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"Who Is My Neighbor?"

You and I know our neighbors. At least a few of them. A neighborhood today is a far cry from my childhood neighborhood, when you knew everybody within a two or three block area.

Of course Karen and I know some of our neighbors: Ann and Mike, Jan and Maria, Roberto and Susanna, Donnell and Les, Kathy and Larry, Carol. Rosie and Frankie moved away, but I saw him yesterday. He told me he and Rosie barely escaped a terrible wildfire up north of here. They had to leave their RV trailer and most of their goods behind.

We chat with our neighbors about the weather when we happen to get our empty garbage cans at the same time. or water the flowers that aren’t on the drip system. Nice people, really. Friendly. Helpful. Carol who is in her 80s, pulls our garbage in from the curb if I’m not quick enough to beat her to it. Donnell and I discuss the fun and frustrations of writing fiction.

There’s one house down the block flying the American flag upside down. Which ticks me off big time. That tells me it’s unlikely he and I will exchange Christmas cards. If he even believes in Christmas.

I didn’t want to get into that stuff. I wanted to tell you about a woman I heard about from someone. I can’t recall who told me her story. Read on, please.

The woman knew that this street. in fact this neighborhood, had a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most dangerous areas of the city. Just two weeks ago, an eleven year-old girl and her dad, walking home from a movie, had been robbed and shot dead on this street by two young men. The police, after a gun battle, shot the killers, one of whom was fourteen. Fourteen!

Her destination that sultry afternoon was the home of an elderly man who had been the lifelong friend of her late father. Her habit was to phone him once a week to make sure Willie Williams was okay. This week, Willie had not answered her numerous calls.

The thirty-eight year-old single woman called the police and asked them to look in on Willie, but they had not yet responded. She decided not to wait, knowing the police were short on patrol officers.

Municipal buses did not serve this part of the city, and the taxi company told her none of their drivers would go there.

And so, carrying a bag of groceries, including a bottle of red wine she intended to share with Willie, her purse, and her cell phone, she set off to check on her dad’s buddy.

Her phone buzzed. She stopped walking. It was Adele, her friend and fellow volunteer for the Democratic senatorial campaign. Adele asked if she could help send out letters tomorrow. The woman readily agreed. She had been a staunch Democrat since the first year she was eligible to vote.

The political atmosphere had become vicious in the past few years. Hatred against the opposite party members had become violent. Death threats crowded the internet. It had become so divisive that families and friendships had splintered on party lines. Ultra Liberals were vilified by ultra Conservatives. Liberals, including the young woman, wanted nothing to do with those who preached an authoritarian form of government. She made a notation of Adele’s request on her cell, looked carefully at her surroundings, and resumed walking, being careful not to trip over the broken pavement.

A sudden commotion occurred two blocks ahead. Three men were beating a man. Across the street from the attack, two men stood watching, but did not go to the man’s aid.

The woman yelled, but no one appeared to hear. She started to walk fast, then, she broke into an awkward run, impeded by the bag of groceries. By the time she got to the scene, the three assailants and the bystanders were gone.

She dialed 911, gave the approximate location to the dispatcher. She knelt beside the man. He was unconscious, and bleeding from multiple wounds to his head and face. She felt for his pulse. It was weak and fluttering. He was in a bad way.

On his bloody shirt was a badge supporting the hateful candidate she was working hard to defeat, a man who made no bones about his enmity of “f-ing liberals”, especially women, and people of color.

She twisted off the cap of the wine bottle, and poured it on his wounds, gently wiping away the blood. He was going to die if the medics didn’t arrive soon. She tore off her scarf and used it as a bandage on the worst of his wounds.

She heard the approaching sirens of an ambulance and a squad car. After working for several minutes, the EMTs were able to revive the badly injured man. As they laid him on a gurney and were putting him into the ambulance, the woman asked what hospital they were taking him to.

The police kindly drove the woman to Willie’s home and went in with her. To her great relief, Willie had forgotten to recharge his phone, and hadn’t noticed its dead condition. After a brief visit, the police officers drove her home.

The next day, she visited the man in the hospital.

“In your opinion, which one of these three, the two bystanders, or the woman, acted like a neighbor to the man beaten by the robbers?” (special appreciation to Luke).

Note to the Las Cruces readers: I will be doing a book signing this Saturday, June 29th beginning at 10 a.m., at COAS Book Store on Main Street. Please consider telling your neighbors. You know who they are. Thanks!

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