The blue car is my nemesis. It flouts the rules–ignores the Do Not Enter sign, blows past the Yield, speeds down the narrow one-way alley sandwiched between the garages and drives. Its engine revs, its music blasts, its rolled-up tinted windows like sunglasses on the young, too hip and insolent to look a person in the eye.
I’d restrained myself from raising my fist into the air and shaking it in the time-worn salute of the old and crotchety. I’d considered calling the police, but I hadn’t wanted to sound like another helpless blue-hair, mewling about a little noise in the neighborhood.
So today I have a plan. I hobble down my driveway, a yellow pack of stickies and a pen jammed into my housecoat pocket. I’ll get the license plate number and THEN call the police. This way, I’ll have something to offer. Assuming I can see the plates. Those black blobs blipping across my eyes–floaters, they’re called–like to sashay by at the most inconvenient times. But I’m determined to at least try.
My garbage can, empty after the morning pick-up, squats like a big, green sentinel at the drive’s edge. The can, its handle jutting like a collarbone, reaches almost to my shoulder. I lean an elbow on it. I have all day.
Mr. Meyer waddles over, his dog Ferdinand in tow. I turn away. Where are those floaters when I need them? Mr. Meyer is likable enough, until he begins rambling about how Ferdinand was once a great show dog–how judges gasped in awe, fans applauded and a few women even swooned at the mere sight of him. I find it all hard to believe. The creature on the leash looks like the fluff and stuff a person scrapes out of a dryer’s lint trap. Only with a couple of teeth.
But I don’t say anything. Just like I didn’t say anything when Abby asked if I liked her new pin, the one resembling a gold roach crawling on her bosom. Just like I didn’t say anything when the paperboy tossed my paper in the wet grass. Just like I didn’t say anything about the blue car. I’d always thought that once I became an old lady, I’d speak my mind, polite society be damned. I’d always thought that was one of the benefits of growing old. Instead, I keep quiet, not wanting to draw attention to myself, not wanting to offend, not wanting to annoy anyone with comments from my allegedly atrophying brain.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Popple.” Mr. Meyer tugs Ferdie’s leash with a feeble arm. Ferdie flops on the pavers.
“Do you need some assistance with your trash can?”
“No, thank you. I’m just leaning on it. Waiting.”
“Well, then, we’ll just wait with you.” He grins, yellow teeth too small for his big round face. White wisps of hair, aided by a cool breeze, escape his roughened scalp. They wave at me, happy to be free from the comb-over. Ferdie makes a noise between a gasp and a fart. I wrinkle my nose at the pair of them.
“What is it we’re waiting for?”
“That blue car, the one that races through here going the wrong way. I’m going to get the plates and report it.”
“How exciting!” He looks up and down the alley. “You know, on TV, it’s always the elderly neighbor whom the detectives interview.”
“I suppose it’s because the elderly are always home, looking out the window, keeping an eye on things.” He chuckles. “True enough.”
“Well, that’s just silly. I’m not always looking out my window. Are you?”
He purses his flabby lips in thought. “No-o-o.”
“See. And why are they only watching the crime? Why not try and stop it?”
“Why? Because they’re old, Mrs. Popple. We’re old. What should we all do? Drag our oxygen tanks out into the front yard to confront a gunman? Wave our walkers at hoodlums stealing our hubcaps?” He shakes his head. “Leave the crime-fighting to the young people. We’re out of the action, Mrs. Popple. Join me on the sidelines, enjoy the view.”
An engine growls in the distance.
“Oh, get ready,” Mr. Meyer says. “You get the letters, I’ll get the numbers.”
The car’s radio bombards us with bass, the noise bounces off the garages’ walls. I reach for the pen in my pocket, then stop. The nose of the car pokes around the corner. I slide my hand along the garbage can’s handle. The car turns and heads toward us, its blue snout low to the ground like a rutting pig.
I shove the garbage can out into the alley, my flabby arm surprising me with its strength. The can rolls on its two back wheels, then settles.
The car’s brakes shriek as it pulls up short, just shy of smashing the can. The music stops, the sound cut as if cleaved with an axe. The quiet hangs over us.
My heart thuds. My throat squeezes out my breath like an over-wrung toothpaste tube. Mr. Meyer moans, and Ferdie whimpers. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
What have I done? With trembling fingers I reach out… to do what? Take it back? Ask forgiveness?
But then the car seems to shiver on its tires. It jerks its way into reverse and skulks back the way it came, an animal with its tail between its legs.
“Bravo, Mrs. Popple. Bravo!” Mr. Meyer claps. Even Ferdie yips, and lets loose a puddle of piddle.
I clench those trembling fingers into a fist and raise it in the air, shaking it at the sky in the salute of the old and crotchety… and triumphant.
Madeline Mora-Summonte writes from one extreme to the other–from flash fiction to novels. She lives in Florida, with her husband.