Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve: III: “The Hunchback of 420 Front Street”

“Helen, take the kids inside and lock the door.  He’s back.”

“Who is this guy, Stan, haven’t we seen him around the neighborhood before?”

“Helen, do as I say.  He may be dangerous.  After all, he goes to St. Pat’s School.”

“Remember, lock the door,” Stan shouted over his shoulder as his wife and daughter, Sissy and son, Stanley, Jr. were safely inside.

“Who are you and what do you want?” Stan said, as he cautiously approached the boy in the yard.

“I’m your neighbor, Mr. Harrington.  I…”

“But you’re dressed for Halloween, boy, and that’s six months away.”

“I know.  You see, I’m fascinated with the movie “Hunchback of Notre Dame.”  I’ve seen all the versions.  The Lon Chaney silent one was good, but I lost it over Charles Laughton’s Quasimodo.  When the mob storms the Cathedral after he saves Esmeralda and everyone thinks he’s kidnapped her, he pours molten lead on their heads from the bell tower.  The lead poured out of the mouths of the gargoyles.  Wasn’t that great?  And then when Esmeralda is taken away by the hero, he sits on the parapet, next to one of the gargoyles and says: “Why am I not made of stone like these statues?  I cry every time I see it.  I can feel his pain…his loneliness…his feelings of rejection because of the deformity he was born with…was no fault of his own.”

“Yeah, I guess I’ve seen one of the movies.  I think it was the Anthony Quinn one,” said Stan, his tension easing slightly.  “But what are you doing dressed like that?”

“Well, my brothers were playing Wiffle Ball in our backyard and I climbed out on the back porch roof and pretended I was Quasimodo.  I have an overactive imagination…sometimes.  But, instead of scaring anyone, they laughed at me.  Our neighbor, Mr. Sparks was getting into his car and he saw me on the roof.  He told my father later that he laughed so hard he wet his pants.  I mean the guy is about 52 years old.”

“So, then what happened?”

“My brothers talked me into coming down to the back yard.  My older brother, Denny, wanted to take a picture.  At first I refused but he said he would give me the picture.  He never did.  My other brother, Dan, got a copy of the picture.  He won’t give it back.  He keeps threatening me with it.  He says he’ll pass it around St. Pat’s school if I don’t give him all the Mars bars he wants for the next six months…and then he said he wanted half my Halloween candy, too.”


So, that’s the true story of how this picture was taken.  I have been terrified for decades about anyone seeing it.  My brother held it over my head.  I lived in a state of panic.  What would my girlfriend say?  She already thinks I’m weird enough.  Now she’ll think I really insane.

Well, all the Self-Help and Life Advice books will tell you to face your fears.  Confront them.  [If you want to get over a fear of flying, you have to take a flight].

So, after being hidden away for longer than I can say… this is the picture that I wanted no one to see.

I wonder.  Does that mean that my brother doesn’t really care about me anymore?  No one cares what I do with the picture.  If no one cares to humiliate me anymore…does that mean no one cares?


So, go ahead.  Look at it.  Gaze on it.  Make fun of it.  Tease me. Mock me…maybe then I’ll know you really care.

The Return of the Good Neighbors

I’m sitting back in my favorite Adirondack chair on our deck.  Every so often, a kayak or canoe paddles past our dock.  I can hear them but can just barely see them.  I have to do some trimming to clear the view to the water.  I thought about doing this a few weeks ago, when the weather was mild, but it meant I would have to decide which chainsaw to use; the electric one or the old gas job.  I couldn’t decide so I’ll think about it this winter and decide next June.

I’m snuggled in my L.L.Bean Fleece Jacket.  It’s green and cost about $48.00, but that includes free shipping so I really think I got a steal.

As I sit back, I contemplate my large tomato plant.  I counted close to thirty-five tomatoes.  None of this matters, of course, because they will never ripen.  The growing season up here in northern New York State ended about two months ago.  My tomatoes look like mutant Granny Smith apples.  I’m bummed out about the whole thing.

A few minutes ago, I was down in my office.  It’s actually a “Man Cave”.  I even put several very masculine items about the room to remind visitors that it’s really a “man cave” and not just an office.  I have a hammer.  A book by Hemingway and a birch bark waste basket…nothing that would be found in a “ladies boudoir”, if you get my drift.  I think I even have a copy of a Playboy magazine hidden somewhere, but I can’t find it.

I write my books in this room.

Back up on the deck, I think about my new novel.  I have dialogue and plot twists to figure out.  And setting. Setting is very important when you write a novel.  How else was the reader know where all the plot stuff was happening.  I should go back downstairs and write.  Earlier, I sat there at my iMac and did some thinking.  Then I realized I had some things to do.  Like write.

I stared at the 17″ (diagonal) screen.  But wait!  I had things more pressing to take care of.  My novel could wait a few minutes.  I had already counted my paper clips so that was done.  It occurred to me that I needed to rearrange my sand collection.  I couldn’t decide whether to sort them by geographical location or color.  I figured that location was the best choice because, if truth be told, they all kind of looked alike.  Scattered volumes of the poetry of Rod McKuen needed to be lined up together in a neat row.  I was so proud of them.  Also on my “to do” list was downloading the entire songbook of Yanni, King of the Pan Flute.  Then, of course, I had to begin on researching my projected two-part bio on “Milli Vanilli: The Early Years”.

