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Author Topic: There Goes The Neighborhood: Ch2 Up  (Read 3319 times)

Vrsovice Rebel

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There Goes The Neighborhood: Ch2 Up
« on: June 21, 2007, 05:36:06 am »

Author's Note: Ok folks, this one's back. It took awhile, and a creative hiatus, but I think this one could turn out nicely. Enjoy.


I was nine years old when the Pipers moved in down the street.

We lived, my mother and father and I, in a nice enough house just outside the city limits. There were woods to play in and creeks to dam and all sorts of things to keep a nine-year-old amused, but the biggest news in months was when we heard that the Carrigan house, the huge and rambling old turn-of-the-century place down the road and across the way, had been bought.

Mr. Carrigan, the former owner, had died a few years before. The house itself was huge but somewhat in need of repairs: a new roof was needed along with significant cleaning, according to my father over supper. Worse, by my Mom's lights at least, the house featured an archaic collection of infrastructural components which would need getting rid of; fuel-burning furnaces and boilers, wood-fired stoves, all the detrius of a life which had seen the 20th Century from both sides, coming and going. It sat on a six-acre plot which had been a pain in the local Development Committee's ass for years, as I was later to find out.

So needless to say, on the day a big yellow truck pulled up, the entire street was turned out to watch. The Pipers had three children; two sons and a daughter ranging from a towering High Schooler to a girl a few years older than me. Even more interesting was that, quite beside all the usual furniture and accoutrements, they kept hauling things into Mr. Carrigan's old barn. Old machines of some kind disappeared piece by piece and device by device into the cavernous building, and although my Mom was shaking her head, I had decided that this was a matter to be investigated. Mr. Piper was a big, broad-shouldered man who seemed to shout a lot and laugh more; Mrs. Piper was nearly as tall as her husband and had a colorful red-and-green cloth wrapped around her head. Even at nine, I thought she was very beautiful.

My feelings were only heightened when, a few days later, my mother drove me home from school with the flu. Through myraw-throated, feverish misery, I made out the form of the three Piper their front 11 o'clock in the morning. My shocked brain strove to compute this: weren't kids supposed to be in school now? i was sick, so I got to go home...but going home sick meant being stuck in bed, not out in the yard! Worse yet, they were hip-deep in a hole in the ground and, as everyone knows, digging holes is -fun-. One certainly wasn't allowed to miss school for fun things! Even if one faked being home sick, one was still stuck in bed, which was hardly better than school!

Puzzled, I asked my Mom in a bleary voice why the Piper children were not in school, and why they were digging a hole in the front yard. She replied that they were something called "home school," which I gathered meant that they stayed at home to learn about Long Division instead of going to school every day. My Mom had spoken the strange new term as if it was somehow disgusting, or at least confusing, so I said nothing. Even nine-year-olds know when to keep shut up.

A few days later, on Saurday, I finally felt well enough for Mom to let me out of the house, and the very first thing I did was make a beeline for the Piper house. Sure enough, out front were the three children, their heads occaisionally emerging from a hole which had now swallowed all but the eldest. The hole itself was marked with stakes and white string, and as I approached I could make out all manner of the hand-tools small boys love so much; shovels, trowels, brushes, picks, hammers, and wooden frames with wire on the bottom.

As I drew up to the hole, the eldest suddenly stuck his head out.

"Hey, kid! What's up?"

Uncertain as to how to respond, I edged closer. "Whatcha doin'?" I asked.

"Archaeology." Said the head, extending a suitably grubby hand. "I'm Conor, who are you? Live up the road, yeah?"

"Yeah." I said, nodding and shaking his hand. Big people always seemed to want to shake hands with you. " Dinosairs?"

The head, Conor, laughed. "Nope, no dinosaurs...but check out that shoebox over there with the black lid!"

I lifted the lid and was confronted with five small, triangular pieces of material that I instantly recognized as fossil shark's teeth. "You found -these- in your hole?" I asked in amazement.

"Yeah, c'mon down!" Said Conor. Before I could object, he had grabbed me under the armpits and lowered me into the hole along with him and his two siblings. The hole was deeper than I'd thought; it came to Conor's shoulders, and Conor was tall!

"Kid, this is Simon, my little brother, and Miriam, our sister. What was your name again?"

"Charlie." I said, shyly. Miriam was a good six inches taller than me, and like her mother wore a colorful scarf or shawl over he head and shoulders. She smiled at me, and Simon cuffed me on the shoulder as I stood marveling at their project.

"You wanna help?" Simon asked. "We can use another pair of hands, and Miriam keeps running into people..."

