I was returning from a shopping trip when the old lady next door came out to talk to me. Usually, I avoid the old bird. Back when I first moved in, the Old Bird came out and introduced herself. At first, I thought it was a neighborly thing to do; and I was raised to be respectful of elders. So I smiled and tried some polite conversation. Only, it turned out to be a one sided conversation as the Old Bird decided to launch into her life story about selling her home because it was too big for her to keep up with it, and that moving into an apartment was the right choice. Of course, now her 37 year old son lived with her; he's never been married; he's trying for disability benefits. Then she talked about her diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, and almost every other disease known to old people. All I could do was nod and say 'uh huh' as she went on and on about her aches and pains. And that's when I decided to avoid her at all costs.
She likes to sit by her front window and call out to passersby, engaging them in tedious conversations about the weather...and how it's affecting her sciatica. I've learned to just do a quick wave and smile before dashing behind closed doors--be it the front door or car door. On some occasions I've wished her a happy whatever holiday it happened to be, but the minute she started to bring up her swollen ankles, I end the conversation quickly by excusing myself do some fake emergency task or urgent errand. And some days, I just take the long way around the building just so I don't pass by her window and end up talking to her.
I think she's lonely; she's a part time cat lady as well. She doesn't keep any cats, but twice a day, she puts out bowls of water and food for cats. Naturally, a lot of cats come by for meal time--strays and pets! She's given the cats names--even the ones that all ready have names on their collars. Some of these cats have decided to take up residence on my porch and windowsill. I don't really mind that much. The good news is, with all these strays, there's less bird crap on my car. The bad news is that some of these cats like to nap on my car, leaving paw prints and mud on my (especially newly washed) car!
So I had my car trunk open, wondering what she wanted to talk about. What could be so urgent that she actually left her perch by her front window to wait outside for me--or anyone else, I suppose--so she could talk?
She asked the most peculiar question, "Are you being targeted by Asian gangs?"
"Pardon?," I asked, not quite sure if I had heard her right.
She replied, "I was wondering if you were having any trouble with some Asian gangs."
Okay, no problem with my hearing; possible problem with her head. I wondered if she had maybe forgotten to take some pills today; or maybe she took too many. But I said, "No. No problems. I don't even know any Asian gangs," I paused, "Why do you ask?"
She said, "Oh, I found a dead bird on my doorstep this morning. And it's wings were spread."
"Oh," I said, "Maybe a cat did it. Cats like to bring their catches as gifts to their caretakers sometimes."
"That's what I thought at first," she replied, "but my son said it was a gang sign because the wings were open and it was laid by the door."
I grabbed my shopping bags, closed the trunk and waited for an explanation.
She continued, "My son said that it's sign that Asian gangs know as a warning. It means you're being targeted for justice."
Ah, I thought. Clearly, the son has watched too many Crow movies.
She asked, "Aren't you worried?"
"No," I replied, "Not really. I've never even heard of any Asian gangs in this part of the state."
I had the key in my door, signifying the end to the conversation when Old Bird declared, "Well, I've taken care of it. I've notified the management about it. They took away the dead bird, and I told them all about the Asian gang signs."
I imagined the management staffs' faces as Old Bird told them about the gang signs. It wouldn't be the first time she's come up with something peculiar. The week before, she swore the Chubacabra was clamoring on her porch for several nights. She called the emergency number for the manager one night, and the manager grabbed a flashlight and ventured to see what the ruckus was all about. It turned out to be a racoon feeding on the food Old Bird had left for the cats. The management informed Old Bird that it was a racoon, and that she should stop leaving out food at night so it won't attract any more critters. Still, Old Bird maintained that it was the Chubacabra that visited her porch earlier. And I doubt anyone could change her mind about the dead bird being a warning from Asian gangs.
I decided it was time to make my exit, "Well, I've got to put these up and head back out. Have a good day, Old Bird." And I smiled and went inside, promptly closing my door.
I knew that it would only be a matter of time before they carted off Old Bird to a rest home. She was really old and with all her health conditions, it was inevitable. And as much as I try to avoid her, I couldn't help but think the neighborhood would be a much duller place without her.