Category Archives: small town USA

Hello Neighbor

Kevin lived across the street from us. We saw him from time to time headed for his jeep, the same make as ours. We waved, he waved. Sometimes a black lab stayed with him and they played Frisbee in his backyard.

Dust and prisms

At night in our upstairs bedroom, we lowered the shade because light from Kevin’s desk lamp across the street fell exactly into our eyes as we lay in the big four-poster of our room. Kevin’s silhouette hunched over the computer; he didn’t have a shade. When one of us did an early dawn bathroom trip, Kevin was still there. We didn’t wave at night; that would have felt creepy.

At Christmases, we put a basket of baked goods on his porch. He put a nice card – the kind you buy special from Hallmark – on the windscreen of our Prius.

Kevin put up the Biden sign first, then we put up ours. They stood like pillars across the street from one another, flanking cars. We counted nods versus single-finger salutes.

And then one day I watched Kevin pull his car into the wide driveway of his home across from ours—and miss. Ours is a busy street. He backed up to try again as some driver whose time was more important than anyone else’s hit the horn to signal inconvenience.

Kevin took three tries to get into his drive. Days passed – almost a week exactly—before three cop cars parked alongside our house, another in his drive; no sirens blared. They weren’t in a hurry.

A few minutes later, Jack asked the policeman walking back to his car at the end of our driveway, “Is Kevin dead?”

The officer nodded. Jack didn’t want details and the police didn’t offer any.

The house went up for sale, listed cheap as “an excellent investment.” Every time we looked, hordes wandered about inspecting windows, tut tutting over the front lawn’s misshapen bushes, pointing at gutters dangling like accusations from the house. The realtor parked at 7 am and drove away at 7 pm; when it became evident the front door stuck, the savvy realtor left it open all day.

We wondered which ones would be our new neighbors.

The sign came down. Work vehicles arrived. The bushes were trimmed, front door replaced. Stuff began to appear on the front lawn, with a sign that said “FREE PLEASE TAKE.”

Jack and I watched people stop by and dwindle the pile. As dusk fell we walked over and looked at the remainder atop a ripped-out cabinet. And took home a small glass mug engraved KEVIN.

Kevin, we hope you enjoyed your life. Your mug on a shelf in our living room gathers dust and throws prisms. Life is like that, isn’t it? We will reach out to the new neighbors once they move in, because your mug reminds us to make friends while we can in this short dust-and-prism-filled life.

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Filed under Life reflections, small town USA, Wendy Welch


Notification came that a book I’d asked our local library to get was waiting for me. The next day, Jack and I were running a couple of early morning errands and wound up at the library about 5 minutes before it opened.

We weren’t the only ones waiting. On the porch paced a bearded man in t-shirt and baggy gym shorts. I’d seen him walking around town the past few weeks. He clutched two paperbacks at his side, the kind of thing a fifth or sixth grader might check out, History of the Flag or Rocks in the Painted Desert. Slim, floppy, full if information but not big words. I had noticed him about town because he usually carried a couple such books with him.

One of the librarians emerged from a side door, wearing a crisp black shirt, buttoned at cuffs and collar, and began watering the flowers on the porch troughs. He and Wandering Guy exchanged a few words, and then Crisp Shirt went back in via the same side door.

When the library opened, I followed Wandering Guy in. Since he was busy with Crisp Shirt Man at the desk, I browsed a few crochet magazines and checked the new releases. Apparently someone had come in from the side door behind Crisp Shirt—whose nametag read William, Keeper of Dungeons and Master of Disaster.

William at work

Our library does a weekly D&D game among its many side hustles. William is the kind of dignified person who works his desk with an air of holy priesthood fulfilling a scared duty, yet also somehow underemployed for his skills. He is awesome to watch with people.

As I noodled about killing time, the person who had gotten in the side door could be heard singing softly to herself, a tuneless version of Amazing Grace. She was on verse three when I got there and kept going until she ran out of breath around verse 8.

The silence filled the library. William finished with Wandering Guy, who cocked an ear in the direction of the now-missing hymn.

As I slid into place before William’s throne—I mean desk—Wandering Guy gave what can only be described as a tiny shrug, and started a cheerful, out-of-tune rendition of Bless the Lord O My Soul—the worship chorus, not the hymn full of thees and haths.

William’s eyes rolled, but he said nothing as he found my interlibrary loan. “Looks like a good read,” he said of The Drunken Botanist. “We thank you for your custom and hope you enjoy your perusal of this fine volume.”

It may have been a trick of the lighting, but I’m pretty sure William gave a slight yet courtly bow as he passed the book over the counter in both hands, akin to a cleric setting forth a quest.

I thanked William, waved to Wandering Singing Guy, and started out—at the exact moment the unseen woman in history began to harmonize on the Bless the Lord chorus.

I love libraries. You never know.


Filed under between books, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch