From Banana Rustlers: Stories
The police officer strode across the street. We watched him from where we all stood on the front porch, which faced the house he’d been called to at our request. He looked upset, a little angry, even. We could only imagine the horror he’d witnessed inside the house across the street after the horror we’d had to witness from our own yard.
He stopped on the sidewalk in front of our house and let one foot rest on the concrete, the other on a huge stone to the side of the walk leading to our front door. Sunglasses perched on his head, he squinted and took a pad of paper from his front pocket.
“Now listen. Ya’ll stop calling us about the lady across the street, all right? The first coupla times, we got a chuckle, just wrote y’all off as harmless weirdoes or what have you.”
Father started to speak, but the police officer held up a hand.
“I don’t wanna hear it! Crazy train stops here, all right?” He flipped the cover on his notebook and looked down. “These complaints are goddamn stupid, okay? That lady’s house is purple because she likes purple, all right? It’s not painted purple to make it easier for drug addicts to find it. She’s not a drug pusher. She likes purple, is all. There’s no crime in having a purple house. It’s a free country, all right, and people can paint their houses lime green or neon pink if they have a mind to. Looks like your house could use a coat of beige vomit or shit-muckle-dun or whatever color it used to be–I see more wood than paint, that’s for sure.”
He looked back at his pad of paper. “Says here you reported,” he said and stopped. Looked down. Looked up at us again. “Miss Peppermint? Her last name is Pentimento, not Peppermint. Probably Italian or something. You say she’s got wolves chained up in the back of her house that she sets loose when there’s a full moon. I went back there, okay, and it’s just a couple Cocker Spaniels. They live inside, mostly, but when the weather’s nice, they stay out back of the property in little houses that Miss Pentimento made with her own two hands, all right? And don’t call again about the–” he held the pad up closer to his face for a moment,
“—whatever the hell this says. Demonic familiars? Staring from the windows? Those’re cats! Cats! They nap on the window sills, all right, the way cats like to do. They’re not trying to hypnotize you from across the street, okay?”
“But we’ve seen her staring right at us from her front yard with all kinds of menacing, motorized spell-casting tools!” Father shouted, pointing past the police officer.
“Did you hear what I said before? Cut out the cuckoo bird bullshit!” the police officer shouted. “I can tell from the looks of this place y’all’ve never heard of mowers, all right, or hedge trimmers or weed eaters. That’s what we call lawn care equipment here in the real world, all right, not spell-casting tools. You need to get acquainted with the likes of it, or the city might give you a ticket before all’s said and done.”
“So this is how you treat concerned citizens trying to keep their neighborhood safe?” Father asked. “We lodge legitimate complaints, but then we get threatened instead of the perpetrators? Miss Peppermint clearly practices witchcraft against us, oh, but she gets the pass!”
The police officer swung his arm up and motioned at us with the notepad still in his hand. “No more calls! Is that clear? Do. You. Under. Stand me?”
Father said nothing. We looked at each other, then back at the police officer.
“Now, y’all have a good day. Get a life. Put in a new window where you got that hole covered with cardboard and plastic. Mow your goddamned lawn before you get a snake colony started,” he said, then moved his shades down to cover his eyes. “If you don’t leave that lady alone, I’m gonna advise her to sue the shit outta you, all right?”
He turned and walked in the direction of the city cruiser parked in front of the witch’s house, the blue lights still seeming to flash and spin at us, Father let us know, like the eyes and hands of a stage mesmerist.
Mother advised us to cover our eyes and run inside as fast as possible.