When it snows, the old man across the street begins shoveling immediately. He scraps straight perfect rows down his driveway, piling the half inch of accumulated snow into tiny piles at the curb. When he is done with the last row, he starts over with the first so that the snowflakes barely have time to land much less layer themselves to a depth worth removing. It is as if the flakes are poison to his concrete.
I watch him from my office window. He is the same old man who yelled at my kids when their ball once rolled in his yard. “Get out of here, you monsters,” he screamed, standing on his porch and waving his arms at them. “Get out of my yard!”
Once on the street, he passed me on the sidewalk, then stopped, turned around and screamed at me. “You can’t put trash in someone else’s garbage bin!” “Of course, I can,” I responded, “The bin is on the sidewalk and belongs to the city.”
“You and your filthy dogs.”
In the summer, the old man mows his lawn. Sometimes when he finishes his lawn, he mows the lawn of his neighbor. When the neighbor man comes home, he often seems surprised that his lawn has been mowed and it seems, although it is impossible to be sure, that he is uncomfortable with receiving a favor he hadn’t requested. I wonder why he mows his neighbor’s lawn but yells at me and my children.
When a car pulls into his driveway to turn around, he will stop what he is doing and stare at the driver as if deciding whether to go in his house and unlock his shotgun from the cabinet he spent the morning polishing. Even though he isn’t looking at me, I feel the stare and am glad I am in my house, upstairs, watching from the window.
Sometimes, I see him when I am driving. He will stop walking and look at me, trespassing on his public road. Then I am glad for my car, the steel of it and the windows that roll up. I look straight ahead pretending to ignore him. He knows different.
It can make me angry, how awful the old man is. I imagine running my car up on the sidewalk and stopping inches from his knees and staring him down. But I don’t have the ability. I’m not that mean.
Once when my husband and I were walking, we turned the corner and met up with the old man. He stopped and started his stare, began a sentence. I froze, waiting for him to swear at me. My husband stepped forward, waved his hand at the old man, dismissing him. “Move along,” he said. The old man hesitated but only for seconds. I was glad but it wasn’t enough. I wanted more, not just a “frost, a killing frost” that would extinguish his meanness and make him be kind to me.
Written in response to a Write on Edge challenge: 500 words on this quote from Shakespeare: “The third day comes a frost, a killing frost.”