Oct 15, 2008

Six weeks ago someone stole the Vote For Obama sign in front of our house. The sign was one of those wire-hanger frames that you stick in the ground. One morning we noticed the sign had disappeared and later found it torn up and thrown in a neighbor's bush. I talked to her. We stood in front of her house. She's also an Obama supporter. She wondered if there might be a connection with a group home recently established down the street. She pointed at it; there was a kid out front. Did he live in the house? I don't know. He was black. If he did live in the house, why would he steal an Obama sign?

I repaired the sign and set it up again. Then yesterday it disappeared. This time I couldn't find it. A small thing but unsettling. A political crime, of passion. But who would care? They must have heard the race was tightening, I thought.

Then it occurred to me that it might have been one of the Vietnamese families on the street. On either side we have Vietnamese neighbors. On one side, an older couple. He was in the South Vietnamese military; he told me that. Very distinguished. His wife, also very distinguished. Often, in the backyard I see her on her deck practicing her golf swing. She's very accomplished. Very fluid swing. And powerful. Once, she advised me where to plant some things. She's used to power. They drive an older black Lexus. Not long ago am ambulance and firetrucks pulled up. I didn't see what happened, but I'm guessing he may have had a heart attack. Whenever I talk to him he says he's for Obama. Who know? I like him. I don't think he did it. I can almost say, he didn't do it.

But on the other side the Vietnamese are evidently poor. The kids own Hondas: motorcycles and cars. They repair them late at night. Their friends come over to get repairs. I told them once that at 11 p.m. it would be nice if they could stop reving their engines. They stopped. Once, the grandmother was out sweeping tree leaves and seeds off the sidewalk. I thanked her, but I don't know if she got the message, she didn't speak English. Another time the man of the house, if that's what he was, said he wanted to cut some branches off the tree that goes with our house. So there would be fewer leaves and seeds on the sidewalk. It's nearly the only tree on the block, I think of it as gold. I told him I would do any cutting. He said, well what about the landlord? I said, I'll do any cutting. He got the message.

A woman used to come out of the house in a terry cloth bathrobe and smoke cigarettes. She had a small dog. She would stand out at night or in the early morning smoking. I smiled, she smiled. Once, in the backyard, the owner and I had another little disagreement. He was putting up a new fence and let some wood and bricks fall on some plants. It's hard to grow plants here because the soil is so bad. It's just sand. He cleaned up the debris. He said something about how wasn't I happy he was putting up a new fence. I said, wouldn't it be great if everyone had an opening in their fence so we could all walk through each other's gardens. He thought that was funny.

Not a day goes by I don't find cigarette butts in our yard. He stands up on the roof sometimes, he's going to add a room. He smokes and I'm assuming flicks his butts down on our yard. It's nothing to him. Or maybe it is. Maybe, it's like spitting at someone's feet.

But then lately I keep finding pennies all over the yard, particularly near his fence. Pennies? Good luck, I always thought. But maybe it's something else. Pennies as in several dollars worth. They've become particularly noticeable since the rains have returned.

Then, I read about Vietnamese support for McCain. He knows their pain. He knows what Ho Chi Minh could do, when he wasn't reading Jefferson and Lenin. I don't know. Could be this man. And so the challenge is not to press my suspicions, let it go. Whatever it is.

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