Eminent Domain

It’s terrible what they did to Walter. He was the nicest man and never bothered a soul. Smart as heck, too. Despite his advanced age, he possessed the brains of a much younger person. Walter’s house wasn’t the biggest or fanciest. He’d lived in the neighborhood longer than anyone else, while lots of others have come and gone. We used to joke that Walter was here waiting for the rest of us.

Was Walter a saint? No, he was created the same as everyone else; full of flaws and inclinations and whatnot. During the time we spend on this green Earth, we’re obliged to suppress the evil urges carried inside our hearts. It’s not necessary to drag our festering badness into public view, is it? Week after week, Walter donated second-hand shoes and clothing to local charities. He would do anything for a neighbor, which is how we’ll remember him.

You don’t often see the elderly work so hard, especially at night and in the dark, but Walter puttered around and fussed with his yard constantly. His steady commitment to adopting new landscaping designs won our admiration. He couldn’t abide seeing any of God’s creatures frolicking about on the freshly-laid sod. Walter’s hatred of dogs troubled some of us; dog lovers, for sure. Come to think of it, he didn’t take to cats, either. Birds and squirrels were “pests.” The no-trespassing list included children as well.

Walter had oodles of presence. He was so warm and engaged. He’d lean out of his kitchen window and ask the kids from next door (the Millers’ little Rob Jr. and April, really well-mannered youngsters) to “scram” and “clear out of here” or he’d “go for the garden hose.” Then Walter would bust out a mega-watt smile. Big white teeth. What a handsome older gentleman.

If Walter could see his home right now, he’d weep.

Picture a neat little frame bungalow — patches of flaking paint but still sound — with azaleas and knockout roses all over the place. Flowerbeds populated by genuine ceramic gnomes, not the fake plastic-y versions. A lawn jockey. Bars across the basement windows. And now, today, the whole lot marked off with yellow-and-black warning tape, the grass all torn up, mountains of dirt everywhere. Holes in the ground; pits, you could say. The ruckus of workers and machines digging at all hours, even under work lights in the evening when decent folk want to eat dinner and watch the television.

The explanation is obvious. Treasure or a precious natural resource was discovered on Walter’s property and the darned government packed up the old man and shipped him off to Timbuktu or who knows where. He’s victimized, that’s the prevailing view. It’s as if our entire neighborhood is cursed — decades of people and pets disappearing mysteriously, and now, just look at poor Walter’s circumstances.

Michael Grant Smith wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing appears in other publications. He is neither aerodynamic nor buoyant. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati. To learn too much about Michael, please visit www.michaelgrantsmith.com/plenty-of-words and @MGSatMGScom.

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