- Turtlenecks and Tank Tops in the Heart of Kansas City
Nobody knows how Mr. O’Brien fell off his roof and broke his leg. Nobody was there to see it happen. He blamed it all on account of an arrowhead stuck in the gutters. The way he told it, he was bending over, shimmying an arrowhead loose from some old muck and leaves, when the Indians pushed him over. He heard in the wind the crying of a thousand horses just before he felt the shove of a red hand. The next thing he knew he was eating dirt and his leg was pointing the wrong way. For three weeks he hobbled around on crutches looking for the arrowhead, but he never found it. The day he gave up searching, he put up a For Sale sign in his front yard, packed up his van, and drove off to the plains of Montana, where, some say, he got to wearing cowboy hats.
A month later, Jenny and her daddy moved in.
The first time they showed their faces, they had a mad look in their eyes. They had driven twelve hours straight in Jenny’s daddy’s truck with the dented-in fender and rusted panels hanging over the sides like apple peels. My folks and I were watching them move tables and chairs into the old O’Brien house, when Mama said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we all said hello and greeted the newbies in the morning?” The following morning we did just that.
“Welcome, neighbors! We see from your Ohio plates that you come from far out East to join our little community.”
“The heavy snows take some getting used to. I can lend you some chains to tie around your tires when the wintertime comes.”
“Is this here your daughter?”
“She’s lovely as a kitten.”
Jenny watched us from behind her daddy’s right side. I figured she was nervous with my folks talking about her. She was biting down and tugging on her marmalade sleeve. She had a pretty face — the kind of pretty that made it easy to get lost just looking: her blue-green eyes were like shimmering seashells; her cheeks were cherry blossoms; her nose was a Hershey Kiss; and her ears were pointed like a bunny’s. [End Page 27]
Mama and Pop after an awkward silence: “Well, we’ll leave you to your unpacking and such. Remember we’re around the corner.”
Jenny’s daddy: “Adios.”
I wanted to say something then, something witty and smart, or anything at all, but by the time I opened my mouth her daddy had already closed the door in our faces.
The next day, my folks gave another go at being neighborly and invited Jenny and her daddy to a picnic in the park. Much to our surprise, they accepted.
Pop set up the checkered cloth as Mama laid out the tuna casserole, avocado dressing, spinach lasagna, macaroni salad, raisin nut loaf, and assorted-melon fruit bowl. Jenny and her daddy showed up half an hour late with a six-pack of Budweiser and their dog Crenshaw trailing behind, wagging its tail after them. Crenshaw had black and white patches all over. He looked like a bandit. And it was all fitting, I guess. The way they were, they could all be bandits.
Jenny sat across from me and the macaroni salad. She was dressed in a light green jacket zipped up to the collar. I watched as she ran her fingers through her hair, leaned back on her elbows, and gave me a look out of the corner of her eye that all but said, Gregory Menckiewiezce, I like your style. The truth is I wasn’t sure she knew my name. But I didn’t want to ask her and find out that she did. I didn’t want to look dumb.
Neither Jenny nor her daddy was much for talking. But my folks did their best to engage them in conversation and pointed out all the different...