Across the street lives a not-so-nice man. I’m pretty sure if the kids are ever in the road when he comes home, he’ll squash them like a squirrel with his truck and never look back. When my son was three, this grouchy man yelled at him for getting a cool stick out of his yard. My son still gives him the stink eye whenever he sees him, and we never so much as touch a blade of his grass now.
The other night, my husband, son, and I tossed a ball around on our driveway, ignoring Mr. Meany, working in his yard. Until our bouncy ball rolled into the street and toward Mr. Meany’s driveway. The three of us looked at one another in horror, our eyes bulging like waterlogged diapers. Silently I beckoned for the ball to stop, to come back, to roll six feet to the left and hit the curb. But the laws of physics cannot change for one errant playground ball. Speed was not in our favor. That blue rubber ball gained momentum and rolled up Mr. Meany’s driveway as he walked up it toward his garage.
I looked to my husband, the man of the house, sure that he would handle our awkward situation. He took one look at the ball’s position and sprinted away snickering like a cat that tipped a garbage can. The punk. My son stood paralyzed with fear, looking from his fleeing father to me. I knew he wouldn’t retrieve the ball. He won’t even go to Mr. Meany’s house to trick-or-treat.
I gulped. I wanted to avoid a confrontation with Mr. Meany. When a stray toddler steps foot into his yard, he yells, “Get out of my yard!” Neighbors have told me of past run-ins when their kids’ ball landed in his yard and he scooped it up and said, “Mine.” For a small frame, he delivers a whopping blow: unfriendly and no second chances.
It seemed if we wanted our ball, it was up to me. I dashed across the street and hoped Mr. Meany wouldn’t yell at me. Why my husband nominated me for this job was beyond me. I yell back when provoked. But wait, the ball started rolling down the driveway! Mr. Meany looked down and watched it roll past him. I grabbed it off the end of his driveway and ran. No eye contact. No words exchanged. Quiet on both sides of the street. My kids didn’t need a vocabulary lesson anyway. And now I know I can count on my husband to run away from my every beck and call.