Monday, May 16, 2005

los extraños están en efecto completo...

The beauty of sitting near a window at work is that I can completely distract myself with the activities of the neighborhood. While mindlessly drafting details of aluminum composite wall systems, I concoct insane stories in my mind about the Mexican family that lives across the street. Most of the time they seem fairly normal, normal to most people who would consider themselves normal. I do not consider myself normal.

As I'm typing this, the family, who I've nicknamed The Extraños, has just awoken from its slumber. The padre has pulled an old 70's model yellow lawnmower out of the garage, started it, and put it in front of the madre who has proceeded to begin mowing the lawn. She's a tiny gal, no more than 100 lbs. It is not surprising that she's having quite a bit of trouble pushing the narrow wheels of the mower through the rough terrain. One of the hijos just appeared at the front door. I say "one of" because I'm still not quite sure how many hijos live in the house. Its very difficult to tell, but so far I'm at two hijos and an hija. This particular hijo is at least 16 because he has a car, and he's no small fry. He's a very long fry as a matter of fact, one of those fries you get that hangs all the way out of the box and out the top of the bag. I thought for a second that he would take over for madre on the lawnmower, but instead he's following her around holding a cell phone in her face like she's got a call. Well, it was apparent five minutes ago that she did not want to talk on the phone. She wanted to cut grass. Hijo has been persistent with the phone thing though and is still following her around holding the phone, tugging at his baggy jeans to keep them clear of grass stains. All the while, the padre is using a weed-eater to remove the tall grass that has grown up around the abandoned cars in the front yard.

I watch this family obsessively throughout the day, afraid that I'll miss the climax of a story that I'm not quite sure exists. They're one of only a few remaining families living on the street. My office is located in a neighborhood of old houses which have all been slowly converted to businesses such as law firms, catering services, and child psychology clinics. As interesting as those places sound, they do not provide the quality of entertainment that the Extraños do. These places operate on a similar schedule as my office. Workers show up in the morning, go to lunch around noon, take the occasional smoke break, and then leave in the late afternoon. I can't get interested in this.

The Extraños seem to operate on an entirely different schedule than the rest of the world. Just the other day, I watched as the padre parked a small grill on the front porch and began grilling some sort of meat. This was at 9:00 AM. On any other day, these people do not emerge from their house until at least 11:00 AM. This guy was grilling legs of a recently killed animal for an early breakfast. There was one thought that I couldn't get out of my head. Why haven't I heard their dogs barking from the back yard lately? Now, I'm not accusing anyone of eating their dogs, I'm just pointing out a strange coincidence.

The couple that lived in that house before the Extraños had somewhere between eight and twelve dogs, depending on the day of the week. Half of them lived in the back yard, the other half lived inside with the family. I could only imagine what the inside of the house smelled like. Normally, a white family with that many dogs in Arkansas means you have yourself a Jerry Springer episode just waiting to happen. This wasn't the case here, as these folks seemed to behave themselves somewhat. They were obviously unemployed though. They spent the majority of their time taking the inside dogs out to the front yard to do their business one at a time. So basically throughout my day I had the pleasure of watching the little doggy poop parade, single file.

When that couple moved out about 4 months ago, I was worried that the next family would have jobs and the house would sit empty all day. I hoped everyday that the next family would be unemployed, convicted criminals with visits from the occasional parole officers now and then, something to keep me entertained. Little did I know that the first hint of new hope was right there on that little white sign that read "Mi Casa Realty"