Monday, November 14, 2011

Sunday morning detritus

The Sunday morning streets are quiet, but they hold clues to the excesses of the night before:  students passed out on porch roofs, cars abandoned in odd places with one or more tires over the curb, broken beer bottles in the street, slicks of vomit on the sidewalk, and at my house, the Sunday morning procession past our kitchen window of unkempt men, trudging up the long Avon St. hill,  after being released from the drunk tank in the local jail that's about a mile down the road.

Sometimes, however, we hear the evidence of awful proceedings in the street below, and in the morning see no trace of what happened.  Our house sits on a hill overlooking a somewhat notorious corner.  It looks like an ordinary intersection, where a small side street exits to a busy, two-lane road on a steep grade.  Jon and I have witnessed many car accidents at this corner.  It's so notorious that the garbage truck drivers, hurtling down the hill on their way back to their base, always honk loudly as they approach.  One night I awoke to the sound of metal coming into contact with an unyielding substance:  tree or stone or more metal.  There was the most horrid grinding sound.  If a vehicle was a living thing that could be tortured, this is what it would sound like, as the driver worked to extricate his vehicle--it sounded like a truck-- from whatever it was stuck on at that corner.  The engine died,  then restarted, coughing and gurgling.  With a drawn out screeching scream of metal on stone, the truck freed itself and drove slowly away, dragging injured parts of itself behind.  In the morning, there was not the slightest bit of evidence that anything had happened there at all.

The corner is also a spot where crime seems to happen.  It's not a bad neighborhood, but it used to be and like ghosts, the criminals haunt it.  The house right at the corner was long a source of crime.  We've seen a succession of tenants deal drugs, neglect their dogs, have loud domestic disputes, pace up and down the sidewalk talking angrily into their cell phones, and eventually pack up and leave in the middle of the night. Our kitchen window, looking down from our house's lofty place on the hill gave us an excellent view of what we called White Trash Theater.    Then the house was sold and renovated and is rented to quieter tenants.  But crime still happens there.

This Saturday night, about 12:30, I woke to loud voices in the street.  This is not terribly unusual and I went back to sleep only to be awakened again by the sound of sirens.  From far away, I heard a second set of sirens, approaching rapidly and then a third, coming from a different direction all converging on that corner.  Silence for a few minutes, then voices, then a man screaming "FUCK!" over and over, then silence.  The cops were gone, we went back to sleep only to be awakened again by one of those mysterious happenings that is outside your consciousness.  I heard a muffled report at the corner below our window.  A gunshot?  Surely I'd dreamed it in my half awake state, but then Jon said, "Did you hear that?"  We waited and once again the sound of sirens approaching from across the dark city.  Voices, three or four more gun shots, silence.   Jon watched an ambulance arrive then the duty chief's car.  He could see little in the darkness other than the fact that the driver of the duty chief's car is someone we know.  After a while, the ambulance left, driving slowly with its lights on.

In the morning,  we checked the local news outlets and found no mention of a shooting in the night.  I looked out onto the corner and there was no trace of the Saturday night drama.


  1. Methinks you need a video surveillance camera! I'd be dying of curiosity, though I imagine it gets kind of old, all that drama.

  2. Youve just reinforced my mental stereotype of the USA, crime, gunshots, sirens and men shouting "F*CK"
    I woder if they'll make a film of it?

  3. I think it would be very creepy to live near that corner. I'm glad that the crime doesn't spill over to your house.

    When I was in college, I had an attic apt. in a house. One night some loud noises got me to the window, and I watched a car in a small house parking lot across the street as it rammed over and over again into something. It would back up, and accelerate into something with an awful crunching noise. I was amazed when the car managed to drive off under its own power. I was sure it had been ramming the other cars in the lot, but the next morning there was no sign of anything wrong. I figured the driver must have been ramming the dumpster; with dumpsters it's hard to tell when the various dings happened. It felt so strange, though, to have witnessed something so loud and violent and then have morning come with no sign it ever happened.

  4. This must be where our shared family genes differ because I would drag my butt down to the station and make an inquiry. One would think it would be in the police blotter section of the local bee. It should be on the public record if emergency services were involved.

    Please fill us in with the end of the tale if you ever find out!

  5. Sarah, Jon can probably get the story from the rescue squad duty chief.
    Twisted, it's really not that bad! I lived in a supposedly crime-infested city in the rust belt and never heard a gun shot until we moved to this city in Virginia that is constantly appearing on those "best places to live" lists. Ironic. But I assure you, you can walk the streets in safety 99.9% of the time.