What He Said

Thursday

I turn the corner onto Crosby Road, intending to get to the bottom of things.  My tenant’s blue Ford Windstar van is parked out front. There are some toys under the car port. Otherwise, there’s no sign of activity.

Next door, a blue Honda Civic is parked under the carport, so I head over for a chat. Ren, a 20-ish blond woman answers.  She has her huge dog, Layla, so she subdues him before she opens the door. Although I’ve spoken with her husband several times, we have never met.  Still, she seems to know who I am.  She does not invite me in. She comes out on the concrete porch.

I try to convey the situation. Charles says there has been some crime. The police don’t have a record of it. I just want to get down to the bottom of it.

“Well,” she says, “we’re moving next week. It’s not worth it. I like this neighborhood, too. There were gunshots last night, someone fired into there last month, and that kid shot up the gas station, too.”

I know the kid. He’s from the house across the street. He lives at a white house owned by his grandfather. Don is great. We share landlord stories. Don’s clearly not a boy scout, though. I’ve checked out his background, and he does have a felony from a long way back. Now, he seems to spend most of his time barbecueing in the front yard as his grandkids ride Big Wheels on the grassless front yard.

I am not sure which “kid” she is talking about. I am expecting that it is the one with the neck tattooes. Neck tatooes say a lot. Of course, his granddad isn’t worried. “He graduated from that school,” he says ,”they told me he was the hardest head that they had ever seen, but he did graduate. Police don’t give him half a chance.”

Her husband pulls up. He has a new haircut. He has a new haircut every time that I see him. He is in barber school. I guess that’s fun when you are in barber school.  He smiles, shakes my hand, and pulls up to the concrete ledge.

“Yep,” he says, “we’re leaving. Just going to walk away from the deposit, got to do it.”  He snaps his thumb against his finger, looks at his wife, and gives her a “thumbs-up.”  “Anyway, Ren’s going to school in Chapel Hill next fall.”

That irks me. Just up and leave, right.  I can tell that they feel danger, though.  Even as we talk, here comes another guy through the bushes and onto Crosby Road. It never stops.  I feel frustrated. Sure, to an extent, I don’t like that Ren and her husband are going. What really frustrates me, though, is a situation where the police would tell a tenant that there is trouble at a home, but not intervene to stop it. If it is a gang house, then arrest someone. Otherwise, stop scaring the locals. Same thing with the cut-through. Can’t zoning enforcement make them put up a fence? Can’t City Engineering build a fence? Can’t Neighborhood Improvement Services convene a neighborhood group? Can the PAC 2 meeting do something?

Warning: the sound you are hearing is me getting frustrated with city government.

“Are you going to let them out, too?”

“They want to leave,” I respond. “But we’ve got to do some talking first.”

Saturday

I turn the corner onto Crosby Road. Last night, Charles finally had a direct talk. I stated my case: either stay and I’ll add security features (alarm, fence, lights) or compensate me to break the lease.  If that’s not acceptable, then expect to resolve this in court.  He’s not happy with that. “I can’t believe that you would want to make me stay somewhere that I don’t want to be,” he says. “I am never going to pay rent for a home that I’m not living in. Rent the home out to someone else.”

It is my expectation that Charles is moving out. Being here, I’m hoping to see evidence of that. His truck is not there, but the blue Windstar hasn’t moved.

Don is there, though.  He’s grilling some chicken. There are two children with him. One has a toy rifle. The other is spinning in circles on her bike.

I roll down my window. I look his way, and he approaches. “My tenant’s on his way out,” I say. “Have you seen him much today?”

“Cars have been coming and going all day.”

That makes me feel better. At least he’s not going to just squat in my house. I still don’t feel great. Having to evict someone is not profitable and not much fun.

“He didn’t seem like much of a friend to me,” he adds. “My kids used to play with him. His kids don’t have a bike or anything, so they came over here. One day, though, my kids went over there and the little boy came out. ‘My daddy said I can’t play with you anymore.’

A white car pulls into the driveway at my home. Then it turns around and leaves.

“That van is not going anywhere. Head gasket is blown.”

I’ve got to go. Don’s got to get back to his chicken.

“All I’ve got to say is this: If he’s a Christian man, then don’t expect another penny out of him.”

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