Easter Sunday. Xy and I spend the day engaged in yard work. Our “yard” is about 4′ x 12′ between the sidewalk in front of our house and the street. Obviously you don’t need a riding lawnmower to take care of this.
Despite the incredibly small size of our yard, we’ve never had to cut it before in the five years since we bought this house.
There’s always been somebody in the neighborhood who volunteered to look after our yard for us. They weren’t particular about getting paid regularly, and they certainly didn’t charge much.
But they were good men, decent people just trying to stay alive in this harsh world, so we were happy to slide them some bucks when we could.
Before Katrina it was Dan who looked after our yard. Dan lived just around the corner. He handled any odd job that came his way. Usually that meant cooking up his own odd jobs. I can respect that.
Dan was not in the best of health before the storm. He seemed to have some sort of parasitic infestation which we often discussed. I could never figure it out. In fact, I was pretty worried about him in the summer of 2005, but then Katrina came, and a few months later Dan passed away. We heard it from his sister, Gwen.
Dan’s sister Gwen is the only person from the old neighborhood who’s back.
But I digress…
After Katrina, in the spring of ought-six, after we’d returned to our home and there wasn’t hardly anyone living for many blocks in any direction, at this desperate and hopeful time, Walter started coming around.
A truly remarkable human being, Walter. Incredibly tall, incredibly lean, old, muscular, dark and handsome, and from some deep country part of Louisiana such that I couldn’t understand a word he said, not but maybe one word in ten.
Walter wasn’t particular about payment. He always said we should pay what we wanted, even if it was nothing, and the Good Lord would take care of the rest. All told, we probably gave him about $20 a month, plus the odd shot of whiskey now and again. He tended not only our little postage stamp of grass, but also the rampant vegetation encroaching from Craig’s yard.
Craig isn’t coming back to New Orleans. More on that later.
The last time I saw Walter was December of ought-six.
He said he was going to be back by our place on Christmas Eve, his birthday.
But that didn’t happen.
We haven’t seen Walter since.
So this Easter, we cut the grass in front of our house ourselves for the first time. We cut it manually, with a big pair of shears. Given that it’s less than five square yards, we didn’t break a sweat, especially given the freak cold snap. Yesterday Xy played in the sleet. She said it was fun. It freaked me out. Sleet in New Orleans in April!
I want to be clear that I’m not complaining about having to cut my own grass. Our patch of yard is so small it’s nothing to complain about. We never sought helpers to do this chore. They sought us out. They took the initiative.
I miss Dan, and now I’m wondering what happened to Walter.
Where is he now? Is he still alive?
I don’t know exactly where he lived, except that it was some distance from us but still in the Mid-City neighborhood, maybe ten blocks away.