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"I'm not much on rear-window ethics."

-- Grace Kelly as Lisa Fremont in Alfred Hitchcock's film Rear Window

I've seen a lot of things through the window above the kitchen sink. As a kid living in a remote rural area, I'd wash dishes and watch wildlife in the valley behind my childhood home. As an adult living in a growing urban area, I wash dishes and watch wildlife in the alley beside my loft. As best I can tell, the main difference in the wildlife is the number of legs.

Whereas deer and rabbit feasted on alfalfa and clover, I now see folks graze on burgers and fries at the local pub. Foxes scurried to keep their babies near the den; parents corral their kids with strollers and harnesses. And predators? Well, they hunt, be they hawks or crooks.

This morning, I filled my coffee cup and glanced out the window to see a police officer taking photographs of new graffiti that appeared overnight on utility boxes and trash dumpsters. Either Picasso was quiet or I slept soundly, for I didn't hear a thing last night. What a waste of talent and resources, I thought, but not a lot I can do about it since I saw nothing.

I mean, it's not like other times when I've caught someone in the act -- like teens running on rooftops seeking thrills and pulling copper from air conditioners, or like folks helping themselves to a neighbor's construction material one Sunday afternoon. I ran out there all Glenn-Close-Fatal-Attraction style with wild hair and arms waving. Those perps scattered like trailers in a twister.

This afternoon, as I rinsed a glass, I glanced out the window and noticed a man riding a bicycle. He pedaled slowly passed my place, then circled around a few times and eased up near some equipment lying by a neighbor's building. He looked around as if to see whether anyone was watching, grabbed the items, balanced them precariously on the handlebars, and wobbled his way toward my building.

My mind raced. I should do something. I ran downstairs and threw open my front door. There he was, waiting for traffic to clear. I took a few steps into the rain ... and stopped. I just stood there, and watched him ride away.

What's wrong with me? I let him escape! Was it because I was cold and wet? Am I simply a fair-weather caped crusader? Why wouldn't my body move?

I don't know. There are things I know to be true, things I think are true, and things I merely think. When I was 16 years old, everything fell into the first category. At 46, the borders seem more permeable.

Maybe I was wrong, and they were his items. Maybe I was wrong and let a neighbor down. Maybe the man was destitute ... or dangerous. Maybe my cape was in the wash, or maybe rear-window ethics are hazier for citified Lisas than countrified ones.

Regardless, there's only one clear solution: Stop doing dishes. I'm seeing everything but the kitchen sink.

NAN Our Town on 02/27/2020

Print Headline: Perhaps her cape was dirty

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