Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The good people of Hickory Street

Presenting the first chapter sketch

The good people of Hickory Street is an idea I´ve had for some time to take some of the odd characters I´ve met in my life and bring them all together in a story about a neighborhood where the rest of the world seems far, far away. Below the first sketch of the first chapter, which I hope you will comment:

Chapter 1: Presenting Hickory Street


It looks quite ordinary, Hickory Street in Walnut Port, but it really isn´t. If you were a tourist driving through it would seem like any other street in small town USA. A few closed factories, a worn down school and a small mechanics shop with rust deterred signs hanging from the last eye at the wall. Scattered between these sorrow excuses for commercial and public building people live in houses that are as well kept as is possible with the means they have at their disposal.

But if for some strange reason you would decide to make a stop to see the town, you would get a whole other perspective on Hickory Street.

In number five the Friedenhoffs, a family of six children and their parents. They are a bit too religious if you ask their neighbors, which would be a mistake. As a stranger you would get nothing else than a grunt or two - and that´s if you´re lucky. Most people get nothing at all.

Every Sunday Mr. and Mrs. Friedenhoff walk to their car, an old Volvo Station Wagon with extra seats in the back. They are dressed up for church and followed by their six well combed kids. Five of them look exactly like their father. The youngest boy not so much. No one knows why, but there are more than enough ideas to go around: the milk man, the post man, the pizza man, even the paper delivery boy, but that´s a bit over the edge. Of course no one says anything out loud. After all, one should be a good neighbor and keep such things to one self. So it´s only during the weekly bridge night at the Wilsons or the Hanssons the talk goes. They meet every Saturday to play bridge and to share a meal. It’s not the only sharing going on, but that´s a secret between Mrs. Hansson and Mr. Wilson. Well, actually one more person knows, but we´ll get to that later.

Further down the street we have the oldest house in town, a brick house from 1901. Old Mr. Hound has lived here for 20 some years and even then he was an old man. No one knows how old he really is, though. Mr. Hound fully lives up to his name. He looks like a bulldog and both his voice and his temper fits perfectly.

There is a narrow window from his bathroom and out to the street, no more than 12 inches sideways. Sometimes he gets really angry about things only he knows about - if he actually does - and starts shouting out that window. Again, if you were a tourist just passing by you would be witness to the strangest scenario:

First the sound of the window being slammed against the brass pipe. The good people of Hickory street stopping whatever they are doing and turning their heads towards Hickory Street number 5. Then an old rusty voice crying out: “IDONEED AWAKEUP INDA MORNIN BYDA SOUNDODEMKIDS CRYIN AND SCREAMIN LIKE PIGS BEIN FED! - murmur, murmur - NOONE EVER LISTENS ANYMORE ANDAKIDS NOWADAYSAVE NO SPECT FOR DE ELDERLY ANYMORE!”

The good people of Hickory Street would be standing still and patiently waiting for him to finish. Then he would give the salute that marked the end of his speech: “YA GATIT, IDIOTS! YA GATIT!” and then the sound of the window being slammed shut. Then a few seconds of silence and the window would once again be opened and the final salute be repeated: “YA GATIT, IDIOTS! YA GATIT!”

Slam!

Silence for a few more seconds and people would go back to what they were doing before.

Mr. Hound has a dog, too. It´s said that most dog owners look like their dog, but in Mr. Hound´s case there is no resemblance whatsoever. Molly looks like an old wrinkled version of Lassie. Mr. Hound loves that dog and takes her for hours of walks every single day. Right in the middle of the street he walks with it. It´s not that he sees the street as his property, but he just hasn´t been able to keep up with the development of the world and hasn´t realized that people actually use the streets when driving. The good people of Walnut Port know this and patiently slow down and the traffic is smooth. Slow, but smooth.

When Molly needs to empty her stomach she sits down right on the spot and does her thing. Mr. Hound has respect for other people and moves the poo to the side of the street. He doesn´t use his hands, of course. That would be disgusting. Instead he takes out his comb from his back pocket and use it to trill the poo inch by inch till it´s out of harm’s way and then puts the comb back where it belongs.

On the corner of Hickory Street and Main Street there is a small house with a flat roof. A woman of indeterminable age was living there. You know: the kind of person that looks the same kind of old from weither they are 50 years old or 100 years old. Her name was Susan and she was no taller than 5 feet.

The house was placed a bit back on the property and on the front there were rows and columns of grave stones for sale. Every once in a while a truck would pull up and two broad shouldered men with hair between their teeth would lift the stones one by one off of the truck and set them on display using straps.

One day one of the regulars had died and a new guy replaced him. He was a younger man, about 35 years old or so and he seemed like the kind of man you didn´t want to get in trouble with.

As usual they started loading of the truck as Stone Susan came out to them complaining how they handled the stones:

"Set those stones down on a straight line!" she yelled, "how am I supposed to sell anyting if you just toss them wherever you like!? People would think this is a jewish graveyard that isn´t cared for!"

The new guy certainly wasn´t going to put up with that kind of verbal abuse, so he yelled back at her: "Do you have any idea how heavy these things are? You better behave, Lady! We´re doing the best we can!"

 But Stone Susan wasn´t ready to let it go. "Oh, please, just do your jobs! Are you men or are you mice?" she said with contempt.

The new guy had just about enough and he looked her straight in the eye and pulled what he thought was an ace: "If you don´t stop this right now, you can bl....y unload the stones yourself!" He looked to his partner with a winners smile, but much to his surprise his partner suddenly dropped everything he had in his hands and jumped in behind the steering wheel and shut the door!

If Stone Susan was in a good mood that day or she just gave him some ekstra slack because he was new is still a mystery, but she didn´t say anything.

Instead she just stepped up to the back of the truck, put her short arms around the nearest stone, lifted it off with her bare hands and placed it on the ground as if it was an empty card board box... The new guy stood completely still, baffled by what had just happened and the man playing hide and seek in the truck cautiously opened the door and being convinced that the danger was over he stepped out and joined his partner.

After a short silence, the men finished unloading the truck and none of them, nor Susan, ever talked about it since. 

Just across the street from number 5 there is an empty house and a sign saying “For Sale.” The sign is marked by dust and wind and the McKays living next to it secretly hopes it will stay that way. Mr. McKay owns Café Ireland at the corner of Hickory Street and Taylor Avenue and hopes that one day he can save enough money to buy that property to expand. But he does get his way and this is where our story really begins…