I was watching TV and doing a little writing, when I heard yelling outside. I went to my kitchen window, and I saw Floyd, one of my neighbors, the barrel-chested middle-aged biker and his girlfriend, Nora struggling to pick up his monster maroon Harley. He had dumped in the street right in front of his trailer which was next door to mine.
A black bandana was tied on his watermelon shaped head, and he was wearing a black leather vest over his Harley t-shirt. He was a big guy with a fat gut and skinny legs, obviously out of shape, but he was the size of a bear, and he should have been strong enough to pick up the bike, especially with his Nora’s help. Maybe he had a bad back? He looked like a guy that had a lot wrong with him, both inside and out.
Floyd was yelling at Nora to exert more effort. He was making it clear to her that she was of no use to him, as he tried to lift from one side, as she pulled from the other. Nora was short and thick. She didn’t look weak or frail. Months would go by and I wouldn’t see her out of the house. A Nora sighting was so rare, I always forgot what her face looked like, but she was immediately recognizable by her white blonde hair. She pleasantly greeted me with a smile when we crossed paths, unlike Floyd.
“Lift!” he yelled.
She yelled back, “I’m trying!”
He yelled louder, “It’s your fuckin fault the bike fell over! Try harder!”
I didn’t see how the bike fell, but it would have made more sense for both of them to lift from the same side. As I watched him verbally abuse Nora, I thought about going out there to help for her sake. Before I did, she decided she had had enough and went inside. I had no reason to help him anymore.
On a couple of occasions, I have spoken with Floyd, and gladly both of those conversations were short. Almost everything about him exuded, “I’m an ignoramus.”
The other day when I was leaving my trailer, I saw him wiping down his bike, his belly resting on the gas tank. He looked like a big walrus trying to sun itself on a small rock. As he rubbed and shined, sweat dripped down his face stained his white t-shirt gray. His chest rose and fell heavily, as he huffed and wheezed with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He took a short break to take a final hit from his smoke, and then he flicked the butt into the street where it would invariably find its way into my driveway. I had already asked Floyd to throw his butts in an empty coffee can, but I guess he forgot to save a can. As the smoldering butt rolled towards my driveway, Floyd hacked up a loogie and spat in the direction of the rolling butt. He missed long, but the butt rolled right into it stopping it in its tracks and snuffing it out. I had to admit, that was amazing, but that cigarette butt would still eventually find its way into my driveway. Floyd laughed until he coughed a fit. I knew CPR, but. . . Please, wait until I leave before you keel over.
I continued to watch Floyd struggle to pick up his bike. His face was red and sweaty, and once again I wondered if he might collapse in the street. I wanted to see him suffer, but I didn’t want to watch him die. He was a big, lazy, fat-fuck who didn’t work and leeched off Nora’s grandmother. Nora’s grandmother owned the trailer, and she paid the bills. She even paid for Floyd’s Harley. My neighbor James told me all about them.
I wasn’t the only one in the neighborhood who thought Floyd was an asshole. A few weeks ago, he got into a shouting match with Bill, whom lived three trailers down from him. From inside my trailer I heard Bill shout at Floyd, “You need to slow the fuck down when you drive in!” Bill stood on the edge of Holly’s yard. Holly lived kitty corner from me in an old chalky white trailer. She packed three kids in there with her.
“Fuck off!” Was Floyd’s response.
“We have our kids playin out here!” Bill was about my size, a small guy, but his job as a carpenter kept him in shape. He was only wearing a pair of gym shorts and flip flops. His farmer’s tan made his pale chest look like a white t-shirt.
Floyd moved into the middle of the street towards Bill. “Don’t let your kids play in the fuckin’ road! How fuckin stupid are you!?”
Holly, who was sitting outside, came barreling around the corner of her trailer. “There’s a goddamn ‘Kids at Play’ sign! Are you fucking blind!” She blasted Floyd. Holly was about five-one and petite, but she had a voice that carried. Often, I heard her yelling at her kids, “Get the fuck in the house! It’s time to eat!” She wasn’t the most conventional mother, but I believed she loved and cared about her kids. In Holly’s defense, most yards in the trailer park were small, and the kids needed a place to ride their bikes, so she got a blaze orange sign to set on the side of the road. The sign was in the shape of a small child about three feet tall. It was hard to miss, and it always reminded me to drive slowly and watch for playing kids that could dart out from in between parked cars.
After Holly said her piece, she disappeared back around the corner of her trailer, but Floyd and Bill continued their astute debate. “You better shut your fuckin mouth, or I’ll shut it for you!” Floyd pointed his finger at Bill.
