Since I have been spending so much time at home by myself, I have been paying more attention to the goings on of the neighborhood. Stanley, one of the next-door neighbors, is psychotic. He lives with his demented mother who never goes outside anymore in a house with bars over all of the windows.
Stanley is seldom seen outside either; he appears to check first to see that the block is clear of people before he scurries outside to his car, an old forest green Mustang, the wheel of which is locked with no less than three clubs when not in use. Other neighbors have told me that Stanley graduated from Harvard Law School, but then apparently something in his life went wrong for him.
Stanley smiles and says hello if he does run into me on the street, though. Sometimes we exchange a few comments about things that might be going on in the neighborhood. One rainy night his mother had to go to the hospital in an ambulance, and I'd gone outside and introduced myself, asked what was going on, if there was anything I could do. I was the only one and just stood there with him for a while while his mother got loaded into the ambulance. After that I guess he thought I was OK.
Sometimes on the street he seems almost normal. I mean, he smiles and says appropriately neighborly things. But then later on I can hear him from inside his house when the windows are open in back, and he's yelling "Stop it!" or "Shut up!" over and over. At first I thought he was yelling at his mother or his two dogs, and I kept waiting for a reply or some elaboration on his part, but none ever came. It's clear now that he's addressing voices of his own invention inside his head.
The other people in the neighborhood are sort of afraid of him, and maybe I ought to be but I just feel sorry for him that he's such a tortured individual. I don't think he's the kind of crazy person who would hurt anyone else, although I guess it's hard to tell when someone's not all there.
John knows Stanley's mother's doctor, who said that periodically the health services authorities get on Stanley's case to clean the house as apparently it's pretty unsanitary in there. I hate to imagine the normal condition of it, but know the neighborhood cats catch a lot of rats in his back yard.
Last year a team of men showed up with a truck that had a few hoses attached to it. The men were making a lot of noise and Stanley was yelling at them. John and I walked over to see what was going on. Furniture was scattered all over the sidewalk. We watched as a torrent of water came gushing out of Stanley's front hallway and down the steps. Stanley, in rubber boots, came out and explained that he was going through "spring cleaning." Inside, we could see men enshrouded in steam as they blasted the walls, ceilings and floors with their high-powered hoses. The neighborhood smelled like Pine-Sol.
Then Stanley rented a dumpster that sat on the street outside his house. It was the largest dumpster I'd ever seen, almost the size of a moving van. I imagined that I could have fit everything I owned into about a third of it. The thing started filling up. Rancid mattresses, rat-chewed old telephone books and papers, a rust-covered old desk and shelf panels.
In a few days, it was carted away, only to be replaced by another empty dumpster. This one seemed to be filling up just as quickly, although at least the stuff inside it didn't seem to smell quite as bad as the first. Midway through the process, a homeless person got inside and started scrounging around for things he might be able to salvage, I guess. Then he got stuck in there and started yelling for help. Apparently, he was pinned between some heavy pieces of junk that had shifted on top of all the other junk.
No one could figure out how to get the person out without chancing getting stuck or hurt themselves. Stanley called the Fire Department. A big truck eventually showed up with a lot of men who peered down into the dumpster, had a private conference, and then announced they thought this was a situation under the jurisdiction of the Police Department. When the police arrived, they said they considered it a problem of the Fire Department. I'm not sure exactly how the person ever did get out of the dumpster.
Recently, another dumpster arrived. This time it's filling up with rat-chewed telephone books and papers, a lot of empty boxes - mostly Land's End and J.C. Penney - and what looks to be an old Christmas tree. The neighborhood cats are taking this all very seriously, fighting among each other for the territory around Stanley's house from which, apparently, many displaced rats are fleeing.
I'm wondering if any more dramatic incidents will occur in - or out - of the dumpster this year.