"I do not!" said the girl playfully, shoving her brother. "You keep walking into where I'm going!"

A few minutes of bickering later, it was decided that my job, since I had the smallest hands, was to help Miriam brush and pick and pry things loose from the "matrix," as they called it, of dirt and stone which formed the sides and bottom of the hole. Conor, being tallest and strongest, was in charge of hoisting buckets of dirt and handfulls of smaller objects out of the hole itself, and Simon handled the larger tools which Conor's and Miriam's sizes (too tall and too short, respectively) prevented them from using properly or safely.

"Yeah Conor, I still have that knot on my head from Thursday." Miriam chided him. "No more shovels for you."

The eldest rolled his eyes.

I spent the next several hours fascinated. As we worked, Miriam and her brothers explained what I was helping dig up, what they'd found before, and how they knew so much. They showed me the books they'd used to figure out what kind of rocks they'd found, what sort of sharks those teeth had belonged to and how long ago they'd lived, even which tribes of Indians had made the seven arrow- and spear-heads they'd found earlier in the week. Simon pointed out the layers of dirt and sand and stone which showed when our town had been underwater, and when there had been dry times or floods.

Suddenly, a shadow fell into the hole, speaking with a rich accent. "Isa, Mariam, and Joseph, you children are a mess!" I looked up to see Mrs. Piper, her scarf flapping in the breeze, glaring down at us from above. "Come along inside for some lunch, and for God's sake remember to take your shoes off!" She smiled at me, then turned around and walked off.

Conor hoisted me up out of the hole, followed by Miriam as Simon clambered out on his own. As Conor hauled himself up, I started for my house, only to be cut off by a rough shout from the porch.

"An' where do ya think you're going?" Came the voice of the tall, broad-shouldered man at the door. "My wife asked ya for lunch, didn't she? Come along inside." Again, I was struck that I was being smiled at. Mr. Piper had a huge, deep voice, but he seemed friendly enough, and the three children were nodding at me. So I went. Lunch, as it turned out, was a raucous affair that lasted until two o'clock; Mrs. Piper and her husband had a long arguement about something on the news, with Conor and Miriam joining in a few times as well. Simon and Miriam, meanwhile, had kept up a running arguement about two things, one called "Chelsea" and the other "Man You" while running back and forth to the kitchen for dishes and more food. I was delighted to discover that I was encouraged to eat with my fingers as well as knives and forks; the big plate of food-which-resembled-fried-rice in the centre of the table was apparently meant to be consumed with hands, although I was warned on my way into the house that it would be rude to use my left for such things. Simon and Mr. Piper eventually lapsed into a heated discussion of something called "Iran-Contra," which immidiately started Mrs. Piper shouting on her own initiative, saying some very nasty things about someone she called "that damned fanatic" whom I gathered she didn't like very much.

The hours after lunch, at Mr. Piper's instruction, were spent cleaning the third floor of the house. I rather liked even this part: where "cleaning" at home meant putting things away, here it meant tearing them down and throwing them out a window! I was put in charge, with my own putty-knife, of scraping several layers of wallpaper from the lower walls of the rooms. Simon handed me a hammer and a pair of pliers, which I used to pry and pull the paper away in huge, multilayered chunks; these I then delighted in tossing out the window into the dumpster below. All the while, Conor and Simon kept up a running dialogue about what the room would look like "when we're done with this sucker." As Simon and I pulled paper away from the wall, Conor and Miriam weilded bucket and heat-gun to soften the paper and glue for us on ladders and knees.

I left a few hours later, having promised to come back the next day. I was told I'd been a big help and, although I tried to refuse, Mr. Piper insisted on paying me, pressing a heavy coin into my hand. I felt proud of myself after that; no grownup had ever paid me before, they'd simply told me to do things.

I returned home covered in dirt, rattling at about ten words per second about my day. After my parents got me calmed down enough to be intelligible, I related to them all that I'd learned that day about dirt, rocks, sharks, fossils, Indians, how to cook Couscous, farm machinery, Carbon-14 dating, and why Iranian ladies cover their heads, even if they weren't something called "Moslem." I showed them the books Conor and Miriam had lent me on all the things we'd been doing that day, and asked my Dad for help with the bigger words, which he agreed to give when he had time. I decided to just ask Simon and Miriam for help.

Both my parents were amazed at how much I'd learned, and on a Saturday yet! My father thought this was great, but my mother was shocked at my description of Mrs. Piper and Miriam, and when I said I thought the scarves were pretty and seemed like a good way to keep cool she yelled at me for ten minutes straight. My father finally managed to calm her down, but she still kept saying things about something called "oppression." I went off to bed that night very confused. What was wrong? I'd had fun. Downstairs I could hear my parents argueing.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2007, 10:57:06 am by The Dunedan »
May God bless and keep the Tsar...far away from us!

