One morning in October, a quiet knock at the door shook me out of my reverie. Holding a sheet of paper with one hand and steadying her rollator with the other, my 90-year-old neighbor, Diana, stood at the door and announced that she had a petition in favor of keeping our neighbor, Tom, from being evicted at the hands of another neighbor, the-infamous-Bonnie, and would I please sign it?
I’ll back up a bit and explain.
I live in a small government-subsidized senior community made up of a mere 32 units. We are 33 inhabitants, with one elderly married couple occupying a single bedroom unit, one single man, and the rest single women. We range in age from 59 (that’s me, the baby) to 96. We’re all cordial to each other as we pass in the hallway or sit in the common area in big overstuffed chairs and chat. Most of us use mobility aids. It’s quiet, clean and pleasant. But the civility belies a murky underbelly of passion, spite and revenge. Little did I know what evil lurks in the minds of the retired.
My neighbor, Rose, who is 88, occasionally gives me an earful about all the gossip in our community. A few weeks ago, she told me that the-infamous-Bonnie hired a hit man to kill Tom. I cracked up, I just couldn’t help it.
“C’mon, Rose,” I said between guffaws, “You don’t really believe that, do you?”
Now I’m reconsidering. Maybe the-infamous-Bonnie has a kid who has a friend who, out of some misguided sense of loyalty, agreed to do the deed if she couldn’t get Tom evicted. Now, I’m not one to make unfair judgments about disabled people, being one myself, but the-infamous-Bonnie has a medical history worth considering. She was diagnosed with metastasized lung cancer that spread to her brain. That was four years ago, but by some fluke, the tumors shrank and she didn’t die. She’s not in remission, either. And so goes that gray area we find ourselves in when our bodies refuse to adhere to textbook case histories. Brains are mysterious things. Just a little pressure on a frontal lobe—or, as described by R. Gabriel Joseph Ph. D. in his article: The Amygdala and Mass Murder—one itty-bitty mass nudging some choice real estate in the emotion/judgment system, and what was once a sweet 70-year-old lady with cancer can, with little provocation, become a snarling mafioso with murder in her heart.
In poor Tom’s case, that little provocation the-infamous-Bonnie needed came in a cute canine package: Tom’s dog, King.
Now, cute is a subjective term. King has front paws the size of hams and a broad, pit bull head. His bark is deep and loud, and he does a fairly good impression of canine menace. But he’s really a pussycat-bark-worse-than-his-bite kind of overgrown pup. That’s why he’s cute. I think so, anyway. But not the-infamous-Bonnie. King, who is always on a four-foot leash, tends to bark and lunge at the-infamous-Bonnie’s little dog, whose name escapes me. I’ll call it Clyde. As is the nature of small breeds, Clyde barks at everything including leaves falling from trees, a gust of wind, the refrigerator clicking on, and direct eye contact. Clyde does not have good coping skills. Neither does the-infamous-Bonnie.
The story goes that Tom, who once had a gun, had had it with the-infamous-Bonnie’s tirades against King and threatened to use it on her. The screaming summoned a police cruiser. I believe this part because I saw a police car in the parking lot the morning this was supposed to have happened. Then Tom was written up for bringing King into the common area with him. Here’s where things can get petty, but also backed up by legal policy. If a dog is not a service dog, it cannot roam around inside the building common areas. King is a companion dog and therefore restricted to Tom’s apartment and outside common areas. But one neighbor, who is deathly afraid of dogs, complained of seeing King in the laundry room and seating areas and submitted it in writing. This is probably true, but some details are likely missing.
By his own account, Tom was scheduled to be evicted on Tuesday. He suffers from lung disease, A-fib, and a post-stroke neurological condition that makes his speech hard to understand. His daughter has power-of-attorney. He is only 70, disabled and very bitter about his relatives handling of his property and about his troubles here in our community. I feel bad for him—and nervous about finding myself in a similar situation when I get older and sicker. Sad and kind of scary.
Tuesday came and went. On Wednesday morning and each morning since, I’ve seen him sitting outside with King. Perhaps the petition saved him. I hope so.
Those of us who believe in live-and-let-live just shrug our shoulders at people who don’t. We try not to judge the-infamous-Bonnie too harshly, considering that she is on borrowed time herself.
Still, I’m girding myself for the possibility of finding Tom in nearby Evans Creek someday with his eyes shot out and ankles encased in concrete. It would really blow if he beat the eviction rap but got snuffed by mafia thugs. Some people just have no luck at all.