the neighbors, from Russia with love

i wasn’t allowed to go in their house.
but my mom let me play in the yard
with their daughter.
Anastasya was my age and once,
she snuck me in.
her basement looked like mine
but in reverse,
like some alternate universe,
fun-house mirror.
it was dingier though,
and smelled like mildew.
they had a cat named Stinky
who once
climbed up our magnolia tree.
my dad cajoled him down.
Stinky seemed unwilling to return
to his owners:
he squirmed in revolt as we handed him back
to our stern Russian neighbor.
i don’t remember what he looked like.
the neighbor man, that is.
the cat was a Calico.
the Russian neighbors had chickens, once.
they plodded around in a small gated area of their backyard.
and one day,
the Russian man hung up dead fish on the clothing line,
like soaking wet pillowcases.
Ruth, the Jewish old woman next door,
knocked on their door and said,
"the chickens and the dead fish? we don’t do that here in America."
Julia Perch is an editorial assistant by day, writer by night, and a literary geek at all times. She earned her B.A. in English from Drexel University, and currently lives and works in West Philly.

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