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Re: There Goes The Neighborhood: Ch1 (New)
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2007, 06:05:26 am »

This is great  :)  thanks so much for sharing!
If I had known that these days would have changed my life - I would have dressed better.   ~ me

No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.  ~ Judge Gideon J. Tucker

Vrsovice Rebel

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Re: There Goes The Neighborhood: Ch1 (New)
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2007, 06:17:24 am »

Unfortunately, this isn't actually me. Believe it or not, this began as an ode to Calvin And Hobbes!
May God bless and keep the Tsar...far away from us!

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cowardly lion

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Re: There Goes The Neighborhood: Ch1 (New)
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2007, 06:56:14 am »

Keep it up!

Sic semper tyrannis, baby!    - Joel Simon

As much as we may not want to consider it, we must have a mindset that enables us to do instant and devastating violence in defense of self and/or loved ones.   -Dave Champion

It's not unusual to run into folks in the internet that are dense enough to have event horizons.

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Don't mistake my silence for weakness - no one plans a murder out loud.

Vrsovice Rebel

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Re: There Goes The Neighborhood: Ch2
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2007, 10:54:08 am »

  Over the course of the next several days, odd things continued to happen at the Piper house. Although my Mom expressly forbade me to go visiting until my homwork was done, I still managed to at least watch, and frequently help, as the whole family set about transforming their little piece of land. I discovered that mornings were for school, and afternoons for work. On Saturdays, as I had first met them, Conor and Simon and Miriam all seemed to simply jump back into school: Conor wanted to go to College to become an Archaeologist, so he had led the hole-digging project out front, now completed and catalogued. Simon, meanwhile, liked working with his hands and was thinking of going to something called "machinist's school," so he dragooned Conor and Miriam and me into helping him fix the big grey-and-red tractor which rolled off a trailor the next Wednesday. Miriam, for her part, said she wanted to be a veterinarian. Mrs. Piper was especially proud of Miriam's choice; I remember her beaming that, with such a profession, her daughter would be sure to catch herself a gentle and intelligent husband. Mr. Piper was glad to have someone around the house to help with the various animals, which started arriving on Thursday morning.

  By Friday afternoon, the Piper's entire property had been rearranged, or so it seemed. The land was on a gully, sloping downwards towards a small river and then heading uphill again in a long, wide strip. The house itself sat somewhat downhill from the "top" of the property, which ended about a hundred yards behind. Across the river, Mr. Piper had used the tractor to throw up a pile of dirt that looked as big as a house, with a flat space carved below it into the side of the hill. Someone had started planting dozens or hundreds of ten-foot Cedar trees along what I took to be the edges of the property; the Piper's land was by now half encircled by the prickly evergreens. Above the house was what had once been a large barn which Mr. Carrigan had used for a garage and for storage. It was now inhabited: the Pipers had installed a trio of cows, four horses, and numerous goats, sheep, and chickens in the tumbledown old building, which Simon and Mr. Piper were setting about repairing in the afternoons. The Piper's only car, a large Buick station-wagon, parked in the aisle of the barn; in front of it were parked two carts, one two-wheeled and one four.

  As a nine-year-old I naturally found all this most splendid. But even I wasn't prepared for my Mother's reaction the first time the Pipers went shopping.

  "Do you know," she said one evening over supper, "Who I ran into at the supermarket?"

  "No," said my father, "Who?"

  "Mrs. Piper." My mother said, an odd look on her face. "And the entire family as well. And John, you simply will not believe it. Mrs. Piper, that sweet lady, was carrying a GUN in the supermarket."

  My father's eyes grew huge. "What?"

  "Yes, and her husband as well!" My mother said in frustration. "AND her eldest son!"

  I had no idea what to make of this. I didn't -think- I'd ever seen a gun in the Piper house, much less seen anyone carrying one...

  "Was there a problem?" My father asked anxiously.

  "No..." my mother said, "they were very nice, just like they always are. But then, I saw them loading up as I was taking my groceries to the car, and you won't believe it, but they were using -horses-."

  I blinked. My father looked puzzled. "Horses?"

  "Yeah!" I said. "They have four of them, and Conor says it's so they don't have to pay the Highwaymen."

  "Well," my mother resumed, "They had all four of them today, and two buggies too! They loaded up the big...there! There they are now!"

