NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 122

When I got home, Janice was in her nightgown and robe, watching tv. I told her about my conversation with Jeff. “Do you remember those old Three Stooges skits, the one where Larry acted normal until Curly mentioned “Niagara Falls?” Then, Larry went into a trance and attacked Curly, then Moe. Well, Jeff gets like that about those damned rabbits,” I said, stumbling toward the bed and settling for the chaise lounge. “Slowly I turn?” Janice said, observing my difficulty finding the bed. Jeff should go easy on the rabbits, and you should go easy on the beer. One more thing, Bill. I noticed you’ve taken nearly half of a bottle of that new medicine and there were, how many, eighty? Ninety? Has that stuff been approved by the fda yet? Bill. Bill?” “Slowly I turn. That’s funny.” “Bill, wake up and take your other shoe off.” Janice said, but I was already asleep. A couple of weeks after I sat on Jeff’s deck and he was at it again, railing against the rabbits, my wife and I were enjoying morning coffee. We’d been talking about the upcoming meeting with Felton and speculating on whether he was going to offer me the Comity Grove position of vp of Operations, when Janice said, 120 “Bill, don’t get excited, but Jeff has just set a rabbit trap in our backyard.” “What!” I looked out the window, and Jeff was walking away, hands in his pockets, shoulders rolled forward, head down. Close to the first stand of trees, before the yard began sloping off, there squatted the wooden box like a jerry-rigged Trojan horse, “Well, I’ll be damned!” I said, scratching the same spot on my head I had been scratching since grade school. Janice kissed my unshaven cheek. “Don’t get your knicker’s twisted,” she said, laughing. “Myra told to me he was making it, but I guess I didn’t believe he’d do it. Looks like a cross between a chicken coop and a Robert Rauschenberg ready-made.” “I don’t remember Jeff mentioning it to me. What’s a “ready-made?” I said, taking the cup Janice had refilled and sipping it, while looking through the open shutters at the peculiar contraption. “Myra said Jeff told you he was going to fix the rabbits and you smiled. Said you asked him how he liked saddle of rabbit wrapped in country ham and you chuckled, because he’d never heard of “saddle of rabbit.” He said you two had a beer on it.” “I don’t remember that at all.” “Well, he said you agreed to it. “I certainly did not. Is this because the rabbits live in my yard, or is this a subtle form of discrimination? I said. I lapped up my coffee and reached for Janice’s half-empty cup. “Bill, it’s not because we’re black and all of a sudden Jeff thinks he’s a plantation owner. He’s almost ninety, if he’s not already, and he sees himself as a caretaker of Comity Grove! His father was on the Comity Grove City Council.” “Yeah, but remember when Jeff cut down the three cypress trees last spring without even a by-your-leave! They were on our property.” “He’d planted those trees at least fifteen years before we even moved into our house. He said that they were all suffering from bag worms, and there were too many to pick off by hand. Ugh!,” Janice shivered. “Bill,” she said, coming over to stroke my temples. “You’re grinding your teeth again. You used to grind your teeth in your sleep. Now, you’re grinding them during the day, as well. Maybe it’s the Prexylin. “Of course not! It’s Jeff! He’s acting like some feudal lord who can do whatever he wants. No, he’s acting like a plantation owner who thinks, ‘What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine.’” “Bill, we’ll work this out. We’ve been in this neighborhood too long to start questioning our neighbors’ motives now.” “I know,” I said, although I wasn’t quite convinced. “Think about it. We’re on the same side of things. Jeff’s father used to own two grocery stores, one on Duke of Gloucester in Williamsburg and one near Comity Grove.”