The House Next Door: a diary

by Jeff Oaks

Yesterday, the contractors were here until 6:30 pm, and there were commotions of trucks delivering gravel and trucks hauling dirt away. It looks to me as if they were mostly working on the utility lines in the back. They were moving fences around, the little bulldozer rumbled around, and the backhoe busily shoveled dirt into a big truck that eventually drove off at the very end like a happy ending. I heard the men laughing, and the phrase “about two and a half hours” a couple times. My thought was that they’d worked two and half hours over what they were supposed to. 

So far the house hasn’t fallen over. Even the house behind the house they’re building hasn’t fallen over yet, and those folks, who are new buyers, had the backhoe basically on their back porches; they will have almost no back yard in the new configuration of things. But the fact that their house didn’t fall, after all that house has been through, is a sign that the houses are probably stable enough. 

This morning I woke up at 6 am to the sound of a truck in the intersection and I thought: oh, god, they’re here at 6 am. But then that truck went on through the stop sign and elsewhere. Then at 7:30, I heard a loud truck noise and thought, well, at least, there’s light now. But it was just the garbage men, the refuse collectors, the sanitationists, picking up our bags of refuse. 

The sound of trucks, which I grew up hearing, because of my father’s sand gravel company, is a mixed blessing these days. 

But the contractors have seemed to be pretty thoughtful so far about not bringing heavy machinery into the quiet of our mornings. 

Now, if the country could only get the Republican ideologues in Congress and the White House to learn such subtlety, such restraint, such respect for the lives they are supposed to be serving. Goodbye, they said yesterday, to Meals on Wheels in their budget. To the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Because, says the budget director, we can’t in good conscience ask coal miners to pay for National Public Radio. Although they already are asking coal miners to pay for the President’s near-weekly trips to ply golf in Florida, and they’ve already assumed that coal miners are glad to pay instead for police protection of Trump Tower while Melania stays there with Barron because they didn’t want to take him out of his private school. If he’d stay home at the WH or she’d move in with him, the money used to protect her or entertain him could fund an enormous number of things for coal miners. Things that might actually protect or entertain thousands, even millions, instead of three.

Who do we turn to, while the few are carving out a space only for the rich out of the taxes of the many? We send out postcards to illiterates of the heart, hoping to scare them. We sign petitions praying each time that the websites aren’t just phishing schemes to get out emails and information. It doesn’t seem as if anyone is really listening.

I mean, I can’t even find on our local government website the legal start and stop times for residential contracting work. 

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