Monday, April 6

Ode to Elmer

When people are treated unkindly, especially over a period of time, it’s not uncommon for them to project their feelings of pain onto others.

That’s what I think happened to Elmer.

For as long as I can remember, Elmer has driven past my house twice each day: once to check the handful of peacocks he keeps, and once as he returns to his home. The dirt road he uses to reach the peacock barn is the same road my family uses for running, walking and four-wheeling. When I’m out and see him pass, I smile and wave. I’ve even attempted to approach his old black truck to extend pleasantries.

Each time, Elmer makes it clear he wants nothing to do with me.

His expression and manner are always the same. Jaw set in angry determination, eyes narrowed, he stares me down in defiance. Sometimes, his gnarled fingers clench into a fist which he shakes in my direction.

When I first encountered Elmer and observed his demeanor I was shocked. That he wanted no part of even a neighborly wave was curious to me. I talked to others in the area and learned he once owned a flock of over fifty peacocks. Vandals, however, killed most of the beautiful birds. People in our neighborhood had nothing to do with the travesty, yet we managed to garner Elmer's scorn. Over time, his angst had a boomerang effect—anger was returned to him as people grew weary of his manner, likely leading him to feel justified for being angry in the first place.

I love that spring is ready to burst forth with new promise. I also love that Elmer has a new blue—almost neon blue—truck. It seems a stark contrast to his old black one. Maybe I just imagined it, but he seemed to sit a little taller in the seat when he drove past the other day. Part of me can’t help but hope that maybe something in his outlook has changed.

Maybe, just maybe, this will be the spring when Elmer waves back.

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