Extraordinary stories from everyday life on the edge of the world

Stories

the best thing about us is the people we know.
 

Sherry || San Diego, Ca.

"It’s not very pretty," she says. "My entire house is out on my porch. Take a picture of the roses. They used to look really nice."

"What are they called?" I ask.

“‘Tropicana,’” she tells me.

Her name is Sherry…who knows how you’re meant to spell it…and she has lived in this house for almost 50 years. Her taciturn husband’s name is Bob, or Frank, or maybe it's Larry; anyway, it's a name as unexpressive as his countenance. He sits with his arms folded across his lap, saying nothing, while Sherry tells me how nice the house and garden used to look, back when she didn't have lung disease and could get around to tending it. There are a lot of food plants in the garden, she says, pointing to the bolted Swiss chard and the tangled tomato vines.

"They haven't put out any fruit," she laments. "Lots of flowers, and there have been lots of bees, but no fruit."

The weather bothers her lungs considerably; not just the heat, but the humidity. One thing I've never heard anyone in San Diego complain of is humidity, but I don't wish to argue.

"That's a thunderhead over there," says Bob, or Frank, pointing at the sky between the peaked roofs of two houses on the opposite corner. "It's probably over Julian now."

"Do you think it will rain again?" I ask.

"Oh, we didn't get any rain last week, "said Sherry. "Just a little drizzle."

Young people can't tell the weather, she says. They think they know, but they don't; they don't have enough experience. And there aren't many San Diego natives, at least not young ones.

The population was 40 thousand when she was born, in a hospital on the site of what is now the community college parking lot. Her mother's people were from the east coast.

"Msot of these houes are a hundred yars old, "says Frank, or possibly Larry.

"Really, ' I say, facing him in the hope of more. But he's said all he intends to.

The new coat of paint was enforced on Sherry by the local government, who demanded that lead paint be stripped from all the neighborhood's houses. She almost lost her house; her sister ended up paying for the repainting.

This sister now lives in New Zealand; has, in fact, for many years. Her husband worked for UPI in Los Angeles, and whiel on assignment in New Zealand, he and his wife became enamored of a property and a big house in Auckland. Compared to the million-dollar homes on the coast here, they got their entire spread there for $30 grand.

Sherry has never been to see her sister; her own mother and daughter, however, have. Not her daughter who likes taking pictures of flowers...another daughter, who went when she was 12 and nearly died when their touring car caught fire. She was the last one to be pulled out of it. Now she's an adult, and she still talks about the experience. She lives just up the street from them.

"The Maoris, though," says Sherry. "They're a violent people. I used to work with one. She attacked me."

"Attacked you?" I say. "Like while you were at work?"

Sherry's mouth has a wry twist to it. "She was accused of stealing money. And I was in charge of the books, so she thought I told on her. They asked me about it. They made me investigate her for it. Because she had a drinking problem."

"And what did you find out?" I ask.

"Oh, I knew she didn't do it." Sherry's tone is serious now. "I knew she had nothing to do with it. I told her that."

"Jeez. Did she apologize?"

"Of course." Sherry shrugs phlegmatically. "She was a good person. Just nobody knew her very well. Most people are optical illusions." She grins. "Just walking around."

"Come on back sometime," she says. "I'm an Irish storyteller. I've touched the blarney stone." If you kiss the blarney stone, you're a teller of tales. But she only touched it, so her endowment is a little less intense. Which, I suppose, is how she was able to let me go at all.