Note to the Reader:

Hello and welcome to Orange Heights. This blog has migrated a few times, so the entry dates might be a little confusing. Apologies...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chapter 23: Your usual scream

That was fast, thought Maureen, as she recognized Naomi's scream. How could it be that a new neighbor, less than a week on the Avenue, could be facing peril again, such that she would scream for help and be instantly recognizable?

Maureen had been dozing in a green plastic lawn chair, contemplating her tomato plants, when she heard Naomi. The Friday afternoon was warm, reassuring to Maureen, who had planted her tomatoes and peppers the week earlier. Though she never put it into words, and rarely into thoughts, her garden was important. The spring planting, the summer watering and waiting, and August bounty of tomatoes and peppers reflected order in what often looked like a random and chaotic universe. While each summer brought a challenge -- bunnies, blight, the groundhog Dylan had named Garth -- there was a certainty to the process. Seeds, sun and water yielded plants. No more, no less.

Stretching, Maureen considered Naomi and her scream. Was there a real factor to the scream? She decided not, though she could, perhaps should, walk around to the front of the house to see what was going on. Slowly, she stood and gazed at the yard.

The garden plot was the same each year, the same sunny side of the yard that her grandfather had planted before her, staked out when Orange Heights was a smaller town, and very different. In the 1930s, when her great-grandfather worked for the railroad, the family lived next to the tracks. When the train whistle blew, her great-grandfather rushed out of the tiny house to release the barriers on Orange Heights Avenue, which stopped pedestrian and horse traffic and allowed the train to pass safely. The rush of the train's iron wheels on the metal tracks rattled the windows of the house, and the downtown noises of horses, carriages, and trade meant noise, always noise. No wonder he sought another neighborhood, once he had a dollar or two in his pocket.

Great-grandpa Geary, known always as Gear, both for his last name and his habit of tinkering with machinery, chose a house on Third Street, backing onto Orange Heights Avenue. When his brother followed, and a sister brought her children to the area, the street became known as "Geary's Alley." As he told the story, every house held a Geary by birth or marriage.

His son, Maureen's grandfather, was born and raised on Third Street. His childhood, thought Maureen, was a cross between The Little Rascals and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; it sounded charming in recollection, but her father, Al, and brothers skipped school, rode on the back of trash trucks, and generally made life hell for their mother. She died young, probably worn out by the effort of raising four boys and two girls.

Maureen walked around to the front of her house, brushing against the rose bushes that would soon bloom yellow. She heard raised voices, angry voices, but not hurt or fearful.

She found Naomi in tears, red-faced and looking away. Facing her was Cole, arms folded across his chest, looking angry. His dog whimpered next to him.


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