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    SUZYMOBILE   129,202
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The Rest of the OTHER Story

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A few days later I found out the real story. The sock and the Bible still don’t fit with everything else. I bet they were just tossed in that recliner for no reason at all.

But this is what really happened. Or one man's view of it anyway.

I was out walking, midday on a hot Sunday afternoon, not a stupid soul out except me determined to grind out five miles in spite of the Florida heat. To entice myself to go a little farther, I told me, “Maybe, just maybe, there will be some neighbor outside mowing their grass near the puke-green house, and maybe, just maybe, I can ask them what happened there. … Nah, are you crazy, girl? Nobody is going to be just OUT, in that place exactly, on a hot afternoon. … But, hell, let’s go anyhow!”

I rounded the big corner where the house sits, taking in the entire, poor, empty yard to see if there was any remnant of the former owners, any box or bin or toy that they’d forgotten in the weeds and I’d missed before. And there, next door, was an old fellow pushing a wheelbarrow across his lawn down toward the street. I couldn’t believe it. I said to my reticent self, “Okay, so don’t get excited now. If he gets within hailing distance by the time you pass by, hail him for Chrissakes, and just ASK him!”

Flanking the end of his driveway are two white stone lions sitting on their haunches—one decked out in a straw hat, gauzy scarf, and pearls, the other sporting a striped tie and a rakishly arranged fedora. These offered me an obvious opening gambit, so I called out, “Your lions have a sense of humor!”

“They sure do! Those are for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I dress them up for all the holidays. Valentines, St. Pats.”

“I know. There was this house I used to walk past where they dressed up their stone eagles like a Christmas angel with a halo and a jester with a red and green hat with bells on. I’d do it, too, if I had some stone animals.”

“Yep, just somethin’ to do,” he grinned.

“Listen,” I blurted, “I love that house next door. I see it’s all boarded up now, but it sure looks like somebody loved it once. What happened there?”

“Well, I’ll tell ya … Name’s Spencer. Come on over and sit down. I’ll tell you the story.”

Now I’m salivating inside with wanting to know. I hope it doesn’t show.

Mopping his brow from the yardwork, he headed toward two lawn chairs in the shade by his front entryway, and we sat.

“Well, that house. We’ve been here near 27 years, and this old couple was living there even before we moved in.”

He paused to take a swig from his water bottle.

“Gerry passed. And I think Loretta must’ve passed, too. They were from Chicago, and we’re from Chicago, too, so we’d talk, but I didn’t know ‘em real well. Otto down the street, he’s from Chicago, too, but him and Gerry got in an argument years ago, and ‘cause I stayed friends with Otto, Gerry stopped talking to me.”

“That happens sometimes with your neighbors who turn into your friends. Everything can change on an argument, just like it can with family.”

“Yep. Otto is into orchids, and my daughter got into orchids and got us into them, too, so we all talk about the orchids. Anyhow, Loretta must’ve passed, because their grandson moved in and things went down real fast then.”

This is the same story I’ve heard so many times around here that I almost know what he’s going to say before he says it. Our own house followed this same sorry road. The lovable old couple, Curly and Ellen, whom all the neighbors adore, pass one after the other, the house goes to the son, and everything goes to hell in a goddamn big, hot handbasket. The son is dealing drugs, different cars come and go at all hours, the yard goes to hell, a dog gets trapped in the scummy pool and can’t at first get out, the son and various women fight loudly and often, a little girl wanders around in the yard at night because daddy’s with a lady friend, all one big sordid Business.

“Well, he totaled his car and didn’t have insurance, so the police come after him. And he lost his job. I don’t know what come first. Maybe he lost his job and couldn’t afford insurance and then totaled the car. Maybe he lost his job because he’d totaled the car and couldn’t get to the job. I don’t know.”

“It almost doesn’t matter. It’s all one big cycle.”

“Yep. So then he wrecked another car. And this girlfriend moved in with him, and they fought all the time. We could hear ‘em. And one day they just weren’t there anymore. I think I heard he moved to Tampa. The house could be bank owned, I bet it is, but at least somebody still cuts the grass. And you know, they only boarded it up about a month ago. Till then, the shed door was still open.”

So there it was.

We talked a while longer about the staghorn fern big as a bison’s head that had grown into a wrought iron table on his front porch, his orchids, his granddaughter’s drama classes. As I was leaving, I spotted his name on his mailbox: “S.L. Spencer.”

“What did you say your name was? Spencer?”

“Yep.”

“What? You’re Spencer L. Spencer then?”

“No, no,” he laughed. “It’s just easier for people to remember Spencer, instead of Sennett Lafayette Spencer, after my grandpas. Don’t get lost on your way back now.”

I HAD gotten lost, though. Who makes up sappy stories in their head about old ladies quietly passing away while gazing out picture windows, comforted only by a Bible and a sock, anyway?

