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Not Like Vern and Shirley

Easy Essay by LeRoy Chatfield 

I regret to inform you I am unable to adequately describe a blood curdling experience I had while walking Fergus last week.

We were on our way home, still a half-mile to go, and I was almost out of gas. As I grow older this happens more frequently. Just a few years back I could walk Fergus 3 to 5 miles without taking a break. No more!  Those days are long gone and will never return. 

Now, I have to take a bench break in the middle of our walk, give Fergus some treats, check my iPhone for messages and emails and CNN for late breaking headline news, then rouse myself from the bench and begin to plod home. Some days my walk ends up being  2.3 or 2.5, or if you can believe it, 3.2 miles. 

When I finally make it home, open the garage door, and walk into the house it’s  “home sweet home” and I’m pooped!  At age 11-years, so is Fergus.

On this particular day with Fergus we came back home by way of Monterey Way  and just as we turned right onto  27th Ave in front of Sutterville Elementary School, I thought I heard someone shouting, but not seeing anyone else on the street, I ignored it, and just kept plodding on towards the railroad levee and the neighborhood where I live.  

I had not gone more than 10 yards when I heard a male voice shouting at the top of his voice: How many times do I have to tell you! This is last time! I am not going to tell you again! . . . then another voice screamed with a kind of mixed  shrieking and crying at the top of her voice, now he yelling! she crying and shrieking! she starts yelling back at him! Then, both in unison, trying to out yell each other.  

All the while, I keep walking down the street in front of their house, I dare not stop or attempt to interfere. For one thing  they are inside the house and second, in today’s murderous gun culture, anyone can be shot and killed for any reason or no reason. Shoot first, ask questions later!  Interfering in a domestic fight is simply not an option in today’s world. 

I was shaken up!  One reason, I think, was because I “knew” both the man and the woman who were screaming at each other. I used quotation marks; I really can’t  say I knew them in any meaningful way, I didn’t. But because I am an inveterate walker, I would see him from time to time riding his bike throughout the greater neighborhood – a tall (6 ft 4” ?)  slender man in his 60s with short unkempt shock white hair who always wore a faded T-short and cut off jeans. As we passed each other I would lift my walking stick to say “hello” and he would acknowledge it and respond.

She was a prodigious front yard gardener of Asian descent, I think Japanese. Many times in previous walks as I passed by their house she would be down or on her knees weeding, planting or trimming – every inch of her front yard was covered with all manner of flora.  She rarely acknowledged my passing-by but primarily I think, because she was so wrapped up in her garden work.

That’s it! My blood curdling experience as best as I can remember it.

But the more I replayed what happened and the closer I got to home, I became more and more depressed about the experience. I wanted to explain to Bonnie what I had experienced and share with her how much it depressed me. She’s a good listener, which is exactly what I needed.

This blood curdling experience and its affect on me was much different than my childhood experience with the Saturday night domestic violence between Vern and Shirley. 

We were living at the corner of Second and Oak Streets in Colusa (CA) where I grew up.

Colusa, a small rice town located hard by the West levee of the Sacramento River had a population of 2,800 people and its urban core was one square mile. We lived in a two-story house across the street from Vern, a plumbing contractor, and his wife Shirley.

Every Saturday night after night fell, Vern and Shirley would be drunk out of their minds and begin to yell and scream obscenities at each other. On occasion Shirley would throw a pot or pan at Vern and I can’t say for sure because it was all dark, he might have thrown them back at her. Because my brother and I slept on the second floor we had ringside seats to the Saturday Vern and Shirley show,  but it wasn’t exciting, it was boring.  

You really couldn’t see anything because it was nightime and after 15 minutes or so of listening to them shout at each other, we would go to bed and hope they would pass out soon.  

Maybe we were too young to understand. 

Now,  just to be fair about this, I want to give Vern and Shirley  this credit – it only happened on Saturday nights, on all  other nights they seemed to be a happily married couple.

I can’t explain any of this, I can only write down what I remember, and how I felt about it.






Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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