Yes, there was an afternoons worth of hard work to do in the “Man Cave”.   So, I went back to the deck to think about all these things while sitting in my Adirondack, looking at my failed tomato harvest.

I settled back and began to drift while listening to the neighbor deftly handle his leaf blower.  The guy on the other side of my property was just getting his chain saw started.  It was going to be a perfect napping time.

Before I knew it, I was fast asleep and deep into a dream.  I had just won second prize in a “Think You Can Dance With The Stars?” segment.  My partner was Lady Gaga and our “routine” was pairs clog dancing.  As the creative leader of the duo I felt the need to ratchet up our demonstration.  So I took Gaga aside and asked her to add a short yodel piece.  She broke down in tears and left the set.  Gaga can be testy sometimes.  How was I to know that her first husband ran off with a Swiss sheep herder?

It was about that time when I was pulled from my slumber by a familiar “chink, chink”.  It was the unmistakable sound of a chisel on stone.  I went through the house and there they were.  Our neighbors from Ohio had returned from a wedding in Newport.  Darcy was back to work on our (his) stone walkway.  I just didn’t understand the necessity of all that work.  After all, I had already put a new sidewalk in last Fall.  I thought the railroad ties looked great.  It was only after several lady friends got their spike heels stuck in between the ties that my wife made me rip them out.


I looked at the progress Darcy was making and began to come around to the general thinking that the stone pieces were the way to go.  But, no one was going to pull anything over on me.  I had gone out during the night and checked the flat stones with a level.  They were perfect.  Just the thing to have as a base for my 30′ x 26″ strip of Astroturf.  I had it all figured out.

Don’t think that I didn’t take part in the labor.  I actually spent several minutes gathering the chips of chiseled rock and put them in a plastic bucket.  I’ll find a use for them somewhere.  Up here in the North Country, a man has to use everything…nothing goes to waste.

When it was finished, we all celebrated with a nice home cooked dinner.  My son, Brian and his girlfriend, Kristin were visiting.  He told bold tales of how he defied all his friends and co-workers in New York City and actually attended a Mets game at Citifield.  ( I raised my son to be strong and brave.)

When everyone left and the activity settled down, I found that I was the only one awake at 3:00 AM.

It was the perfect time for me to got down to my workshop and double-check that I had the correct amount of green paint.  I didn’t want anyone to comment on the ugly swirls of color in the stonework.

I wanted it to be just like a giant lawn.


When my wife and I drive through Ohio (really can’t help it), on our way home from Tacoma, I’m going to see how I can fix up Darcy’s property to really look good.

Good Neighbors

It looked like rain.

I stood staring out of the sliding door of our downstairs family room.  It was getting gloomier by the minute.  That was fine because my tomato plants needed some water.  I went back into my office and sat at the computer.  I was working on revisions of one of my books and also outlining my next project.  It’s going to be a ghost story set in New York State.  I was struggling with plot lines, character and place names, narrative threads and setting.

Yes, I’m a writer and I’m not ashamed to say it, not at all.  But it still looked like rain.

So I sharpened a few pencils, arranged my scratch pads and organized my felt tip highlighters.  After emptying the pencil sharpener reservoir into my Adirondack birch bark waste basket, I counted the number of yellow legal pads piled on my stack of what I call my “elbow books”–they have to be at my elbow when I write, and checked my copies of “Bipolar Disorder For Dummies”, “Chess For The Complete Idiot” and the interview in the latest issue of Playboy.

I was getting tired and it still looked like rain so I did the only thing that made any sense at the time, I went upstairs to take a nap.

I was lost in a dream about Lady Gaga and I crossed the Pacific Ocean on a raft made of rubber band balls and bales of twine bound together with scarlet yarn that was a foot thick.  Gaga was quite testy when I kept insisting that she not skinny dip so much.  Our only companion on board was an albino Llama.

After an hour (Gaga and I had not yet made it to Hawaii) I was roused from slumber by the chink of metal on stone.  There were voices.  One of them was my wife and the other was our neighbor, the husband of my wife’s very good friend.  They’re summer people and live on our loop road.  They’re from Ohio but we like them anyway.

I slipped a pair of Keds on my feet and went out to see what the noise was about.  They were together in the front yard and what they were doing shocked me to the very marrow of my femur.

We had purchased really nice stone slabs to put in a new walk leading to our front door. The stones were laid out on our yard.  In all honesty, I liked the look of the scattered rocks.  It gave the yard a “rustic” look…not too “Long Island Perfect” if you get my drift.

Anyway, there was my wife and Darcy setting the stones and constructing the walk.  I went back inside to find the bug repellent and came back out.  They had not even noticed me observing them.  Who knows what would have happened if I had gone into town for supplies?  (Earlier I had threatened to visit Saranac Lake to purchase six finishing nails so I could hang my Yankee cap in the workshop.)

Yes, who knows?  They may have finished half the walkway if I hadn’t interfered.

It started to rain and the evening was coming on.  Darcy and his wife (she had arrived earlier and hauled the stone pieces from our driveway),  left for home.  He turned down the Corona beer I offered, saying he wanted to go home and have a White Russian.

I have to admit that he and my wife did a superb job at getting the project underway.  I couldn’t have done a better job myself.

It’s great to have such wonderful neighbors…even if they are from Ohio.