Among her few treasures JoEllen owned a cast iron ebelskiver pan which she planned to bash Delbert Beebe’s brains in with.
“Can’t we just call the cops?” I hated the thought of eating ebelskivers from a pan once covered in blood and brain matter. Especially Delbert Beebe’s. It was bad enough that he breathed, ate, shit, and fornicated his invisible wife in the apartment next door – all loudly and without concern about what anyone would think and he was not a big man.
“McGill said the cops already know.” McGill had converted the once single family home into a fourplex when that area of Kansas City finally relented to the need for low-cost housing. We rented a two bedroom unit on the second floor. At first we were enamored with the Victorian details and the close-to-town location but quickly we realized why it was affordable for a couple of college kids. “He wants to evict the Beebes.”
I thought city living would be infinitely better than the shack in Greenwood MO where we were the town’s resident Buddhist hippie weirdos. But in the country houses are spread out and you’re not forced into other lives. Particularly during the misery of a midwest summer without air-conditioning, when your choice was – leave the windows open or swelter to death inside.
One night after listening to hours of “please Daddy don’t” and “I’ll be good” we banged on the shared kitchen wall until he stormed down the stairs and slammed the front door. Mrs. Beebe wouldn’t answer her door and we could hear her shushing the kids. Jo pleaded but we were frozen out.
We never saw the Beebe family except for Delbert and then only a flash in the hall or a scowl at the mailboxes. Jo, who was studying psychology, said that the double tragedy of spousal and child abuse – was isolation.
That summer was the first time I got to know black folks and I thought they were wonderful. Much better than white folks. I must admit the feeling was reinforced by the nearness of the loathsome Beebe. I sat on the stoop in front of our place on the weekends and drew charcoal pictures of the kids in the neighborhood which they took home to their parents. One mother even bought a cheap diploma frame and put my drawing up on their mantel, right next to a picture of JFK. It was my proudest moment, even to this day.
The Native Americans never put down roots in the prairie states. There’s a reason why. In the winter it’s too damn cold and in the summer, it’s too damn hot. And there are all those wild weather events like tornados. Leave it to the Europeans to build slaughter houses along the river and houses one on top of the other, meaning we all breath other people’s lives in awful isolation.
There’s really not much else to say about Delbert Beebe. Jo’s husband returned from Vietnam a couple of weeks after we moved in. He was a big man and much more deadly than an ebelskiver pan. Beebe took one look at him and there was quiet next door but we still never saw the children or Mrs. Beebe. And then they were evicted. Not long after I moved on. This time to the Northwest where it’s always rainy and cool.
From Writing for the Absent Reader. Available on Amazon