Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Shed

"Inch Worm, Inch Worm, measuring the Marigolds you and your arithmetic you'd probably to far. Inch worm, inch worm measuring the marigolds seems to me you'd stop and see how beautiful they are."

It was summer. A day of play and ease. I had heard often from neighbours, from the adults in the household where I lived at the time, "they really should cut down that unused shed, it's a danger, it's not safe."

I guess I will always wonder why the adults, the neighbours, the members of the block union did not follow through on the concern, the hunch to have the vacant shed torn down.. A streetcar track ran between and separated the blocks of Kensington Place and McMillion Street, in this primarily,residential neighbour. The fact of a storage shed once owned by a family who had recent moved away, still stood, lurked about like a fathom.

"Boy! I wish they would tear down that old shed" I once heard one of the children of the area say. "After all, ghost might hang out there or something worse."

The amazement or the nostalgia of a community which had never been touched by tragedy parallels that of a venerable utopia. The crimes and horrors heard on the nightly news were events that always, I surmised, always, happened somewhere else.

There was a four family flat directly across the street from the single family house where I lived. It was alright with the neighbourhood that a non-single family dwelling was situated in the center of the block on this almost exclusive single family housing area. Since the occupants of the flat worked in semi-professional occupations, they were accepted. With three of the ladies occupants being school teachers and their husband's worked in various fields like aircraft mechanics or steel mill workers, they were not snubbed, after all, they were respectable church goers. Historically, the same family had lived in the mentioned flat for two generations now. So, when the unexpected death of the patriarch of the family caused his wife to move with her sister, everyone assumed that the tradition of renting only to their family members' would be sustained.

The Harrison family owned the flat and had not rented to anyone not a family member since the structure had been built. In this close knit neighborhood everyone was somewhat like family. Everyone in the 4700 block of Kensington Place knew the other neighbor's on a first name exchange. There was very little visiting in and out of neighbour's home; but neighbours always, I mean always. spoke and exchanged pleasantries on chance meetings.

When the new neighbours moved in, no welcoming committee greeted them. After all, this was the first time someone not known by someone else in the community had moved into this community for over twenty years.

The woman of the new family did not work outside of the home and the husband was in maintenance. They had one child, a daughter and she was perhaps eight or nine. It was rumored that the husband worked more than one job and was rarely at home. I heard that the late Mr. Harrison had been the new neighbour's supervisor while developing a friendship and feeling a little sorry for the cordial man. It was said that Mr. Harrison had told his wife that the man had never gotten a break in life and wanted to move into a neighbourhood where his daughter would be able to attend a good school. Furthermore, it was told that the man one day mentioned to the tender hearted Mr. Harrison, that people did not think that a man who cleaned toilets and mopped floors had dreams. It was reported that Mr. Harrison promised the down-trotted man that if ever a place in his flat became available, he would have an opportunity to move his family into a better neighbourhood. Probably, Harrison never believed there would be an opening in his building, but, still, life's full of the unpredictable.

Consequently, when the humble janitor one day appeared on the door step of the widow Harrison, espousing his respect and admiration for her late husband while sharing his ambition for creating a better life for his family, that staging seemed to have been the catalyse needed by Mrs. Harrison to move with her also widowed sister who had been pleading for her company. Displeased with the decision, the community words were. "Well, we will have to keep a close watch on that new family," so decided the block union board members as well.

Not surprisingly, the new family never really passed the acceptability test. The decision was made and upheld not to invite the young eight year old girl to the Watkins' weekly, homemade ice cream party, after all, too little was known about the family and especially since a man had started visiting the household often while the head of the household was not at home.

When it was later learned that the frequent male visitor was the husband's brother, the party invitation was still withheld when a second questioned rose retarding,why the brother had so much time on his hands since he was seen visiting during the day. as well as late evening. How it was learned that the brother worked as a independent handyman and wanting to make sure that his sister-in-law and niece were safe and doing okay in the new neighbourhood, his frequent appearances did not cause fewer questions.

How is it that close consanguinity shame can often sinks deeper than that of the perpetrators? Could that factor hinge on previous denial. The internal mental batting away of obvious facts and signs. The escaped phrases which do not retract like the slivering snake's tongue, "My brother could never do the things of which he was accused. His so good with my daughter. He could never hurt a child."

After the new neighbours had been in the community for six months or a little longer, unusual things began to happen, in this traditionally predictable neighbourhood. The Parkers' pedigree Afghan Hound was nowhere to be found one evening when they arrived home. Bill Johnson's prized Motobecane Fly mountain bike was not in his unlocked backyard storage unit the weekend of an amateur race. At first, it just seemed too easy to blame the neighbour's brother; but what was the other rationale.

An emergency block union meeting was called when the Smith's lawnmower along with the O'Neil's most adorable Coton de Tutear puppy vanished. Of course, the children of the neighbour were never told what was discussed at the meeting. Unless, somehow, something was over heard by curious little ears. The only thing known by those who became the most affected by the new neighbour's sibling threat was the feeling of totally powerlessness mingled with fear.

I, for one, suddenly, without fully realizing the fact, began to quicken my gait when returning from the corner candy store with my daily purchase of a Hostess cupcake. When the Stevenson's pet collie, Colonel, the neighbourhood children's favored pet, one afternoon was not to be found, Kensington Place became forever changed. Like, an undetected slow leak, gradually, the standards of the community changed and deflated. After the brutal rapes one day of three elementary school girls in the vacant shed, the previous question of whose responsibility it was to tear down the storage facility was never asked again.

The powerless often suffer from the procrastination and indifference of those in the position of decision-making and authority. It is not acceptable that daily humankind must lives with invisible stingers. These stingers being criminal injustices such as, plausible deniability, for reason of national security, and the arrogance which refuses to answer for its crimes.

Maryam Ruhullah

"I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frostwork, but the solidest things we know. For now, after so many ages of experience, what do we know of nature, or of ourselves? Not one step has man taken toward the solution of the problems of his destiny." Ralph Waldo Emerson

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