2 May 2013
Know your neighbor
How well do you know your neighbor? Visiting my cousin in a farming community in Vacaville, there is no telling who actually lives next to you. My cousin Albert, a tall slender goofy man who is very animated, offers me a job helping him take down and trim a neighbors crops. “Hey Raph! You wanna make some money?” Albert asks me knowing I hate it when he calls me “Raph”. “Doing what?” I respond in an irritated tone. “Miss Martha has a late crop ready to cut and she needs help, but there is over 10 plants bigger than me,” he proudly tells me, “and I can't do it alone.”. I hesitate, knowing that the crop is marijuana! Remembering this assignment, I decide this could be the perfect opportunity to complete my profile. “Do you think Miss Martha will let me interview her for my English paper?” I ask Albert “You know how she is. She probably won't trip.” replies Albert, referring to the intoxicated state Miss Martha is usually in. “Well tell her I'm down to put in some work, if she lets me ask her a few questions.”. On the ride to Vacaville, I thought of the questions that I would ask Miss Martha. I wanted to know things like “when did she start growing her own Marijuana?” and “What was the most money she had ever made from Marijuana?” and “Has she ever been robbed or went to jail from being a participant in the production of an illegal substance?” but I wasn't too sure of how she would take question like these. Miss Martha is a very cautious women. I have heard stories she carries a shotgun everywhere she goes, and isn't afraid to use it. I think I will be cautious myself when I begin asking such questions. Albert has lived next door to Miss Martha for 15 years and I have never been in her house or asked her anything, until today.
Pulling up to my cousins neighborhood at night is like a scary movie. There is not a single street lamp on the loose gravel road that leads to Albert's house. Trees, horses, cows, dogs and heaven knows what else, seem to be freely walking about the perimeter of each house I creep pass. The smell leaves you wishing you had nose plugs. Nothing but cow, pig, and horse droppings fill the air with a distinct odor. Finally getting to the entrance of Albert's property, and his dogs begin to bark with the ferocity of a mother wolf protecting her cubs. Reluctant to get out of the car with the wolf pack standing guard, I honk twice to signal for my cousin. With the window cracked I yell to albert “Man get yo crazy dogs!” Laughing as he comes out the garage of the beautiful freshly painted blue and white house with manicured rose bushes along the perimeter and a lawn to rival a golf course, he yells to me, “Come on cousin the dogs remember you, they won't bite you.” I bravely open my door and the barking stops. What a relief, the dogs backed off and began searching the ground for scraps from dinner earlier tonight. Albert was ready to take me over to Miss Martha's house so we headed next door.
The walk over to Miss Martha's five acre property was bone chilling from the night air, the hundreds of animal eyes aimed at me and the symphony of ambient sounds that rang my ears. Crickets scream loudly, bull frogs belch a tune, and that smell of fresh feces is still stuck in my close. Albert and I walk through a rather sturdy bar fence up to what appears to be a run down crack house. Knock knock knock.... “Who the hell is it!?!” an old southern ladies voice shouts. “Its Me” says Albert. “Y'all c'mon in!” she replies. From the outside, the house looks as if the once white but now rusted brown and chipped paint was put on over 30 years ago. The garage door was clearly inoperable, it looks as if someone drove into it and then tried to push the dent out by hand. The front door has a mesh screen with holes throughout and is holding on by a tread. The screen door squeals in agony as it struggles to open and close. The shingles on the...