  My mother pointed frantically out the window of our kitchen. Sure enough, ambling along the road, were the Piper family and their rolling stock. Mr. Piper rode beside the two-wheeled buggy on his big red horse, talking to Simon and Miriam as they rolled along. Behind him, driving the big four-wheeled cart with its' colourful paintjob, were Mrs. Piper and Simon. The cart itself was loaded down with things in bags and boxes, a huge amount of groceries, more than my mom could fit in the van with the seats down! And sure enough, I could see that Mr. and Mrs. Piper, and Conor as well, had guns on their belts.

  My father seemed at once alarmed and amused. "Where's the covered wagon and cowboy hats?" he quipped. I was shocked to see the little procession break apart at the Piper's gate; Mr. Piper and the big cart headed down the road onto their land, while the little two-wheeled turned into our driveway! I saw Simon jump off and run up the path, knocking on the door after a pause.

  "Well, aren't you going to let Dan'l Boone in?" my father asked when my mother hesitated.

  "But what if he has a..."

  "Oh, for Heaven's sake..." My father rolled his eyes and marched to the door, where he was confronted by Simon and Miriam.

  "G'afternoon, Mr. Adams!" Miriam said. "We just stopped by to invite you and your family over for supper tomorrow night. We thought we'd thank you for letting Charlie help out so much!"

  My father, now joined by my mother, seemed puzzled. "But Charlie likes going over there, and he's learned so much..."

  "And besides." My mother said, "I don't think we can come."

  "Why not?" I asked. "Mrs. Piper's a really good cook."

  "It's going to be a bit of an event." Simon said, with what I was coming to recognize as his usual dry understatement. "Mom's invited a bunch of her family, and Pop's got a few friends coming in from out of town to help warm the house. We were hoping you'd join us."

   My mother looked taken aback. "Well..."

   My father rolled his eyes again. "What my wife means to say, Simon, is that she's not sure she wants Charlie in a house with guns in it."

   Simon looked puzzled. Miriam cocked an eyebrow and said with undisguised curiosity, "What, yours doesn't?" I noticed that she looked past my parents and spoke directly to me. I felt very proud; grownups almost never ask nine-year-olds questions unless you're in trouble, after all. I shook my head, somehow feeling vaguely embarassed.

   The moment of oddness passed, and my father took charge again with a slight fluster. "Well, um...Simon, Miriam, tell your parents we'll be there. Should we bring food, dessert?"

   Miriam giggled. "Oh Lord no, Mom and all her relatives are going to start cooking early in the morning, and the men are going to kill two sheep and two goats and a few chickens before the party really starts."

  My mother blanched slightly, but I remember thinking about the size of the sheep and goats in the Piper's many people were they expecting? It didn't occur to me until I was much older that it had been the food potential of the animals in question which had first struck me, rather than the presumably unpleasant transitory stages between hoof and plate. Miriam had gone out of her way to praise the meat qualities of their livestock, I recall; I now suppose she was preparing me for it, knowing the party was coming up.

  A few moments later, my father shut the door and my mother turned on him, spluttering.

  "What are you thinking, John!? Those people walk around with guns, I don't want Charlie going over there ever again!"

  "Oh hush for a minute, will you? I've had a pistol in the night-stand since our wedding night, you know that."

  "But you don't carry it around in public, John! You don't make your daughter and wife cover their hair!"

  "Oh for Christ's sake, Muriel, they're Christians, remember? They're not terrorists! Besides, how will it look to them if we reject their invitation when they're laying on something so nice? What will the neighbors think? What will Charlie think?"

  "I don't know, John, but I don't want him going over there. Those people carry guns, they homeschool their kids...they're WIERD, John!"

  "Muriel, I am not having this arguement with you. Charlie and I will go to the party tomorrow and meet the rest of Simon and Miriam's family. You can come, or not, if you like. I think you're over-reacting, and I think you're being closed-minded about this. They seem nice enough, and I see no reason to cut Charlie off from his friends. Have you -seen- his report-card?"

  My father gestured to the envelope on the counter. I knew what it held.

  "John, I am not..."

  "No, Muriel, I am not. I am not going to talk about this while you're angry. Remember what Dr. Sexton said last week?"

  At this point I got the notion that I had become a piece of the scenery, rather than a boy, and made my exit. I didn't quite understand what was going on, but I adored my father for stading up for the Pipers. I retreated to my room, undressed, and crawled into bed with the copy of "Treasure Island" that Simon had lent me. He'd said he'd loved it when he was my age. Somewhere around the time Jim fell asleep in the barrel of apples, I dropped off as well.


