NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 121

“Bill, those rabbits are eating up everything in sight!” We sat on Jeff’s deck and watched the sunlight trace the slate stone path down toward the cemetery. Two oak trees formed a green bower for the path. “My wife says they remind her of her childhood and Easter bunnies, me too” I said, trying to humor him. “Hmmm,” I said, thinking about Prexylin’s side effects: insomnia, depression, excessive daydreaming, nightmares. And what of its contraindications: Do not take if you smoke more than two cigarettes a day, have kidney problems, liver problems, glaucoma, heart problems, eczema, memory problems, or if you’re pregnant or nursing.” “Bill, that’s all well and good for you. You don’t have flowers back there. You don’t even have grass, you have weeds and it gets worse down by the cemetery,” Jeff said as he smiled and closed his eyes at me. “Janice doesn’t want me to put weed killer down. She says it’ll harm the birds. To tell you the truth, the weeds are so thick and green, I like them better than grass. You can depend on weeds.” “The birds come into my yard. ‘Course I have ten bird feeders in ten trees, but my fertilized grass don’t bother them a bit. They’re welcome any time, but not those rabbits. “Jeff, you sound like Elmer Fudd. ‘Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits, huh-uh-uh-uh-uh!’” “They’re a nuisance, I tell you!” Jeff took off his cap and slapped it against his thigh, then ran his hand through his snow-white hair and fitted his cap snug on his head again. “I’m going to do something about those rabbits.” I got one more beer and thought about my upcoming meeting with Felton in d.c. I’d studied the file he’d sent me on Prexylin. We all knew everything had side effects, but since I’d been taking it my allergies had dramatically improved. My breathing cleared up immediately after I took the triangular gold capsule. If I smoked before I took it, I sometimes coughed a little but that soon subsided. Of course, it was probably the cigarettes (I’d switched to American Spirit). It was a minor thing, but I’d begun to have strange day dreams, especially when I was alone. “Well, I gotta go,” said Jeff. “But, I’ll let you know when I get it ready.” “Bill. Bill? I said I gotta go in. The wife’s got dinner ready. I’ll see you tomorrow.” “Hmmm? Oh, Okay, Jeff,” I said and headed back across the lawn, thinking the slogan should be, “Control your environment. Don’t let it control you. Get prex-elated!” I liked the ring of that. It would work even better, if when the people said it, they jumped straight up in the air. Yeah! ” The rabbit in the southwest corner of the yard had been munching on something, but as I approached my back porch, it became a statue, paws raised as if in prayer. Jeff was the nicest guy in the world, but lately he had developed an obsession about preserving the neighborhood, keeping every flower and bush in place, that is, unless it threatened his house. He’d cut a one hundred-year old oak down to the ground, because he said it was just too close to the house. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE “Yup,” I said nursing the last sips of my Bud, as I imagined how my father would do a better job on Jeff’s yard than his own year man. Of course, cutting Jeff’s grass was all my father could have done in Comity Grove some forty-five years before. Even now, there were only three black families and five families of color in a neighborhood that spread out over two square miles and ended at the James River. Rabbits? How’d we get there again! Oh yes, I’d said something about the integration of the neighborhoods of Kings Mill and Comity Grove. Integration or integrity and where had I heard that before? “Well, they remind me of throwing good money after bad,” said Jeff, sneezing, as if to punctuate his opinion. 119 “You know, Bill,” he said, “I remember when my house, the Wilson’s and the Skerrett’s were the only ones in this neighborhood. Matter of fact, I remember when that shopping center called New Town in Williamsburg was farmland. I got back from my last tour of Korea in ‘52, I took over my daddy’s grocery business in ’65, and retired in 1992 after twenty-seven years. Actually, it was thirty, if you count the years I worked before I went off to the army.”