Who are your neighbors? Are you friends with them, barely say hi, or avoid them altogether? Tell us a story — real or invented — about the people on the other side of your wall (or street, or farm, or… you get the point).
Photographers, artists, poets: show us NEXT DOOR.
“Are ya hungry? I made ya some pancakes.”
Is he talking to me? I looked up from my weeding, towards Jimmy’s house across the street. He was standing on the front steps, tossing little pancakes onto his tidy square of lawn.
Oh good, he’s just talking to birds. I adored the old man, but it could be hard to get away, once Jimmy started talking. He was so hard of hearing, conversations were loud and awkward.
Old Jimmy had lived on our street longer than anybody. He had forty years worth of 38th street stories saved up. He’d known all the families that had ever lived on our street, including the original owners of my little house. He once told me how the man that had built our house had worked for months building a beautiful pony cart for his wife to ride around in. The day he finished the cart, he hitched the pony up to it and the pony promptly kicked it to smithereens. Jimmy laughed so hard he had to wipe his eyes every time he told that story.
I was happy to know that little bit of history. Imagine, a pony on 38th street!
“Well come on! Come and get yer pancakes.” He was talking to a pair of crows, perched on the wires above. The crows swooped down to claim their pancakes. They tore them up and gulped them down until their craws and beaks were overflowing, then flew away to hide their stash.
I’d never thought of feeding the crows. I fed the little birds and squirrels, but never crows.
Jimmy had no pets. He didn’t need any. He fed stray cats on his front porch. Whenever he saw my dog, he’d call over, “Ya want a cookie? Well, come on!” Buddy would wait by the screen door while Jimmy went inside to get a “cookie”, then run home to munch it on our lawn.
When Evelyn was alive, I’d see them sitting together on the front steps on hot summer evenings, drinking iced tea, reading the paper. The neighbor kids congregated there too, listening to his stories, eating Evelyn’s cookies, cartwheeling on their lawn. They had no kids of their own, but they watched a generation grow up on our street.
Evelyn had been gone ten years. The neighbor kids grew up and moved away. Jimmy’s nephew looked in on him. He needed help around the house, but would not accept any. Neighbors brought him dinners. His eyesight got so bad, he had to quit driving. The nephew made arrangements to move Jimmy to assisted living. Jimmy couldn’t bear the thought of leaving his home and losing his independence.
I couldn’t believe it, that snowy day when I heard the news. He’d taken his own life.
I started feeding crows, after that day I’d seen Jimmy doing it. Once they know you’re a feeder, crows don’t forget. They tell their friends and relatives. It got so they followed me on walks and waited on wires outside my door. They’d fly alongside my car for blocks. I wondered if neighbors ever noticed.
Last December we drove past our old house. We’ve been away three years now. Everything looked just the same on 38th street, but none of the people we knew are there anymore.
The crows remembered us though. They followed our car and flew alongside, just like the old days. I was ecstatic. It was the most exciting part of the trip. I felt terrible that I didn’t have a peanut or a cracker or anything to feed them, so I went to the corner store and bought a bag of cat kibbles, went back to 38th street and dribbled them all the way down the street, followed by a little flock of crows.
My love of crows, ravens and all things corvid began because of old Jimmy, that day I saw him throwing pancakes.