Mr. D. and Oxygen Tank Man


We live in a mixed neighborhood.  I don’t mean racially mixed, I mean economically mixed.

Semi-rural and poorly planned, tracts of desert scrub and arroyos connect a peculiar medley of expensive haciendas, manufactured homes and middleclass dwellings.

Hooray for diversity.

Since we are not a proper neighborhood, laid out on linear expanses of color-coordinated houses, I have spoken to only two neighbors: Sioux the Harley Driving Computer Specialist and Rainbow the Greenpeace Activist Geo-dome dweller. The others I know only by sight–the walkers who take constitutionals a few times a day.

Mr. D. is a little person who lives three houses up the street. He looks like Salvador Dali with dwarfism, but sporting a less flamboyant mustache. He’s married and has a beautiful twenty something daughter that drives a 1970ish turquoise Monte Carlo (I love her car!).

Three times a day, Mr. D. marches down the road, his oversized walking stick towering over him. I wonder if he was the one who painted it with colorful stripes and zigzags. I often spot him miles from home, in the heat of the day, stomping purposefully through the desert. As I whiz past him in my car, he never fails to wave. He also never smiles.

Oxygen Tank Man is also a walker. He confines himself to a two-block perimeter, which he promenades several times a day. His oxygen backpack seems improbably rugged for so frail a man. Some days he teeters more than others.

The first time I saw Oxygen Tank Man, I did a double take. “Werner Herzog!” my mind exclaimed. But no, that was just wishful thinking. His features are markedly Germanic, though. Anyway, Oxygen Tank Man keeps the neighborhood free of aluminum cans. Several times I have seen him stomp one flat and put it into his back pocket. He also never fails to wave. But he does smile–a big jolly grin that conveys warmth and sincerity.

Mr. D. and the Oxygen Tank Man don’t walk together, but I’m certain that they have exchanged innumerable waves. I think of them sometimes at night, walking and living their lives. I imagine Mr. D fiddling with his walking stick, refreshing his paint stripes.  Oxygen Tank man creates recycled-soda can dinosaurs which he donates to our modest Natural History Museum. Are we three alike, zooming remotely in our own private orbits?

This morning, I saw them talking together near a stop sign tipped by teenaged revelers. Overcome with excitement, I almost honked. Mr. D. was laughing and shaking his head. As I drove past, we all smiled and waved.

Happy, happy neighborhood!

I laughed, imagining they were planning a sequel to Even Dwarves Started Small. I’d cook the big lunch. Sioux could supply the motorcycle. Rainbow could even find us a one legged chicken from the animal sanctuary. Awesome!

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