~This story was first published in The Madison Review (2008).
The neighbors’ infant is screaming again.
Something is wrong. It’s been
twenty minutes and the kid hasn’t shut the fuck up. Your headphones are welded on and the
stentorian Screamin’ Jay doesn’t dim it.
“Dadda… Momma… Dadda …” In hefty
moans, the voice broadcasts a woeful mantra through your open window. You think to close it, but consider your
obligations. Why is he still crying? And is he okay? If you hadn’t just smoked that joint, maybe
you could gauge the severity of the situation.
But you can’t. You decide it’s
your duty to get involved. That’s you:
Mr. Friend to the Goddamned Community.
You cried that way as an infant when you were scared. Your father was always downstairs working on
his H.O. model trains. He had his
headphones on, and he couldn’t hear you.
Luigi Luccarini would climb a ladder to your window and sing the theme song
from The Greatest American Hero. Luigi was retarded, but you didn’t know that. All you knew was some lunatic with one tooth
was peering through your window ranting into his feather-duster microphone
while you screamed your eyes teary and nobody intervened. From that day, the policy was: always intervene.