Overgrown House 4 by Hoekemannen (flickr.com)
I spotted a weasel in the spring of my 5th year. Apart from a few orange trees and an incinerator, our back yard was boring. The trees were too young to climb, and I’d already checked the incinerator for any treasures that might have survived the last trash-burning.
The sleek little weasel didn’t want to play. It saw me and took off like a high-speed monorail. So I chased it. Out of the yard and across the street into an overgrown lot. Through the weeds it raced, and down a tunnel of wooden arches choked with dead vines.
At the end of the tunnel, I found Crazy Old Alice. My first friend. Diminutive, shriveled, and dressed in a raggedy frock, she showed me her cottage. No, there was no furnace for cooking wayward children (although Alice was as skinny as a weasel). She didn’t want to eat me, she wanted to show me the massive soldier statue that dominated her tiny living room. She spoke very little and mumbled when she did, so it remained a mystery. There was almost no furniture other than the statue.
Then we went outside and Alice showed me her rabbits. “Easter Bunnies!” I thought. They lived in hutches and loved attention, so I began to visit regularly. I was Alice’s only friend.
I always brought carrots for the bunnies. But one day I caught Alice stealing their carrots! I told her it was wrong to steal, especially from Easter bunnies. But she continued to do it.
A few weeks later, I was climbing through the overgrown arches, when a tall, scary man suddenly lifted me up by my shirt collar. He shouted, using all sorts of bad words, and told me he’d kill me if he ever caught me there again!
That night, I dreamed I was climbing through the vine-choked arches–only now they were electrical wires! The scary man was at the end of the tunnel, laughing menacingly. Then I accidentally touched a wire, fell to the ground…and died! (More on that here.)
I finally told my parents about my visits to see Alice and the Easter bunnies, and about the man who’d used bad words and threatened to kill me. They were stunned, and went straight over to Crazy Old Alice’s cottage. What they discovered was horrendous:
Alice, the widow of a decorated war hero (the soldier statue), was only in her late 40s, but she’d had a stroke. She lived on a hero’s pension, but it was regularly cashed and pocketed by her son, the tall scary man. As her legal guardian, he provided her with a few meager canned goods and an occasional cheap smock. She was starving and alone.
But no more. The neighbors had Alice’s son arrested, cleaned up her house, and showered her with food and clothing.
I was no longer her only friend.
My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.