White Neighbors, Part 2

My daughter pointed at our White neighbor down the street. “What is he doing, meditating?”

I shook my head. “No, baby, he’s barbecuing.”

Our neighbors, Robert and Lacy, had moved in about four months ago. They were nice and all, and we were glad they had bought the house, because it meant an instant 20% jump in our property values.

White folks have their uses, y’know.

The only bad thing about him is that he would do strange things in his front yard. Like, for instance, water his lawn. I asked him about it one time, when he was standing in his front lawn with the garden hose, just sprinkling away. I says, “Hiya, Robert, what’s up?”

He turned, and quickly shut off his hose. “Nothing, nothing,” he said, wiping off his hands and extending a clenched fist. “Fist bump,” he said.

“Huh?” I answered, puzzled.

“Fist bump,” he repeated.

“Oh!” I answered, extending my fist to quickly tap his, not wanting to be rude. I heard someone laughing and turned. It was my daughter and her friend Shooney. “Go ahead, Daddy, fist bump!” she exclaimed, and they both bent over, laughing their fool heads off. I’d fix her later.

A minute later, Robert finished bumping my fist, first one way, then the other. All we needed were a couple of Afros and some bell bottoms and we could be Starsky and Hutch. He looked up with a big grin. “How’s that, Bro?” he asked, proud of his new skill.

“Been watching Flip Wilson reruns again?” I asked, with a deep sigh.

“Yeah, but I didn’t know Flip had a twin sister named Geraldine. She’s funny!”

I decided to let that go for now, and pointed to his still-dripping hose. “What’cha doing?” I asked.

“Watering my yard. Today’s Tuesday.”

I shook my head, confused. “What does Tuesday have to do with it?” I asked.

“You didn’t hear? Fire Marshal declared a drought, odd-numbered houses can only water on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, even-numbered houses on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays, nobody on Sundays.” He nodded his head vigorously, happy to impart some new information my way. “He catch you watering your lawn on the wrong day, he’ll write you a ticket!”

I nodded blankly. Fire Marshal?

Who the Hell was the Fire Marshal?

When we voted for him?

White people got a bad habit of holding them little back-door elections they don’t tell us about.

Like Dog Catcher!

You ever voted on him?

Hell, no!

It’s probably the Mayor’s little cousin in Special Ed they done give a job to. He slow, but he can grab them dogs lickety-split. Probably cut him a deal with the Chinese restaurant, so he can make some extra money on the side. Plus, if he stay catchin’ dogs for 20 years, he can collect a pension.

White people always got a way to take care of their own.


“He can’t be barbecuing,” my daughter said, shaking her head. “Where’s the smoke?”

I looked at her. “White people don’t barbecue with smoke,” I replied. “See?”

Robert had picked up the lid and began poking inside. A half-opened can of Beanie Weenies, and 2 pink chicken legs lay on the grill. He held his hand over the grill, and held it there.

2, 3, 4, 5 seconds..then 6, 7, 8, before nodding his head like he was satisfied.

“Is it cooking?” my daughter asked.

“You lookin’ at it, just like I am,” I responded, “so you tell me.”

She looked at me with the same look her mother had when I told her it was her turn to mow the lawn. Don’t start me on that.

“I’m going see,” my daughter said, walking toward Robert and his pit. I stood where I was. This would be a good lesson for her, teach her some gratitude about Black men. When we say BBQ (in BlackSpeak, barbecuing is called “‘cuing.” You know us, we shorten everything.), we mean heat and smoke, with a bottle of water on the side for flare-ups. When a Black man ‘cues, he’s putting in some work, with jars of BBQ sauce and baste, with either a brush or a short mop to slap it on with. We need a radio blasting, and an ice chest full of cold ones, ’cause barbecuing is hard work, yes indeed!

I watched my daughter talk to Robert for a moment, then kept my face straight as he raised the lid. She put her hand over the grill and held it, then looked at Robert. I couldn’t hear him, but I could tell he was explaining something to her, ’cause she was shaking her head, kinda like her mother did when I explained something to her.

Black women are real experts when it comes to shaking their heads. Every shake got a different meaning. All them years in the cotton fields, y’know?

You have the Shake #1, called the I Aint Hearin’ Schit You Say, you got the #5–What Did That Heifer Just Say to Me?

(That’s a good one. When you see it, go get a tall glass of Red Kool-Aid, ’cause you’re about to watch a catfight. Just don’t make the mistake of trying to separate your wife when she’s fighting.

Bad, bad idea, on a lot of levels…

I aint got time today, but remind me to tell you when I pulled my wife off of a woman who tried to snatch the last pair of size 7 shoes out of her hand. They’re called “stilettos” for a reason.)

She patted Robert on the shoulder and walked back to the house, looking a bit dejected.

“What’s wrong, Baby?” I asked.

“Aint no heat,” she said. “Aint no smoke, aint no fire!” She looked at me. “Aint no coals, he usin’ gas! “Gas and rocks!” She shook her head. “Not even wood! And his meat…don’t have no seasoning! I was trying to be polite, and not dig in his business, but I had to ask him….and you know what he said?”

“No, Baby,” I answered, lying through my teeth.

“He said this is healthy cooking, and you should BBQ like that! No smoke, ’cause smoke is carcinogenic, no salt, because salt is hypertensive, no fire, because fire burns the ozone layer….Daddy, what do White people eat?”

“Let’s go in the house,” I answered, “I’ll explain it to you…”


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