On my way home I was thinking, “okay. We have a preaching judge, a kleptomaniac, a soliloquist, a human parrot, a know-it-all and a resident serial killer.” I felt like I had just stepped through the looking glass.
Some people might be amused or alarmed or, as was I, completely indifferent toward the plethora of personalities living in the neighborhood. I had always appreciated diversity and I had my own propensities, although nobody yet knew what they were.
The next week, via her usual story-telling, Jean “introduced” the neighbor directly across from me. “We call him “double-take,” she said. “His name is Don…or Donna, depending on the day.” I was laughing as I listened.
Without breaking stride, she said “he’s one of those ‘higher-ups’ for the Shell Oil Company, although he’s semi-retired. I think he pretty much only works when he wants to. He’s been a confirmed bachelor his entire life but he loves all the women and all the women love him.”
I interrupted her and asked “what’s the Don and Donna about?” She said “oh. He sort of likes to wear women’s clothes and be called Donna. He just has that little eccentricity but we all adore him.” She laughed and said “last year, he came to the neighborhood party wearing a sun dress, a long blonde wig, a floppy hat and a strand of pearls around his neck.” She opened her eyes and said “I don’t have a problem with it. I find it rather charming. I mean, haven’t you ever wanted to dress like a man?”
It took a few seconds for me to say “not that I recall.”
She continued. “You might see him working out in his yard, wearing a tube top and short shorts or you might see him wearing jeans and a t-shirt. It just depends on ‘who’ woke up that morning.”
I asked her if he dressed like a woman when he went to work. Jean said “that, I don’t know.”
I was really starting to wonder if Jean was having me on but I had witnessed Gladys doing exactly what she had described, so maybe the stories were true. I knew people were strange and as I said, we all have our own stories but this neighborhood seemed to be a little more bizarre than I expected.
I asked Jean if she had come up with a nickname for me yet. “Oh, yes,” she said. “I call you three-ring.” Again, I was echoing Ditto when I said “three-ring?”
I was wondering to myself, “does she mean a three-ring circus? Was she comparing me to a trick-performing elephant or even worse, was she comparing me to a clown?”
She said “it hasn’t escaped my attention that you wear three gold bands on your left thumb. That’s why I call you three-ring. I’ve seen people wearing thumb rings but I’ve never seen anyone wear more than one. Might I ask their significance?
I looked her dead in the eyes and without blinking said “I pried them off of the cold, severed hands of three dead husbands.”
For the first time since we met, Jean was totally gobsmacked. It took her a few seconds before she burst out laughing. “That’s a good one,” she said.
“I’m glad you liked it,” I answered with a smile.
To be continued________________