We were broke! I wanted on welfare so bad. Good God we would’ve been rich! I was looking for odd jobs to use up my spare time since I only worked 65-70 hours pr week. Pete asked me about my 40′ ladder. “Do you think you can trim some rogue branches in my tree?”
I knew the right answer!
We wrangled out an agreement for $100 and I couldn’t wait till Saturday. Pete said Saturday would be the best because there was gonna be a big party that night. I asked Dave and Linda (next door neighbors) a few days later about the party and they didn’t know about it. I even asked Kevin and Mike and it was news to them but they were game for a good time.
Saturday came and at about 10 AM I was ready to go. I jogged across the four lane with a 40′ ladder and started looking for saws and equipment. That got some attention and pretty soon Kevin started trying to help. At first I kept chasing him off as I needed the money and didn’t want to share but pretty soon I gave in.
With Pete yelling incomplete and partially incoherent instructions while I hung onto the ladder using one of those extendo saws duct taped to a broom handle, Kevin worked the ropes. Dave and Dewayne moved brush and we worked up quite a sweat.
Different neighbors came and went and by 3 or so the whole yard was cleaned up so guys started asking me for their share of the earnings. I asked Pete about money and he said “come in and have a drink and we’ll figure it all out”. Drinking this time of day at Pete’s usually included making a little food so 7 o’clock came around about the same time as all the neighbor folks.
“Hey Kenny, it’s about time you got paid for a good days work don’t ya think?” He fumbled around in his wallet while a lot of yelling went on about how much everyone thought their share was.
We split up and I had 10 bucks in my hand and the place got quiet as people scurried off. “Lets go for a ride Kenny”. We dropped Kevin off at a place where he knew a guy who had a friend (you know the drill) and we found our way to the liquor store. On the way back we picked up Kevin and Sandy and headed back to Pete’s
DeWayne, Dave and Mike were talking with Corey and Linda a couple of houses down so when we piled out the party started.
Several hours later Pete was waxing philosophically when he started in.
“You know what I like about this neighbor hood Kenny?” I smiled and waited. I loved these talks. “We still know how to be neighbors. Mnyeah, mnyeah. Most people now days don’t know how to work together and play together. All my friends from the old days are dead but here I am with a whole new generation of friends. I’ve been having yard parties in this exact spot for over 50 years and here we are.”
That went on late into the night as I started to see a glimpse into the life of a man who had lived long ago but was still here. When dead people were alive and when old people were young and beautiful.
I might have fallen asleep. I’m pretty sure he had too.
Kevin was laughing just as the leg of his plastic chair gave out and DeWayne pulled him out of a bush. Mike had enough and headed home.
“Good night Kenny. You’re a good friend.” “Good night Pete. Thanks for a great day”
That Saturday morning $100 was the most important thing in the world. By Saturday night I felt like I’d made a thousand.
The cool summer breeze felt cold. I felt like a part of something. Something meaningful.
I was learning to be a neighbor.