The save-our-street strategy

Jennifer Murphy, White God’s Eye. 2010, sticks and yarn. Courtesy Clint Roenisch Gallery.

Mommy and Daddy hate the other street. The other street used to be just another street, but now it wants to give us its traffic, to cause us pain. Now Mommy and Daddy host meetings in our house like it is union times. If it were union times, we wouldn’t have a house, or artichoke appetizers for the other angry people, but the spirit would be the same. I’ve never seen Mommy and Daddy so worked up. Usually, they’re at work. They just go to work and they hardly have friends. Not like me, who’s always on the phone, dampening the little holes. They got me Line 2, and when it’s for me, they yell, “Line 2!” like it’s my name. I never even noticed the traffic on our street. I don’t even drive.

“You still call them that?” says Kira, a friend who also has her own line. “I stopped calling my parents Mommy and Daddy when I learned to tie my shoes.”

“You’re so mature,” I say. “Can you give me maturity lessons?”

Daddy tells me to get off the phone, it’s time for Save-Our-Street strategy.

Daddy, he’s incensed about the other street, his neck bullfrogging out over his tie. He’s not even loosening the tie anymore, just gets home from work and starts dialing his new friends, Bruce and Bruce, the other save-the-street fanatics. Daddy’s got a widower friend now, too, and the never-married Vietnamese woman with a Long Island accent who gardens. She plants bulbs, waves him over for the update.

“They’ve got a lawyer now,” she hisses, smushing dirt. “That’s OK,” he says. “We’ve got the mafia.”

Daddy jokes, but only with our street. With the other street, he makes a point of racing down it, pounding the horn. He goes to town meetings and curses the mayor, whose name is May Hamburger. May Hamburger is in somebody’s pocket on the other street. They claim their street, Longview, is too narrow to have two-way traffic. Last spring, they say, a child almost died. Our street, Hillview, is wider; a thoroughfare, a boulevard. Hillview can accommodate.

But Mommy says they’re just worried about property values. The Longviewers, she says, only care about money.

“That kid did need stitches,” I say.

“Longviewers are selfish. They could care less if we live or if we die.” She’s folding chairs.

“How much did our house cost?” I ask.

“A lot,” says Daddy.

“It’s about safety,” she says, plunking a chair against a chair. “It’s about not getting stepped on. You know, the Longviewers hired a lawyer.”

“This is like the Balkans,” I say. “This is how ethnic conflict gets started.”

We did ethnic conflict last year in Integrated Studies, which is English and Social Studies combined in a classroom with an accordion divider. This year, we’re reading our thirty-seventh Steinbeck and getting quizzed on kamikaze pilots. Did they:

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