  I was awakened by my father, who shook me gently at about ten the next morning. "C'mon, Little Man, time to roll out." He said. "The party's getting started next door; Simon and Miriam are here."

  I shot out of bed as soon as my brain processed the words, all thoughts of Saturday morning cartoons banished from my world. I dressed quickly in clean but serviceable clothes, and followed by father out the door.

  To say that the party was getting started was an understatement. I could see a column of greyish smoke rising from near the house, and a knot of men milling around the barn. The property was now totally encircled with cedar trees, with only a wide gated gap through which you could easily see. The cows were milling around in the open and the horses as well. All along the road there were cars parked, along with several other horse-drawn carts, buggies, and wagons. As we crossed the road and made our way through the gate and into the yard, I could see several other people setting up tables and hauling big boxes over to a flat place down the hill a little from the house. More tables, these ringed with chairs and covered by a white pavillion, were already sitting next to one of the big oaks out front.

  Mrs. Piper came up and greeted us, wearing her usual jeans and button-down shirt with her shawl, which flared in brilliant red and gold and black. She was hurriadly wiping her hands and she jogged up and shook my father's hand and mine, leading us towards the house.

  "John, it's so good to finally meet you, I'm sorry your wife couldn't must be that stomach bug that's going around, I had a touch of it myself last week before we got here. Now, the men are just getting supper killed, so lunch is a bit of a do-it-yourself affair; soup and sandwiches and such, but I hope you'll find something you like."

  From my previous visits, I had some idea of what a "do-if-yourself" lunch at the Piper house usually entailed, and I was not to be disappointed later in the day. I kept my mouth shut, however, wondering how my father would react.

  "The shooting match will start whenever enough people decide they're ready, so don't be afraid to suggest it, and I think the Miller boys are going to start a round-robin wrestling tournament or something in a little bit, they usually do. And Senior Vasquez and his sons will probably try to get a soccer match going as well, though I usually just watch those because I like to see Senior Vasquez try to play football after a few too many shots of Tequila. Last time he fell down and broke his ankle, but he'll just not stop on days like this."

  My father and Mrs. Piper wandered off, Mrs. Piper still chattering a mile a minute. I slipped away to find Simon and Conor, who I knew would be helping by the barn. Just as I drew up, I heard a series of sharp cracking bangs, all at once, as if somone had dropped four hammers on a stone floor at the same time. I got to the barn and discovered Mr. Piper, his sons, and a fourth man stringing two sheep and two goats up by the legs, their bellies slit and empty in an instant. Beside each man was a pistol, gleaming in the morning sun, and I understood at once that the animals had all been shot in the head at the same instant. A few minutes later, butchered and skinned, they were passed off to other men, who hurried them off towards the house. Others followed, rubbing their hands and talking excitedly. I noticed that Miriam had joined the group, and was in the process of cleaning up the piles of organs. Like her mother, she wore a red-black-and-gold scarf over her hair and shoulders, and I had noticed the colours on other things as well.

  "Take a look at this, Charlie." She said, extending a bloody hand, "this is the sheep's heart...look." She picked up one of the skinning knives and slit the heart across. "It's got four chambers, just like I showed you in my biology book." She was right; I could see it plainly. "What's that?" I said, pointing to another organ. It, with another like it, had been set carefully aside from the bucket which held the rest. Miriam grinned. "Those are the sheep's stomachs. Papa's going to make Haggis from his grandma's recipie."

  "You EAT it?" I said, shocked. "The stomach!?"

  "And some other bits as well." Miriam said, smiling at me. "Don't worry, it's really good. I promise. Now c'mon, Charlie, help me clean up and then we'll go get ready for the shooting match."

  I helped her clean up the piles of organs, seperating the stomachs, hearts, and lungs of the sheep from everything else after she showed me what they looked lke. We gathered everything up into string bags and carried it towards the house, and I was pleased to find that I did not vomit, freak out, or otherwise act like I knew so many of my classmates would have. They had already expressed astonishment to learn of the horses and tractor and house; wait until they heard about this! As we worked, I asked Miriam something that had been bothering me since the night before.

  " come your Mom and Dad and Conor carry guns?"

  "Well," Miriam said, "Sometimes there are bad people in the world, right? Robbers, and people like that, right?"

  I nodded. I knew about robbers.

  "And sometimes the Police can't help you, or won't help you. So you have to be able to help yourself."

  I nodded. It made sense, but..."But aren't the Police supposed to help people?" I asked. My uncle Tommy was a Policeman, and he said he helped people all the time. I believed him; I liked uncle Tommy.

