droning at. She’s a retired occupational therapist, I remember, because she’s told me every time she’s seen me, which is at least weekly for years. She seems to fall into a conversational rut, like a needle on a record, and the same commentary tumbles out, without pause or interest for anything her audience might wish to contribute. If I’m already speaking with someone else, she simply talks over us, heedless of etiquette and writhing eyebrows.

A woman of habit. I tried to figure out her routine: time windows for her dog-walking, her current preferred route through the village, and my own escape routes if I saw her before she saw me. How unneighbourly. And yet, not only is she entrenched in her monologue, what reference she does make to her audience is unfailingly uncharitable.

“When you get to our age you have to expect some aches and pains.”
“Speak fer yersel’; I’m on’y fifty.”

“So many of these people on benefits are just playing the system. The ones that really need help aren’t getting it.”
“Actually, while I wasn’t earning, since I had some savings, because I had chosen to invest in my house, rather than spend everything I had and run up debt on holidays and retail, I didn’t get any help. Which category would you put me in?”
I didn’t say it. I don’t care. She certainly doesn’t. She’s just regurgitating whatever she’s read or heard without any mental engagement or filter.

I’m sorry; I’ve just sucked myself into bitterness.
I’m relieved: I was never rude to her as I’d plotted; she could end up my neighbour – if she’s already spending sunny afternoons hanging out in Bill’s garden. Always be polite to folk: you never know when you may meet them again.

A hoverfly whines at me. I open my eyes in a flapping reflex. The voices are quiet. Bill is still draped from his ladder over his 10 foot hedge, clipping admirably away, quite alone. I’m relieved again: her voice simply carried from the road beyond; walking her dog, grasping for someone to talk at. She was never here. I silently apologise to Bill for my assumptions and aspersions. What with the sun, it doesn’t take much to bring my blood to the boil.

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