The all-seeing Bob

There's a possum who lives under our front porch. He comes out at night and prowls around in the light of the scavenger moon.

I've never seen him, but I know he is there. Bob told me so. He told me about the raccoon, too.

"Yeah, he crosses the street over there," Bob said, "and goes into their yard back there." He pointed out the route - from the blue house next to mine, across the street to the house next to his. "I've seen it a couple times."

Bob told me all of this in a way that is intended to make you say, "No kiddin'."

"No kiddin'," I said, not that I doubted him. I don't really doubt anything Bob says. Bob sees all.
When I first started hanging around Jamestown Drive with any amount of serious intent, I picked out a few landmarks to help me navigate through this unfamiliar landscape.

There was the Big Flag down at the Price Chopper, there was the fence row out at the end of Sheridan Bridge, and there was Bob.

Bob always seemed to be out on his porch, more often than not, he'd be sitting on the top step smoking a cigarette. Sometimes he'd wave.
I admit I took advantage of Bob without his consent back in those early days. There are a lot of houses around here that look alike, you see, and many times I'd find myself wondering if I were on the right street. And, if so, was I getting close to Pam's house. But once I'd see Bob, I knew it was time to turn.

Despite his utilitarian value, I still found him mildly annoying.  I thought he might be one of those weird guys. You know, a nosy neighbor, a porch peeper, a meddlesome middle-age dude who secretly harbored impure thoughts about garden tools.  You can't be too sure these days.

Was he checking me out? Every time I'm there, he's there. Pam told me not to worry - he's out there even when I'm not around. That made me feel better for about 10 seconds. Just what's he looking at when I'm NOT around? Again, Pam tried to assure me he was OK.

Well, just as you get used to the neon blue paint on a neighbor's garage or the annoying dog next door, I eventually grew accustomed to Bob's vigils. I learned to ignore him. Besides, by then I'd pretty much figured my way around the neighborhood.

It was on the day I moved into town, though, that I first came to view Bob as something other than a landmark.   I pulled into the driveway with a U-Haul packed to the back door. He was over before I could ask for help.

Other neighbors helped, too, but Bob stuck around until the bitter end. He stuck around for the little boxes. He stuck around for the saw horses and the piano. He stuck around for a beer. And it turns out he's a really nice guy.

He works a part-time job, which explains why he's home a lot. And he's married and they have a 5-year-old son and a baby girl in diapers, which explains why he's out on the porch - alone - a lot.

I'm glad he is. And the neighbors are, too.

Sue, the lady next door to us, has some serious health problems. Her legs and back have revolted against the rest of her body. She's seen doctors and has had surgery, and nothing seems to help.  Well, one day Bob looked over and saw Sue crawling on the ground about 20 feet from her front door. He was over in a leap and a bound, and he ended up calling an ambulance for her.

And there was the guy who lives next door to him, the guy who unwittingly feeds the raccoon. He had a medical emergency, too, and Bob was right there, first one on the scene.

Yes, it's a good thing we have a guy like Bob on this street. Some streets have neighborhood watches; we have the Neighborhood Bob Program.

I suppose we could market the Bob thing. Realtors would love to know about him. Land values would rise. And we could lease him out to high-crime areas. For a set fee, he could sit on your porch for a few hours. Just give him a stoop and an ashtray.

If we did that, though, we'd lose his services on Jamestown Drive. I'd hate to think of someone collapsing unnoticed on the sidewalk because Bob was off guarding some other neighborhood. Crime rates here might soar, pianos would go unmoved. Raccoons and possum would roam around and no one would know.

And that would be sad. No kiddin'.

— 30 —

Collected written works  |  Gary Marx


Looking for a Chicago

    Dog in Cow Town

In Death’s Waiting


Living in Interesting


Remembering 9/11

In Defense

    of Meandering

The Christmas Myth

A Minor Distraction

Giving the Computer

    the Boot

The Depth of These


Musings on the Plaza,

    and a World at War

Morning Drive

    on the First Day

Fruit Stands in October

Moving Day,

    Oscar Night