Here's a story I've been meaning to share for a while now. It happened a couple years back, in Ed's backyard. Ed is a friend of mine who enjoys buying beer for the both of us. I love him dearly. Anyways, we were in his backyard on a cool summer's night, swapping stories and drinking beer and passing the pipe back and forth. If I recall correctly, we were both a little down in the dumps and trying to cheer each other up.
At some point, I began to hear some kind of rustling noise behind me. It sounded like it was coming from the side yard, like someone was climbing over the creaky wooden fence that separated Ed's place from his neighbors. I looked over my shoulder and caught a blur of a man just as he was running past us. He slowed down for a moment, sniffing the air, then muttered something that I didn't catch, and then continued to flee through the yard.
I looked over to Ed and I saw this weird smile on his face. I figured that meant that this man was a familiar neighbor or someone he knew, so I relaxed and packed a fresh bowl in the pipe.
It wasn't until I finished packing the bowl and had passed the pipe to Ed that he finally spoke up.
"That was weird, right?" He asked me as he took the pipe.
"What was weird?" I asked back.
"That guy who just ran through my backyard!"
"Wait, you mean you don't know that guy?!"
"No! I don't know him!"
"But…but I saw you smiling at him!"
"If I was smiling it's because I was freaked out. Not because I knew who he was!"
"Oh shit." I said after a pause. "That is weird then."
"I wondered why he came back here. What did he say?"
"I'm not sure, I think it was Spanish."
"Was he Hispanic?"
"I think so... he went by so fast though, I'm not really sure."
"He was running really fast..."
Why was he running so fast? We both silently wondered.
"What if he did some horrible crime and the police are after him?" Ed finally said, saying what we were both thinking.
"I don't know if we should-" But suddenly my words got trapped in my throat, as I saw a now familiar figure emerging from behind Ed. Ed must have noticed that my eyes had grown twice as big, because he turned around to see what I was staring at.
Ed jerked back in his seat when he found the man hovering over him, speaking rapidly in Spanish and using a lot of hand gestures. I could see that he was a man of Hispanic descent, medium build, and wearing a white plain T-shirt that was covered in sweat. Even though neither of us had a clue of what he was trying to tell us, it was clear by his tone and body language that this man was desperate. Very desperate.
Again, I looked to Ed for guidance. But he didn't seem to have a clue as to what to do. I watched the desperate man as his eyes looked to the backdoor of Ed's house. I realized it was wide open. Before I could say anything though, the man bolted for the open door. Ed bolted too, and managed to get past him and block his entrance into the house. I stood back and watched. I didn't know what else to do.
"Don't go in there!" Ed said firmly. "No enter!"
The man muttered again in Spanish and tried to get around Ed. Ed blocked his way again, and then again. Each time he blocked him, I feared the man would turn violent, perhaps shanking my friend with a dull knife or a broken bottle. But this did not happen, as it seemed we were dealing with a peaceful, desperate man.
He gave up on trying to get through the door and ran along the back of the house, as if he was trying to find a place to hide. I remember just staring at him while he did this, wondering if this was actually happening.
I continued to watch as the man found a small opening at the bottom of the outside wall. It was just big enough for a grown man to fit in, about one and a half feet wide I’d guess, and it lead to a tight crawl space underneath the house.
I watched him as he tore off the screen that covered the opening and army crawled his way into the dirty crawl space. I suddenly recalled the time not too long ago, where Ed and I had speculated as to what the purpose of that crawl space was.
Now we knew. It was for hiding desperate men.
I watched him as he squirmed around down there, in that little pocket in the dark. He was on his stomach, spinning around, trying to find a path to scurry down. But there was no path to be found, so he continued to spin until he came back around to me.
By now Ed had locked the doors to his house, and had returned to the action. I remember the moment when he realized that this strange, crazed man was now hiding underneath his house. He turned to me and gave me a look of utter disappointment. As if to say, “Really? You just stood here and let him scurry under my house.”
The man was looking at me too, with big puppy dog eyes, begging me to help him. He must have figured that since I had not done anything to stop him, and Ed had, that I was his only friend in this backyard.
And perhaps I was. Because I found myself sympathizing with him, trying to understand where he was coming from. Ed did not have a similar point of view.
"I'm gonna call the cops."
"No, don't." I found myself saying, although I don't know why. "He's innocent."
"He's innocent?! Innocent?!! Randy, you don't even know what he did. You have no idea who this guy is. Why do you think he's innocent?"
"I don't know... he could have shanked you before, but he didn't."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
The desperate man made another long Spanish plea to us.
"I'm calling the cops." Ed said. He took out his phone from his pocket.
"Wait Ed, are you sure you want the cops to come here, we've been smoking."
"Shit, you're right. OK, shit. What do we do?"
The man, again, pleaded with us to leave him be.
"Get the fuck out of there!" Ed ordered, losing whatever patience he had left. But the man did not understand, or if he did, he chose not to listen to him.
"I got an idea!" I said to Ed. I cupped my hands around my mouth.
"Policia! We. Will. Call. Policia!" I shouted down at the man. He did not move.
"That was your plan?" Ed said dryly.
"Policia! Call Policia! Policia!" I continued to shout. Still, the desperate man stayed where he was.
"Policia! Policia! Policia! Policia! Policia!" This time, the desperate man lifted his head up and cocked it to one side.
"Policia?" He asked nervously.
"Policia." I said affirmatively.
"Policia..." He let the word crawl out of his mouth as he sighed. I couldn't help but smile at the way he said this. He said it like the way heartbroken men mutter the word "Women....".
And then the desperate man jumped out of the hole and ran to the creaky wooden fence and climbed into the dark shadows of someone else's backyard.
This time though, we made sure he didn't come back. We stood by the fence and waited until we could no longer hear his rapid movement. Three minutes later we were still standing there, because we could still hear him in the yard diagonal to ours. He was just running back and forth, back and forth, muttering in Spanish frantically. We listened to this in silence, as we passed the bowl back and forth, back and forth, in a surreal moment that I will never forget.
"We should call the cops..." I said, changing my stance.
"What?! You didn't want to call the cops when he was in my backyard but now that he's finally left you want to call the cops?!"
"Well... I mean, what if he hurts someone."
"He didn't shank me, why would he shank someone else."
I couldn't disagree, he did seem peaceful.
"But what if this guy did something really horrible, and that's why the cops are after him?" We heard the man let out a quick cry in pain, as if he had banged his leg on something in the dark.
"If he did something really horrible, there would be a police chopper looking for him." Ed argued.
Before I could respond, we heard a new voice, one that came from the same diagonal yard.
"Hey! Who are you! What are you doing here!?" This was followed by now-familiar Spanish pleas.
"Look, I'm gonna call the cops!"
Ed nudged my shoulder. "See, he's calling the cops, everything's cool." He waited for me to respond, but I didn't know what to say. He put his arm around me. "C'mon, let's go to the bar and talk to some girls."
We walked through the side yard out to the driveway, leaving the new voice to deal with the desperate man. When we made it out to the street, there was a chopper hovering above Ed's neighborhood, with its great searchlight scanning the backyards of the block.
"That could be for anything." Ed said before taking a hit of the bowl, and then dumping the remaining ash out on the pavement at our feet.