As the sun rises, I walk down a quiet shady street. No sidewalks – a long road with eerie undertones.
When I first discovered this spooky street, I saw no one out so early in the morning. I passed double-wide trailers with front porches that were permanently planted in large lots. Most yards were mowed and cared for while a few looked like a dumping ground for Frankenstein cars and forgotten toys. A house and a two-story duplex broke up the pattern of mobile homes. One residence had a rusted bike mailbox stand with several vintage cars parked in its side yard. Another place had a huge unhealthy palm tree that looked like a Dr. Seuss drawing and a yard crowded with cacti and tired metal chairs. Near the end of the street a poop-brown trailer had a “Zombie Crossing” sign in a window. Next to that dwelling was the huge Boo Radley house that looked abandoned. It lurked on a deep long lot behind a slanted chainlink fence with several crooked trees and an abundance of trash in the yard.
For weeks, I saw no people during my walks. Each residence had between two and seven vehicles parked on its property, so I assumed they held multiple families. I guessed at the trailers’ secrets. Why was no one ever outside in the mornings? Drug dens or meth labs? Late night partiers? Werewolves, vampires, or aliens? (zombies were too obvious a guess).
The first human I saw during my walk was a skeletal old woman wearing a loose house dress who appeared behind her screen door. She glared at me before slinking away and slowly closing her front door. The next week I spotted a young woman carrying a lunch box and purse heading to her car. She saw me and hurried back into her house. Had she forgotten something, or did she not want to blow her undercover CIA assassin disguise?
As I made up backstories for the street’s assorted residents, I pushed down my nervousness of walking alone on an empty street. Then one morning a dusty & battered brown pick-up clunked onto the street as I moved onto the street’s grassy shoulder. The driver slowed to a crawl and stopped next to me. His window creeped down, and he brushed dirty fingernails through a scraggly grey and brown beard that touched the top of a faded flannel shirt collar. “Need a ride?” he said.
I gave him my best fake smile. “No thanks.”
He nodded, said, “OK,” and drove down the road like a person with no place to go.
I called Gary as soon as the truck was two houses away. “Listen up. I’m on the Spooky Street and some guy in a truck tried to give me a ride. Keep talking to me until I get to a busier street. Ok?” My husband’s voice calmed me down as I walked and talked. When I was almost at the Radley house, I noticed that the old truck had backed into the driveway of the neighboring trailer. The man was still sitting in the truck, smoking a cigarette. I walked faster and made it to a street with sidewalks.
“You alright?” said Gary. “Still there?”
I nodded and whispered into the phone, “ I think so.”
I’m 87% sure my fears are wasted on the Spooky Street. The brown truck guy is more quirky then threatening. A month later developers tore down and hauled off the Boo Radley house. Four small modern homes of different colors with garages and private yards now take up the huge lot. The slate blue, whisper grey, smooth olive, and eggshell white houses look out of place on the Spooky Street, and the stray cats who once roamed that area have moved across the street.
I think FDR was right about being afraid: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” And I like the lyrics of the “Ghostbusters” song. These days I need to face my fears, keep walking forward, and stay connected to those who love me most.