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A Block on Ashbury Heights

Sometimes in the afternoons when the mothers are out shopping and the youngsters have not yet returned from school our block looks so deserted and wind-swept and dull. The houses are so much alike. They all sit there in a row with their poker faces like close-mouthed Yankees refusing to divulge any secrets. But from the bow-windows where I sit and type, in spite of their silence the house fronts have become individualized into so many human stories.

I never stop to look out but somehow the stories get in through the window. For instance, I would not be so rude as to stare at the family washing which once a week is hung on the flat top of a neighbor's garage, but those clothes up there have a way of flapping in the wind so conspicuously that I cannot help see. There is the man of the house and his, shall I say garments, kick themselves about like some staid old deacon having his fling. Then there is the middle-sized bear whose bloomers, billowed by the wind, become a ridiculous fat woman cut off at the waist. And the little bear's starched clothes crack and snap while the revolving tree-horse whirls about like some mad dervish. I often wonder if the family know of the wild actions that take place on the roof.

It is a very respectable block inhabited mostly by grown-ups except one lively house where a dog lives with some boys and their incidental parents. The door of that house continuously bangs, and other boys with other dogs are always hanging around whistling under the windows.

Most of the windows are only used to admit light except one that is used to look out of and is inhabited by an old lady who sits all day and knits for her grandchildren. It must not be so bad, I think, to look out of the window upon life instead of always rushing off to catch a car that takes one into the thick of it.

Out of the window of my kitchenette I can look into the window of a girl in the next house. Every morning I get my breakfast by her dressing. My coffee I start as she begins to unwind her curls from their steel cages. I have a suspicion that she also dresses by me. If she sniffs my coffee first, I imagine she hurries with her curls. She is usually fixing her eye-brows to my toast and by the time I sit down she is doing her lips.

After that she goes off for the long day and so do most of the people in the block. Then at night they all return, drawn by some tie of love or habit or despair, each to his right place in the long row of houses, which have been sitting there all day with their poker faces, waiting.

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