Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Awful Woman Next Door

There’s an awful woman next door. She doesn’t live there; I think she’s visiting her grandmother, a kindly but slightly demented old lady who insists on feeding a herd of feral cats, which we have neutered, one by one, when we can get charity funding to do so. But this awful woman, she has the voice of a fishwife. She’s always shrieking at someone to do something.

There’s a man she shouts at, and a little girl, and a dog. You can always tell when she’s leaving her grandmother’s. Her voice, piercing, harsh, and loud, jars you out of whatever peace your evening might have had to offer. Usually she’s screeching for someone or something to get in the car.

If she yells at the man, he responds in a voice too low to hear. If she yells at the girl, the girl cries, but she can’t match her mother’s volume. If she yells at the dog, it goes on and on. The dog, gifted with a simple intelligence that tells him to run from that deadening noise, sets off all the other dogs in the neighborhood, but never gives away his position by barking himself.

I feel sorriest for the girl. The man committed to his path by choice, and the dog, at least, gets a nice run out of it, and a moment of the freedom. The girl lacks the agency to choose or to run, but must suffer her mother’s shrill imperatives with nothing but a tiny version of that voice with which to retaliate. Still, it’s disconcerting. There’s a clear view of their driveway from our front door. The woman isn’t physically abusing the girl, at least not in our sight. It just sounds like she is.

Eventually, she stuffs the man, the girl, and the dog into the car and drives off, leaving echoes of angry and canine wails in her wake.

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