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Neighborhood News

(The following events are real. Names have been slightly mangled to protect the guilty.)

Dave Mendleson is gingerly removing hot, steaming egg yolk from his sore nostrils, around which he has sustained third-degree burns. His upper lip is also suffering.

It all started when Dave decided to warm a hard-boiled egg in the microwave oven. As it heated, Dave noticed that the shell had begun to sweat profusely. He knew, from microwave-cooking classes his mom had taken when microwaves first hit the consumer market, that heating an un-cracked egg in a microwave can be a messy, even explosive, affair.

Dave aborted the cook time, concerned for the egg. Carrying the egg hot-potato style to the kitchen sink, Dave ran cool water over it until it could be handled and peeled comfortably. Removing the shell, he bit into the egg, disturbing the structural integrity maintaining an equilibrium within the egg’s cooked albumen.

The egg exploded, blasting hot, steaming egg yolk up into his nose.

Not long after this, Dave discovers that this very phenomenon is described in a Penn & Teller book, an instruction guide for subjecting dear friends to cruel tricks.

That’s going to leave a mark

Mike Fenston is nursing the bump on his head, a reminder of his attempt to help Gladys, the elderly widow across the street.

Gladys, who speaks well for a woman born deaf, asked Mike if he could repair a drippy faucet in her kitchen.

Given the age of Gladys’s house, Mike suspected that this project would present some interesting challenges. For starters, Gladys has no water shut-off valves below her kitchen sink. Mike would have to turn the water on and off, between fix attempts, from the main valve in the basement. After the corroded valve seat in the ancient faucet chewed up the third neoprene washer Mike installed, he again descended into the basement to turn the water back on before heading home and suggesting to Gladys that she replace the entire faucet.

On his last trip up the basement steps, Mike decided to leap over three steps on his initial ascent.

The ceiling rafters in Gladys’s basement are thick, hard, and low, and there’s always that one rafter at the front edge opening into the ascending stairwell.

Mike is tall and quick.

Awakening some time later sprawled across Gladys’s basement stairs, Mike realized that the last, most prominent sound he perceived was a loud boom, which, it turned out, was the sound of the top of his head connecting with a 2-by-12-inch basement-ceiling rafter.

Upon awakening on the old, wood, basement steps, Mike checked his watch, wondering how long he had been unconscious. He started laughing, realizing that he hadn’t checked his watch before he fell unconscious. Why would he? It’s not like he thought, “I’m gonna knock myself out now, so… I’m gonna time it!”

Mike’s laughter increased as he realized that Gladys could not have heard his head pound against the rafter that beat him down. Adding to the hilarity, Mike could hear the TV upstairs blaring away full-volume, as the deaf sometimes do, in and effort to sense the vibrations of whatever the TV is broadcasting. Apparently, Gladys also didn’t sense the massive thud of wood on full-body-propelled skull.

Mike crawled his way out of the basement, laughing, imagining that he would explain to Gladys why he was in the basement so long. He gathered his tools and squarely faced his neighbor (she could read lips) to explain the faucet problem, and to try to explain why he was laughing so much – about knocking himself out in the stairwell, and checking his watch and such.

By this time, Mike’s laughter approached hysterical levels as he began speaking to Gladys. Tears were running down his face, and he realized that his laughter was so intense, his face so contorted from laughter, that it all likely conspired to obscure Gladys’s lip reading ability.

The whole scenario was a comedy of errors and lousy communication. Mike further realized that Gladys likely mistook his pained laughter for hysterical frustration. He is certain he did not communicate anything useful to Gladys as he made his way out the door. He is certain Gladys thought that her faucet had driven him mad – which only increased the intensity of his laughter as he ambled, slobbering and teary-eyed from laughing so insanely hard, back home across the street.

Bikes that fly

Mr. Marron examines the strange scratches on the front and hood of his new Oldsmobile parked in front of his home, unaware that little Danny Wenger, just hours earlier, was climbing off of this very car.

Danny’s bicycle has a fender-mounted, generator-powered light that earlier wasn’t working. Danny made a few adjustments, then took it out for a test. Riding the bike down the street, he leaned over the handlebars as far as he could, while in motion, to see if the light is working. The parked car came as a rude surprise, ripping the headlight from the bike’s front fender rivet mountings and sending Danny over the handlebars onto the hood of Mr. Marron’s car. Lately, neither Danny nor his bicycle light are functioning well.

Mr. Hatzinger is planning to remove that broken stump to the left of his driveway. It’s been that way for over a week now. Not long ago, it was once a very decorative Globe Locust tree, like three others along that curbside edge of the lawn. In its normal state, the tree looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Joy-riding mishap

Ten-year-old Donny Minter felled this tree last week when Donny climbed into his father’s early-model Chevy and pushed the gearshift lever into neutral. Those early-model cars don’t need a key in the ignition to move the automatic-transmission lever like the new cars do. The Minters have a steep driveway. Power breaks require lots of pressure when the engine isn’t running. And the Hatzingers’ tree was in the unfortunate path of Donny’s failed, automotive curiosity.

Rumor has it that Donny is still grounded. Mr. Minter has a slight bend in his back bumper, and Mr. Hatzinger now has firewood for a fireplace he doesn’t have.

Neighborhood battle scars

Dr. Roley isn’t sure whether the tooth marks Brian Fenton left in the top of Linda Hatzinger’s head will leave a scar, but Brian’s nosebleed has finally stopped. Neighborhood games of sandlot football, and their happenstance collisions, can be rough.

Speaking of scars, Gary Krueger still has a thin, barely perceptible hairless strip on top of his head from a fishing trip he and his father took last summer.Gary’s a bit phobic around fishing hooks these days, especially when anyone is casting a lure anywhere near him.

Bob McCarty still has pieces of Jane Nelson’s dress in the chain and sprocket of his Yamaha dirt bike. They started dating earlier this spring, but after Bob’s dirt bike ripped away Jane’s light, cottony dress with all those other neighborhood kids looking on, she’s all done with Bob now.

Lately, Lenny Woolever’s fascination with pyrotechnics has rapidly waned. Meanwhile, the sensation in Lenny’s fingers seems to be returning more each day. Mr. Minter says that he heard tell that Lenny can even hear the church bells across the street from his house again.

Calm before the storm?

The neighborhood has been quieter lately, and some in this middle-class suburb inMiddle Americawonder whether the calm is to be enjoyed – or feared.

Drive anywhere but along Wallace Avenue today. It’s an easy street to spot; it’s the one where the city road crew is replacing that yield sign with a stop sign at the intersection where Wallace crosses Starry Avenue, the same place where the phone company is competing with the electric company for time and space to replace broken wires after “the incident” knocked the pole down.

Most streets have their personalities, and various mishaps, on display. Look, for example, at that street with the fire trucks. They’re extinguishing Harold Scholes’s car after that butane lighter on his dashboard exploded in the hot sun.


About the author

Mark Forseth

Mark Forseth is a regulatory technical writer with the Federal Aviation Administration in Seattle, Wash. His career has centered on public-broadcast journalism and technical writing for such industries as GE Medical; ABB Robotics; Harley-Davidson Motorcycles; Allen-Bradley Motion Controls; Johnson Controls; and Imago Scientific instruments, among others. Contact the author.
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