The Nice Hunter From Next Door
July 6, 2009
We had a next-door neighbor when I was young, an elderly man who smoked a pipe and always wore a hat. I don’t remember his first name. It was always just Mr D_____.
He would stop to visit and chat. Never planned, or for a meal, always unannounced and just for coffee. I remember my mother sometimes being annoyed to see him coming across the yard to knock on our back door, the last thing she needed, but she only ever told us to hide and be quiet once.
He was a hunter, which seems wholly at odds with the middle-class suburbia this was, and what I knew about it. He hunted pheasant. He brought one over once, holding its tail out to us so we could see the beauty of its feathers arrayed. He also fished, and he once gutted and cleaned a fish on our back steps, just so he could explain to me the steps in the process. It’s hard to convey how far outside the realm of my normal childhood experience this was. Slicing it up along its underside. Removing the organs and then squeezing his thumb along the vein to push out the last of the black red blood.
We didn’t know all of our neighbors, but we knew him.
The winter after he died, my mother would have to scream at my brother and I to stop complaining about having to shovel his widow’s driveway after we’d already shoveled our own.
I don’t remember his face, just the shape of him, how he looked at the round yellow table in our kitchen. I picture Roy Rogers. Someone from another age. Someone who owned a gun but was nice. Someone good.