Readers Report Back From… Neighborhood

By

***

Dorchester is a forest under sailor’s skies and I am its golden god. Its wooden fingers prick at my seat on the horizon.

I watch my creature navigate the concrete earth. Mine because I made him. Concrete because I made it so. He has seen things that I have not. From them I will select.

He will say Man, I just don’t know what there is and that’s where it happened right there and he didn’t have to go the way he did.

He will say these things when he looks at his feet and when he looks just past me, past the wooden fingers, out of the forest.

He will move in a pack, or maybe a herd, and he will not fall because it’s more delicate that way. Those in his pack will be slaughtered, one by one, in the streets, in rows, by my hand. I will kill every last one for him.

He will know I am there and I will be his drug. His faith in me will grow and of him I will make a martyr. I will forsake him.

His last day will follow my design, this creature of mine. His little legs will scurry down Columbia and race through the leaves, over roots. He will run to the edge of the woods to find that there’s no edge at all. He will tilt his head to find anything, a hawk even, and that’s the best he may find. I will not be there. I will forsake him.

And for this, from my seat on the horizon, I will be exalted.

Dorchester is a forest, and nothing more. I wonder if it’s really there.

— Patrick McQueen

***

On a cold, dead street in the suburbs of Detroit, with your kids at their mother’s, in the house you can’t sell, between Christmas and New Year, with your business out of season and anyway, crumbling, you insisted on taking mushrooms, like for old times sake, like when we were in high school, and now it’s “let’s go wake the neighbors and tell them we love them.”

God, I feel tired.

“We should be embracing one another. We should be making love in the street. Why do people shut themselves up in tiny boxes?” you beg me to tell you.

I’ve been where you are and I know where it ends, and it’s here, and I don’t want to talk about it.

“I just see love everywhere,” you say. “In you, in me, everyone. I should call Michelle.”

“Don’t call your ex wife,” I say. It’s cold and it’s late. I don’t think it’s ever been this late.

In the morning you’ll feel differently. I promise you that. Icicles are not chandeliers, my friend. Tomorrow your tongue will feel dipped in lint, your truck will be stuck in the snow, and your neighbors will be too shy to help you, even if they wanted to.

It’s not that you’re wrong, there’s too much in the way and we can’t all eat mushrooms all the time.

I have to hold you back by the sleeve, so complete are your childish notions of love, and just as I think you’ll break away, the front door bursts open and a woman spills in to the living room with wild eyes and pursed lips to tell us how much she loves us, but especially you. She loves sports and understands exactly that thing you said about love.

Yeah right. You wish that happened.

Don’t ask me to drive you anywhere because there’s nowhere to go.

— Molly Laich

***

I live in San Francisco. No, that’s a lie. I live in Daly City, the Gateway to the Peninsula, also known as Daly Shitty, the Gateway to the Big-Box store. But I live just off Mission Street, only a few blocks from San Francisco’s Excelsior District, where Jerry fucking Garcia learned to play the guitar—the sounds of which I can still hear if I open my window and play the Grateful Dead on my stereo. So why shouldn’t I tell people I live in San Francisco?

I know Jerry said, “San Francisco is San Francisco … the rest of the world is Daly City,” but I bet he was talking about the Westlake neighborhood of Daly City. You know, the inspiration for Pete Seeger’s 1963 song, “Little Boxes,” that went like this: “Little boxes on the hillside … made of ticky tacky … all look just the same … and the people in the houses all went to university … and they came out all the same …”

My Daly City neighborhood—Top of the Hill—is different. If you ignore the pork-rind-eating Manny Pacquiao fans, we’re just as diverse as the people of San Francisco if you ignore the organic hummus-eating Gavin Newsom fans. Yeah, my neighbors and I all live in little ticky tacky boxes that look the same, but we didn’t all go to university and those of us that did didn’t come out the same.

My next door neighbor, Johnny Mac, didn’t go to university. He went to The Tenderloin and brought back a whore and a forty. The forty is long gone, but I can hear the whore over there right now. The hoarder around the corner didn’t go to university either. The only place she ever goes is to the park to leave amphetamine-pumped fish for our feral cat colony. The rats have vanished, but the raccoons are eating the fish too and will tear your eyes out if you look at them wrong.

Whenever I see a raccoon, I look the other way where the Mickey Rourke-faced lady is usually looking at her reflection in a car window. She went to university but came out vain. The obese man who waddles around repeating, “Masturbation and Doritos,” also went to university, but he didn’t come out the same. He came out insane.

Okay, I admit that Top of the Hill, Daly City, isn’t San Francisco, but at least it’s so foggy I never have to see it.

— Christopher Forsley