The town is changing. The corner store where patrons could buy a single black and mild along with a lotto ticket is still there. It still sells lotto. There are a few cold 40s in the cooler, next to an extended collection of batch artisanal beer from the Rocky and the Sierra mountains. None from Milwaukee.
The long-term neighbors keep an eye on the new folks. The ones who foolishly stand on the street, rifling through their bags, not paying attention to the opportunistic predators. The first ones who fixed up Miss Carter’s house after she passed on. They were very into their front yard. The next ones who bought the houses that someone else fixed up. Lots of granite and walls coming down for an “open” floor plan.
The ones with their fancy three-wheeled strollers. They carry their fat babies in their reverse backpacks, facing out with their pink cheeks and pillow feet. In one hand they grip a stainless steel coffee cup and in the other the leash for their misshapen dog. The dog that is afraid of blowing leaves and trash trucks and barks at the ladies wearing their church hats.
The old timer likes most of his new neighbors. They borrow his tools and ask for his opinion on roofers and electricians. He tells the youngest ones to get their keys out before they step out of their Ubers. He’s not crazy about the Ubers, though. His buddy supplements his retirement by driving a D.C. He said that he’s not going to drive his own car.
Looking up and down the compact streets with homes that were residences to African American professors, judges and lawyers before it became a “transitional” neighborhood, two or three homes on every block proudly fly the red and white D.C. flags. A bunch of them “work” from home–whatever that means. One thing he knows it means is that there are more people around during the day.
The old timer sits on his front porch and nods to the parade of walkers and bikers and strollers bringing life to his street. He’s glad to have activity out in the open–but he knew what was happening in the shadows, too. It’s not gone, though it’s definitely on the wane. But every time there is a car break-in or a mugging, there is much clucking. It’s still the city, man, he thinks to himself.
He wonders if they will raise their kids here. If they will go to the neighborhood schools. He hopes so, because the corner store is carrying organic milk in addition to wines with foreign labels. But there’s also sandwiches. His wife doesn’t like him eating greasy carryout, but if he brings home a wrap, they’re both happy. These new people? They better stay.