Monday, December 13, 2010

The Man Next Door. Chapter 20.

Daughter: I just saw a dead man lying in the street!

Mother: Where?

Daughter: Not far from the station, just past the little shop.

Mother: What did he look like?

Daughter: Middle-aged, with grey hair.

Mother: Maybe he's the man who begun begging there a few days ago. Yesterday he was half lying on the footpath and there was something angry and unpleasant about him.

I guessed he was drunk, but maybe he looked angry because he just wanted to be drunk.

Are you sure he was really dead.?

Daughter: Well, I had a good look at him, and he didn't seem to be alive.

Mother: Not much can be done for him now, if he really is dead.


Mother: Since I didn't have time to cook anything for lunch today it was lucky that I managed to buy the last bbq chicken at the shop. On my way there I saw the extremely fat man coming back with his usual purchase of two bbq chickens, and I hoped he hadn't bought the last two.

Daughter: You know, I've noticed that the extremely fat man has a pointy nose and a pointy chin, so that his face looks like the face you sometimes see drawn on the moon.


Mother: I saw the man you thought was dead sitting begging again, in the same place.


Daughter: The man I thought was dead has disappeared.

Mother: Yes, I haven't seen him either. I wonder what became of him.

He reminded me of a man I began to see in Redfern Street some time ago.

That man was respectably dressed, but he seemed to be homeless. He would stretch out on the busy footpath, his few belongings nearby in a shopping trolley.

He always seemed to be very angry, and one day, as he crossed the road, he shouted out ..."I wish I hadn't been born!"


Daughter: Today I saw the extremely fat man in shorts.

Mother: What on earth did he look like!

Daughter: Better than I expected. His shorts were very long and tapered, and below them you could see very slim ankles, and small, narrow, pointy feet.

Mother: I wonder what he looked like before he got fat, when he worked as a doorman at that posh hotel in the city.

I imagine he got fat after his mother died. Maybe from eating too many bbq chickens.

Daughter: I wonder how he spends his time these days, and what it's like inside his house.

Mother: Maybe his house hasn't changed much since it was built.

He's been living there since he was born, so he knows all about this area,.... what it used to be like and how it has changed. He remembers all the factories that used to be around here, and he told me which ones have been turned into apartment buildings.

He's got so much knowledge to pass on that it's hard to get away from him, once he gets you to stop and talk.

I've only done that once, but I now and again see him waiting outside, leaning on his fence, watching people go by and looking for someone to talk to.

He knows all the details about recent, and not so recent, house sales around much the houses were sold for,....this time and previous times, ....lots of details about the new owners and the old owners, and even the new owners' plans for the houses.

I wish I'd thought to ask him about our house, and the man next door's house. He would know a lot about the previous owners and about previous tenants.

He could have told me about the cat lady who used to rent our house. Maybe one of her cats got stuck in the space above the stove. It's interesting the way cat bones and assorted debris still sometimes fall down onto  the stove through a crack above it.

Daughter: I hope you will stop cooking on that side of the stove, even though that's where the large hot plate is.

Mother: Before we stop talking about the extremely fat man,.... I heard him talking to someone out the front of our house one day, on a surprising topic.

He knew all about recent court cases involving women who have embezzled money belonging to their employers, then gambled it away on poker machines. He must be very fascinated by that sort of thing.


Mother: I've been hearing noises through my wall, and the cru...ack,...cru...ack sound of a staple gun.

The man next door must be at home, and he must be stapling back the fallen strips of sisalation that I've recently seen hanging down from under his roof.

I thought he finished that job a year or so ago, after he removed the ceiling.

At that time, when the light was on upstairs, it was possible to see the blue of sisalation covering the under surface of the roof.

Daughter: He seems to have problems in securing sisalation.

Mother: Yes. Last time he was at home he again covered the glassless window above the kitchen door with sisalation, but now it has slipped right down again so that once more it just covers the wall below the window, and the top of the kitchen door.

Daughter: The man next door doesn't make his presence felt much when he returns home these days.

Mother: He usually has a girlfriend with him, and it would be interesting to see whether it's his old girlfriend, or a new one.

I did see him a few days ago, out the front, at his vehicle.

I was struck by how much redder his face seemed, and how swollen it looked.

Maybe the cause is something other than sunburn.

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