Lucy and Juan are friendly again. For the past several days, the elderly Puerto Rican couple who live next door have not knocked. Juan wanted me to drive him to the NJ Department of Motor Vehicles last week, but I politely declined. They must have cursed me in their native Spanish tongue that sunny morning last week when I simply explained that I didn’t have the time because I was “job hunting”.
“Job hunting? What is this?” Juan asked his wife as if he did not understand my perfect English. “You can take me,” Juan insisted; the weight of his thin body resting upon his right arm; his bony, white fingers grasping the wooden handle of a cane as if it were my neck.
“I’m sorry, Juan. I am not taking you to motor vehicles. I hate waiting in line, and besides, I don’t even have a car; the main reason being is because I cannot stand government offices.”
“Please take him,” Lucy begged, “I cannot go. I have to wait for an important phone call from the Mayor.”
“The Mayor? Brian P. Stack?” I asked. “Do you know him? I have never lived anywhere where people put up photographs of the Mayor in the windows of their homes. It is the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen. What’s that all about? Why do people here in Union City seem to worship that mayor, when all I’ve ever heard are bad things about him on the news? His police commissioner was fired last week. They say he was clocking overtime pay while working out at the gym. Why would he be calling you, Lucy? Are you and Juan in the mob?” I asked, laughing.
“You are so full of it,” Juan snipped as he turned away and headed back inside their apartment.”
The past week was the most peaceful the apartment has ever been. No longer were afternoon naps interrupted by Lucy who is known for pounding four hard times, followed by a shout through the crack at the side of my door—“I think I love you,” she often sang until I removed the chain on my door to permit her to reach inside and hug and kiss me again. I was so sick of her rice and beans, anyway.
Lucy knocked again yesterday. Juan stood silently behind his wife until I said something—
“Good morning, Juan and Lucy. How are you?” I asked.
“Fine, fine,” they said in perfect English, smiling at me like their son again.
“Wasn’t that a nice thing for a mayor to do?” I asked.
“Oh, you got a turkey too?” Lucy asked, as if I too had some secret connection with Mayor Brian P. Stack.
“Yes. Four more years! Four more years!” I shouted.
“See, I told you we all love Brian P. Stack here in Union City.”
“Well, the next time you want a ride to Motor Vehicles, call him.”
Juan laughed loudly and Lucy spoke—
“You need me to season your turkey? I know how to season a turkey.”
“No thanks, Mommie,” I replied. “My roommate always does our turkey. He never lets me touch it. Black people are funny like that with their food.”
“I know,’ Lucy said, “but come here, I want you to see mine.”
I walked, barefoot, into Lucy and Juan’s apartment, leaving the smooth clean wooden surface of my own newly renovated kitchen to step upon, cold, well-worn linoleum in their place.
Lucy and Juan’s turkey appeared to have been ravaged by some wild animal. Cuts covered the goose-bump skin of the large, round breast of the bird from Brian P. Stack. Slices of lime were embedded under the bird’s skin and it looked like it was covered in boils in need of lancing. Lucy asked me to smell a bowl of dried oregano that had been smashed along with some cilantro in a bowl of cheap vegetable oil.
“If you want, I give you some for your turkey.”
“Oh, no thanks, Lucy. I told you, Black people like to cook their own poultry. What is that sticking out of the belly?” I asked.
“That’s the neck. It’s still stuck. I have to wait for it to thaw out before I season inside. Oh, you just wait until Thursday. I bring you some.”
“Thank you, Lucy. I’ll look forward to that. You are so nice to me, yet I always seem to be so mean to the two of you” I said, closing my door, realizing that one cannot be too political in the state of New Jersey where enemies are often butchered like turkeys in these parts.