Monday, June 11, 2012


This week's challenge: Using between 33 and 333 words, write a response including the third definition of the word:
“Broad lawns and narrow minds.” That’s how Hemingway denied describing Midwestern towns like the one I grew up in. If he did say it, he wasn’t wrong, at least not as I recall the 1960s. Fitting in and being alike were valued. Every residence was a ranch house. Manicured lawns were mandatory. So were driveways and garages.  

That’s why the people across the alley fascinated me. They lived in the only apartment building in the neighborhood. From my swing-and-slide vantage point, I could spy all six back doors and where they left their cars. No garage! Just concrete parking chocks.

Apt. 1 – Ann and Walt, siblings in their 20s who moved in after their dad died and they had to sell their “nice house.” Their mom also died, back when they were still little. This made Walt especially romantic: An older boy who’d known suffering!

Apt. 2 – Mr. and Mrs. Morris. He carried a briefcase, so he worked in an office. She taught history at our school! It was thrilling to see a teacher come and go. The grownups wondered why they never went anywhere together.

Apt. 3 – Mr. and Mrs. Bray owned the building. Her glass frames made her look like a cat. She was friendly and always waved. I seldom saw him, but still hated him because of a dispute with my mother over garbage cans. I wondered if they made themselves pay rent.

Apt. 4 – The Harringtons were old folks raising their grandson. Michael was younger than me and had a harelip. The grownups whispered that Michael’s mother abandoned him because of his lip and so, since a dad obviously couldn’t raise a child, he lived with his grandparents.

Apt. 5 – For some reason, no one stayed here long.

Apt. 6 – The Rosses. Linda Ross was in my class, so she was my passport inside and around the apartment building. My favorite thing to do was to go to the Ross’ mailbox with Linda because opening it required a key.


  1. Anonymous6:44 PM

    Thanks for the view from "The Other Side". As someone who grew up in apartments, I was always envious of those that had houses and land.

    It's also interesting that for every building, there is an Apartment 5.

  2. Anonymous10:41 PM

    I like your 'swing and slide' vantage point :) I got a chuckle at the wide-eyed excitement of checking the mailbox because it needed a key.

  3. The "swing and slide" vantage point was my favorite part as well. I feel like the opening of this had a really great rhythm to it. I almost wish that the descriptions of the tenants were weaved into the story instead of numbered as they were. Either way, I love your reminiscing. Great job with the prompt. Hope to see you back soon.

  4. Anonymous7:51 AM

    Interesting vantage point. My grandmother had an apartment building across the street, and it fascinated me, too. I love your exploration.

  5. Anonymous10:36 AM

    I grew up in a similar Midwestern suburb (although we were all split-levels instead of ranches), and I remember the nearest apartment building seemed like another universe to me too! Funny to think back.

  6. We in those manicured ranches as well, and all the same! Loved the dispute over trash cans because that is a reality in the alleys. Loved how you could watch almost unsuspectedly from your vantage point. Love keys. They remind me of secret stuff.

  7. Swing snooping, I love it! It made me curious about a rhythm that moved with the swing as it went up and down. I can remember doing this same type of thing in a friend of mine's yard as a kid, only we used the teeter totter ;-)

  8. Oh, I loved this. I can see you, watching, taking mental notes. I love eavesdropping on people's lives like this and wondering about them.

  9. Anonymous10:30 PM

    This was a beautiful little snapshot of childhood. I have to say that the part that intrigued me most was the bit about Apt. 5. You could totally take this in another direction and tell us a tall tale about #5.

  10. Anonymous11:04 AM

    It seems like things didn't change much between the sixties and the eighties in small midwestern towns. I loved the phrase "denied describing".


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