  "Well, they're supposed to. And somtimes they do, but..." She said, helping me heave the string bags of organs onto a wide, flat wooden table under an awning. A machine with a crank was bolted to the side, and as I set the bags of organs down I saw Mr. Piper coming up rubbing his hands.

  "Is that the goodies, Mir? Good...good morning, Charlie! How are you enjoying the party?" I was surprised to see that he was, indeed, carrying a pistol on his belt. I'd never noticed it before.

  "Yes, Sir." I said, remembering my good manners. I couldn't help staring at the gun, though. Miriam must have caught my eyes, because she piped up to her father without missing a beat.

  "Charlie was asking about your gun, Papa." She said.

  "Was he now?" Mr. Piper asked, looking down at me. "Would you like to see my gun, Charlie? You can if you want to and your Papa says it's allright."

  I nodded.

May God bless and keep the Tsar...far away from us!

My life, not yours, piss off!

Vrsovice Rebel

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Re: There Goes The Neighborhood: Ch1 (New)
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2007, 10:54:51 am »

"Well then, let's go find him." Mr. Piper said, taking me by the shoulder. "Miriam, while I talk to Charlie's father, would you take care of the grinding for me please and then bring up the range wagon?"

  Miriam nodded, and I walked off with Mr. Piper.

  "So what do you want to know about my gun, Charlie?" He said as we walked.

  "Well...why do you have one?" I asked. "Miriam says it's because of robbers and because sometimes the Police can't help you."

  "Well, she's right." Mr. Piper said. "Sometimes the Police can't help you. Sometimes the Police -won't- help you. So you need to be able to defend yourself."

  I nodded again. When Jimmy Perkins had kept stealing my lunch-money in first grade, my Dad had told me to knock him down, so I did. He hadn't stolen my lunch-money after that. As we walked past the house, I could see someone else walking through the gate, a brown-skinned, round-bellied man with a big nose, a big smile, and tiny beetle-black eyes. He had a pig with him on a rope, and Mr. Piper threw up his hands at the sight.

  "Sergei, you old bear, how are you! I was hoping you'd be able to make it, but for God's sake why the pig? We've killed two sheep and two goats already, and we don't have another grill-oven!"

  "Don't worry!" Said the old man, embracing Mr. Piper warmly. "I have brought my own. Nadeja and Vanya will be here shortly, they are bring Yuri Stephanovich's truck with a grill-oven for the pig." The man spoke flawless English, but his thick accent was a little hard to understand. As we walked towards the house, I could see a knot of men hanging around two large contraptions that looked like barrels on wheels and a processon of brightly-coloured ladies trooping in and out of the kitchen with platters of bread and meat, bowls of things that steamed or sat on ice, plates of fruit and I understood what all those groceries had been for!

   "Anyhow, Charlie..." I looked back to discover that Mr. Piper's friend and his pig had made their way for the barn, while Mr. Piper and I made our way through the crowd around the lunch tables. I made a quick grab for a bologna sandwich as we headed into the house, where we discovered my Dad deep in conversation with Simon and Conor about something.

  "Boys, do you mind if I borrow Charlie's Papa for a few minutes?" Mr. Piper asked. "I promise you can have him back."

  Simon looked up from the detailed drawing on the table, which he appeared to have been showing to my Dad. "Sure, Pops; check it out, Mr. Adams says he can get us the crank-case seals we need for the International Harvester! Turns out one of his brothers works for a heavy-equipment distributor!"

  "Yeah!" I said. "Uncle Ray sells bulldozers and tractors and stuff."

  Mr. Piper seemed pleased, and pulled my father aside for a moment. I didn't understand all of what they said to each other; mostly I munched on my sandwich and scrutinized Simon's drawings.

  "So, are you having fun?" Conor asked. "After lunch, w're going to start the match. Miriam's got her rifle fixed, so she's going to shoot too; you can try hers if you want,  mine and Simons are probably too big for you."

  "Well, I..."

  My father and our host walked back into the room just then, Mr. Piper nodding. "Well, Charlie," he said, "your Papa says it's allright if I show you my gun, but he'd like to see it too, and see where we keep them. Is that ok with you?"

  I was shocked. Apalled. Amazed. An adult was asking me if something was ok?

  "Sure..." I said. "Do you want to come with us, Dad?" My Dad nodded, and Mr. Piper led us down the hall and down a long flight of stairs to the basement.

  "So you keep your guns locked up?" My father asked with some relief.

  "Most of them." Mr. Piper said. "Plus having them down here keeps them out of the way upstairs."