“I’m right here! Come and get me!” Bill held out his arms. A burning cigarette was in his right hand, and a can of beer was in his left. Even though Bill was drunk, I think he was still leery and afraid of fighting Floyd. I think Floyd and I were about the same age. Even though I was in much better shape than him, it would still have been a challenge to beat him. He probably weighed about three hundred pounds to my one-fifty. My strategy would have been to punch him in his flabby throat or head butt him in his face if he got his paws on me. It was possible that I might have had to run away.
I went outside and watched from my driveway. It appeared like my presence changed the dynamic of the situation. Floyd looked at me, blurted a few gargled expletives at Bill, then went inside.
I walked over to Bill. “What was that all about?”
“I’m sick of that fuckin guy speeding through here.” Bill walked over to where Holly was sitting on her steps, and I followed. She was tan, barefoot, and in an orange sundress. After work she sat outside in the sun and drank beer while she kept an eye on her kids. Bill wandered over to drink beer and keep her company.
The three of us talked about the situation with Floyd for a little while. Bill was drunker than I initially thought, and it was a good thing that the argument hadn’t escalated into a full-blown fight.
Bill was being flirtatious with Holly, but she wasn’t biting. Then he said, “She’s good in bed. She pushes back.”
I felt embarrassed for her, but she appeared unfazed by the conversation. Then I realized she was almost as drunk as Bill. It was unclear to me what kind of relationship they had, until he said, “I guess my dick isn’t big enough.”
“Size doesn’t matter,” she said.
Bill continued to poke at her, and I thought about telling him to cool it, but Holly had it under control. She ignored him and directed her attention at me. Eventually, he got up and went home. When he was gone, she said, “That was a mistake.”
I didn’t respond. I could very easily see how sex with Bill was a mistake.
Then Holly and I talked about our gardens. “Do you grow cucumbers?” she asked.
When I said, “No,” she went inside and brought back four out for me.
I thought about offering a sexual innuendo, but I wasn’t good at those. When I tried it, I usually came off sounding like a pervert. Another guy could say something like, “How many times have you used those? Who’s your favorite?” and pull it off with a laugh and be in bed with her by the end of the night. My charm was in waiting for a woman to give me so many signals of interest I couldn’t go wrong when I made a move.
Holly sat on her steps with her legs apart, and her sundress hung between her knees. I had never been this close to her, and she was prettier than I realized. She did most of the talking, because I had a difficult time navigating her buzzed condition. I listened and asked an occasional question. She told me about all the neighbors she knew in the trailer park. Even though I had lived there for over five years, I didn’t know any of those people.
We talked about our kids. My three were adults and living on their own. Her oldest was ten, and the two girls were five and two. “How old are you anyway?” she asked. She suddenly realized how old my kids were.
“How old do you think I am?” I had always looked young for my age.
“I’m thirty-eight,” she confessed. “You have to be at least in your mid-forties. Your oldest is twenty-nine. Did you start having kids when you were sixteen?”
This was a pivotal moment. This was the dilemma: do I tell her the truth and potentially ruin the possibility of sleeping with her? Or do I carry on a ruse and claim to be forty-seven or forty-eight? My last girlfriend was seven years younger than me. Ten years younger wasn’t out of the question. I weighed the pros and cons very quickly in my head, then I suddenly came to my senses. Holly and I were no match. She had the lower middle-class vernacular of the stereotypical trailer park resident. It didn’t mean I believed she was stupid. After all, she had mentioned, during our conversation, that she was the manager at Dunkin Donuts. The last two women I had relationships with were a high school English teacher and a Geology professor.
“I’m fifty-eight,” I smiled and said.
“You’re the same age as my dad!” She said it like it was a form of birth control.
He lived right next door to her. I had talked to him on one occasion. He was fifty-eight going on seventy. During our conversation he told me he had a bad back and that he was on Social Security Disability. He had a big gut, weak legs, and horrible posture. No wonder he had a bad back.
Holly and me? It was over for now. For about twenty minutes her kids had been in the back ground complaining about how they were hungry. “I better go make supper,” she said.
“See you later,” I said.
From my kitchen window I continued to watch Floyd struggle with his bike. He was disheveled, sweaty, and tired. He continued to yell for his girlfriend to come out and help. I enjoyed watching his dilemma, and I hoped he noticed me. It was empowering to know his weakness, until it became pathetic, and I began to feel guilty. At about the time I decided to go out and help him, a friend of Floyd’s pulled up on another Harley. “What the hell happened?”
“My dumbass girlfriend happened!” Floyd yelled.
And now I was glad I didn’t go out and help him. Floyd and his friend very easily picked up his bike. Floyd wheeled it up to his trailer and invited his friend inside. I sat back down in front of the TV and continued writing a story about living in the trailer park.
Mike Sharlow lives in a small city on the banks of the Mississippi River. He works in Special Education, although he's done everything from structural design to working in a cemetery. He has had numerous publications in anthologies and magazines. His full bibliography can be found on his website, Mike Sharlow.