The truer, better story had just happened to me.
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SILLYHP1953 6/11/2012 3:19PM

    Hmmm...I think I would have liked the story you could have made up better.

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HJFOGARTY 5/19/2012 8:18PM

    ohhh sorry I missed the original version however I also enjoyed this version as well - the typical old story however that house was loved at one time and that Mr. Spencer sounds like a hoot - thanks for sharing and for caring enough to investigate that old house

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SCREWIE 5/9/2012 6:07PM

    Great name!

I so love your blogs, thank you for sharing them :)

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DMF2012 5/9/2012 8:14AM

    Great story, thanks for sharing! And you're right, it's the same old story over and over again. He gets my vote and an A+ for the great old name, Sennett Layfayette - couldn't make that up if you wanted to.

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JERIBERI1 5/9/2012 7:57AM

    I loved this story. You should stop and visit with Spencer more often :-)

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RD03875 5/9/2012 5:53AM

    Interesting story, glad you found out "The Rest of the story" Thanks!

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NEW-CAZ 5/9/2012 3:55AM

    So sad, but nice to hear the rest of the tale.
I think Spencer was glad to see you.
Wonderful writing BTW emoticon

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_LINDA 5/9/2012 1:37AM

    Thanks for finding out what happened. It was very sad for sure. Unfortunately, quite often the sons and daughters simply don't have the work ethic or morals their parents and/or grandparents did. The sons of this company my Mom worked her whole life for came in when he died and absolutely drove the company into the ground, bleeding it dry of money for their own needs and irresponsible management. She was promised a monthly pension but was not even given a good bye gift by these sons for all her years of dedicated service when her bones finally wore out from the heavy lifting job and she had to quit. Still burns me up when I think how unfairly she was treated -they even had the nerve to accuse her of stealing at one point to cover the tracks of their own theft.!! She should have sued for libel! Sometimes, life can be so unfair-the people who don't deserve it are given a break and don't take advantage of it while the ones who work their fingers to the bone have nothing to show for it..

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_UMAMI_ 5/8/2012 11:23PM

    Lives live on through the people who remember.
You've helped honor someone who has passed on.
I LOVE hearing little bits of history like this, which are lost, I'm afraid, too frequently in our live-byte-to-byte age. No snail-mail to get excited about from the (real-world) mailbox, and lots of cell pix people never do much with.

How will we "read" our current era someday?? I wonder.

But I've opened a can of worms, and I'm pooped.
emoticon

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MORTICIAADDAMS 5/8/2012 10:40PM

    Weird. I saw the old man, the old lady, and the young couple, but also a kid - with the old people. So who was the kid I wonder?

Sounds like a story that will repeat itself many times in your area. In my area, almost all the kids leave when they graduate from high school so the houses either sell or die.

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CKAYT56 5/8/2012 10:24PM

    Thanks for finding out what happened to the people who had lived there. With all of the mortgage bank problems....there are empty houses everywhere....all are sad stories just like this one.

Spencer sounds intriguing. Maybe there is another story there.............

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SUZYMOBILE 5/8/2012 9:54PM

    Thanks, friends. When I saw how sad this story made you, I realized that I hadn't really captured how good I felt after talking with Spencer, and how good that whole Florida afternoon really was. So I changed it.

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CARTOONB 5/8/2012 9:01PM

    A sad story. I'm sorry to hear that there are more.

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NORASPAT 5/8/2012 8:30PM

    Kind of a let down but undoubtedly perfectly plausible in this day and age. I wanted to go to Florida for so long. Our friends moved to Cocoa and we went to visit in their condo. It was nothing like I had expected. DH could not take the heat and humidity and I could not take the constant temperature changes hot outside then cold in the A/c. i guess I will be snow blowing for a while to come. HUGS Pat in Maine. Will you be returning to New England for the summer or staying there with the heat. Pat in Maine. HUGS. emoticon emoticon STORY. emoticon

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JOYINKY 5/8/2012 8:02PM

    Sad. But, it is nice to know "the rest of the story". Glad you stopped for a visit with Spencer; I'm betting he is too.

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JANEDOE12345 5/8/2012 7:38PM

    A new angle on the the good life in Florida. It used to be the place where everyone went to enjoy their golden years but you make it sound a bit darker than golden. I have been there several times and honestly could not see past the swampy dankness of the air. Oh, I could understand if you had a pool and some energy -- but it sounds like people just evaporate into the heat and their grandkids dance in the dust. Pools with trapped dogs sound very grim.

Think of the clean cold northeast. No dog problem and we just put the old folks outdoors for the winter so as not to be bothered with 'em come spring. Aaa-yup.

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BETHGILLIGAN 5/8/2012 7:21PM

    Glad you got the story--not as romantic as I might have hoped though!!! Sad story.

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