  "What do you mean "most" of them?" My father asked.

  "Well," Mr. Piper said as he unlocked the sturdy cellar door and led us into the brightly-lit room, "it doesn't do any good to lock them -all- away, does it?"

  The room was wide and bright, with a low ceiling and a wooden floor. The air smelled almost antiseptically dry, and a long table with odd-looking devices bolted and screwed to the sides ran along one wall. At a right angle were several large green boxes that looked like refrigerators with dials and handles on the front. Across each was a label; "Hamideh" said one in flowing script. "John" and "Conor" wer rendered in the kind of lettering you saw in books about knights and kings, with lots of extra bits and lines. "Simon" was pecked into the metal of the door itself with a punch, and "Miriam" shared the flowing letters of her mother. A sixth, marked "General Purpose" stood at the far end.

  "Wow." My father said. "The kids have their own safes? Their own guns?"

  "Of course." Said Mr. Piper. They started learning when they were four years old...never too early to gunproof your kids. Safer that way. Reloading setup over there, lathe..." He gestured at various tools and contraptions, leading us around the large room.

  "Um...Mr. many guns do you -have-?" My father asked. I couldn't tell if he was amused, interested, scared, or all three at once. "This seems a bit....excessive."

  Mr. Piper thought for a moment. "Dozen or so, last time I checked." He said.

  "You have six big safes for only twelve guns? Why not put them all in one safe?" I asked. Somehow, I hadn't had to think about that.

  "No, no." Mr. Piper said. "I meant -I- own about twelve guns, myself. The others...well, Hamideh is the book-keeper of the family, she'll have the exact count."

  "Can we see some of them?" I asked. I'd never seen a gun up-close before except for Uncle Tommy's pistol, and he was a Policeman!

  Mr. Piper looked at my father, who nodded. I recognised his expression; it was the face he wore when he'd started doing something he'd really rather not, like fixing my bycicle.

  "Allright. Now Charlie, do you know how to be safe with guns?" I looked at him, then slowly shook my head. "Allright then, well here are the rules. The first rule, Charlie, and this one's the most important, is that every gun is always loaded. If someone tells you a gun isn't loaded, he's lying." Mr. Piper had crouched down on his heels and was looking me level in the eyes as he spoke. "So if every gun is always loaded, what can it do?"

  "It can shoot?" I asked uncertainly.

  "That's right." Said Mr. Piper gravely. "And you wouldn't want to shoot me or your Papa or Fluffer the cat, would you?" I shook my head hard. "Right. So you have to keep the gun pointed at the ground whenever you have it in your hands, so if there's an accident you don't hurt anybody. Because sometimes accidents happen, like when Conor hit Miriam in the head with the shovel."

  I nodded again. This made sense.

  "And to help -keep- an accident from happening, you have to keep your finger off the trigger. You know what the trigger is, don't you?" I nodded again. Uncle Tommy had shown me how his gun worked. "And you always open the gun when someone hands it to you and look inside. You have to make sure the barrel's clear and everything's clean."

  "And make sure it's not loaded, Charlie." Said my dad.
  "Guns are always loaded, Dad." I said. Dad and Mr. Piper both smiled at me. Jubal and Lazarus, two of the Piper's several cats, strolled in and rubbed against my ankles, wanting attention, so I scratched their ears for a minute as Mr. Piper opened the big green safe with his name on it.

   I was in shock as the door swung open. Pistols were hanging from pegs on the door, and I could see double rows of larger guns, rifles and shotguns, leading back into the compartment. Right up front were a black shotgun and rifle that looked like something from a war movie.

  "Wow." My father said. We watched in amazement as Mr. Piper calmly took out several of the guns, opened them in various ways, and laid them on the table.

May God bless and keep the Tsar...far away from us!

My life, not yours, piss off!

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Re: There Goes The Neighborhood: Ch1 (New)
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2007, 10:56:01 am »


An hour later, after I helped Dad get used to eating Couscous with his lunch, Miriam sat me down at one of the picnic tables. On a log about twenty feet away was an old soda can.

The shooting match hadn't started yet because everyone was still eating, but Miriam had agreed to show me how to use her .22 rifle while we waited for the grownups to be ready. My Dad stood behind us, watching her anxiously as she showed me where everything was, how to load it, and how to use the sights. Nervously, and not a littl unsure of myself, I pulled the little rifle into my shoulder and pulled the trigger.

The can twitched, but didn't fall.

"Just kissed it." Miriam said, opening the gun and slipping another round in. "Try it again, a little higher this time." The noise hadn't been bad at all with my earplugs in...the gun barked again and the can went somersaulting off the log.

