Ozzie Ausband

messed up

First light. Friday morning. I reached over and turned the volume down on the stereo. I had spotted something and pulled up close to the curb. I switched the engine off. The lawn was dead. Once it had grown thick and lush across the front of this stucco  San Bernardino monstrosity. Trash, leaves and old newspapers had collected on the porch and the black wrought- iron railings were thick with cobwebs. I ran an experienced eye over the adjacent properties. Everything in its place. This early in the morning, I could scout and perform my recon with little threat of interference by neighbors. I was dressed like anyone else out here. I looked like I fit right in. That is the key. I look and act like I belong. I remove suspicion, wave at the neighbors and people generally leave me alone. It has worked for years now.

The palm trees were thick and sagging with dried and dusty palm fronds. Stark red Bougainvillea grew across the brick wall surrounding the property. I checked the mailbox, front windows and assessed for human presence. The grass crunched underfoot and I immediately thought of the 2003 fires out here. With the heat and dessication occurring in San Bernardino, it only takes a cigarette and life changes drastically for people. The official estimate for homes lost in the 2003 fire was close to 1500. That’s a bunch of suffering.

I approached the side wall and peered through a broken wooden gate. I saw blue tiles. Pulling myself up, I checked for the presence of dogs and threats. It appeared abandoned. Trash bags of rotten garbage were stacked in a corner of the back patio. It seemed as though the owners just let things go. I saw indifference and abandon at every glance. Whoever lived here, didn’t care.

The pool was a great shape but the surface looked like some giant hand had come down and grated the surface off. It seemed as though the owners had wanted to re-plaster the pool but never got around to it. The transitions looked stellar and my only thought was “…messed up.” A large green lizard –startled by my intrusion–scurried across the deck, blinked and disappeared into the ivy growth. It was a fitting gesture, because whoever lived there had disappeared in a hurry.

Cereal bowls were sitting on the counter with green mold growing out of them. Toys, clothing and a broken television were in the kitchen, strewn about. The propane gas grill was squatting darkly on the deck by the shallow end. Its propane tank was long gone. The lid was in a corner of the yard. Half burnt fire logs were stacked on top of the grills grating like some obscene makeshift fire pit. In the corner beside the grills lid were about a hundred empty wine and liquor bottles. That explained it all to me. Messed up. Letting things go. Booze. Thus endeth the lesson. Skate-Ozzie