  "I hit it, I hit it!" I shouted. Dad patted me on the shoulder, and Miriam beamed. A few more shots (and cans) later, people started to wander over. Most were carrying long boxes and crates, and in a few moments I was surrounded by people, men and women and even kids my age, taking guns out of them. I noticed that a few kids, maybe Miriam's age, were setting up by themselves; the two boys who were the same age as me had their big sister helping them, and they asked her for permission before they did anything. It was strange to me, but my Dad looked almost as if he were enjoying himself.

  "All right, let's get going..." I heard behind me as Mrs. Piper walked up, carrying a rifle over her shoulder and a green lunchbox under her arm. Conor and Simon were with her as well, each cradling a rifle and box, and Conor had a second rifle slung over his shoulder.

  "Here ya go, Mir-ball." He said, setting his gun down and handing her the one he'd had. I marveled. It looked like the gun Uncle Tommy had in his Police car! As I looked around, I saw that most of the guns did, although Mr. Piper's friend with the funny accent had a beautiful old rifle nearly as long as he was tall. I walked over and shook his hand.

  "I'm Charlie, Sir...pleased to meet you. I saw you earlier, with your pig."

  The round-bellied, red-faced man smiled at me and shook my hand firmly. He reminded me of Santa Claus, without the beard.

  "I know who you are, you are Simon and Conor and Miriam's friend. I am an old friend of their fathers, call me Uncle Grigory."

  "Uncle Gregory?"

  "No, not quite...with "i". GrIgory. It is Russian name."

  I thought for a moment. "Are you Russian?" I asked. Uncle Grigory laughed a little.

  "No, Karlya. I am a Cossack...even -worse- than Russian!" He smiled when he said this, and I smiled too. He didn't seem worse than anybody; he seemed like a nice old man.

  "Is that a Cossack gun?" I asked, pointing at the rifle. The slim wooden stock was longer than I was tall, and it had a small scope mounted high above the part Miriam had called the "chamber."

  "No," said the giant, shaking his head, "it is Russian gun. But Cossacks are better at using guns than making them, so we fought for the Russians with their guns."

  "Watch out, too, this old bear's getting ready to show all us young bucks how it's done." Said Conor, coming up behind me. "Still shooting the Mosin, Uncle Grigory?"

  "As ever."

  "Well, you might want to go find your vodka and tin of salt fish, 'cause we're about to get started." Conor quipped. "C'mon Charlie, let's let Uncle Grigory get ready. I'll show you how to use Miriam's rifle while she puts the .22 away."

  "You mean I can shoot -that- gun?" I said, pointing to the wicked-looking little carbine on the table.

  "Yup!" Conor replied. "Miriam's gonna sit out today's match so she can spot for you and supervise and straw-boss." I was glad for this; I liked the .22, but Miriam's black rifle looked scary, and I was glad she'd be there to make sure I didn't break it or mess something up. Conor spent the next few minutes showing me how to work the gun; where the thing called a "magazine" went, how to load it, and how the sights worked. I kept my finger off the trigger the whole time, and Conor told me I'd done a good job as Miriam came walking up. She had brought a little cooler with her as well as her green lunchbox, and I chugged down a bottle of Gatorade as she opened the "lunchbox" and started taking out magazines! Lots of them! A big stack piled up next to me; I looked over and saw Conor, Simon, and Mr. and Mrs. Piper all doing the same. The two boys had the same kind of rifle, Mr. Piper had something that looked as old as Uncle Grigory's Russian gun, and Mrs. Piper had something else besides. Mr. Piper stood up and thanked everyone for coming to the party, then started rattling off the same rules he'd explained to me in the basement. Behind him, I could see the land dropping away down towards the little river and then climbing again. At the top of the hill was the big pile of dirt I'd seen earlier, with what looked like square white dots on it.

  "That's a long way..." I said. 

  "About five football fields." Miriam said from beside me.

  "...and ladies, those of you who are covered, please make sure your shawls don't get caught in anything. We all remember what happened to Esther last year, we don't want a repeat of that. So! We'll start with everybody under age fifteen; step up with your..."


  I looked up in horror just in time to see my Mom storming up the walk.
May God bless and keep the Tsar...far away from us!

My life, not yours, piss off!


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Re: There Goes The Neighborhood: Ch2 Up
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2007, 12:32:10 am »

.....Eeally good writing.

.....RVM45    :thumbsup:
There are only Two Types of People in the World:

A.} Folks who are after my Guns;


B.} Folks who Are Not after my Guns.

Nothing Else Matters.
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