My daughter is going through a phase right now requesting many stories of what it was like when her Dad and I were young. I often forget what I've already mentioned or what I've edited out for a later date when out of the blue yesterday she asked me about the mean guy in my neighborhood who stole every ball of ours that dared to roll onto his pristine, manicured, golf-green of a lawn. So I realize Floyd Rose or as he was sardonically referred to "Rosie" has made it through the ether into my daughter's vernacular. I've mentioned him. His crimes had bothered me enough to hang on and be reported in the future.
Rosie was a round man, not unlike the kick-balls he collected. His head was round and bald but for a ring of darkish hair. Or I'm I making that up? How could his hair still be dark in 1970? He would have been in his late 70s when he was terrorizing us. And though it seems against the persona of a man whose lawn was so groomed, I seem to remember seeing him in his undershirt more than once.
His house was directly across the street from ours and it was picture perfect. It had white shingles with black trim and right in the front left of the house was large chimney with a giant cast iron S support beam or decoration on its stack. The roof of his house sloped in a cottage-in-the-woods sort of way and it could easily have been used as a prop for Grandma's house in Little Red Riding Hood. However, it was more the Witch's Gingerbread house. It compelled us in our occasional boredom to test our mettle and throw a ball its way on purpose only to dash right after it before it was sucked into Rosie's black hole. Believe me you'd have to be fast. As round as Rosie was he could be out his front door and on your ball before you could say "jackrabbit". He was fast and he was watchful. Rosie had some sixth-sense about when a ball would be rolling his way and he was on it like a ball boy at Wimbledon.
Rosie was a crank who yelled at us as if childhood was a crime we were committing. I have little to no memory of his wife. She didn't garden the way he did. She stayed safe behind the arched doorway stuck in her own fairy tale. It was a risk to ride your bike on the sidewalk past his house. It was a risk to go trick or treating but we did because it was the only time we could get that close to the meanest man in the world. There is no way we would have eaten his treat but we peeked into that house and saw it was as immaculate inside as out.
Finally, fed up with his ever-growing outlay of cash to replace his children's balls, Mr. K confronted Rosie. I love Mr. K. His son was my childhood sweetheart and they lived just a house away from Rosie though they owned the house in between as well. Mr. K was very patient but enough was enough. He told Rosie if he took another ball from any of us there would be trouble. I can't remember when Rosie moved out nor who moved in. I was getting older, we moved to an apartment in 1975 and didn't move back to that house until my gram died when I was 15. By then almost all the players had changed.
I looked Rosie up on the Census yesterday to try and figure him out. He died in 1987 at the age of 94. His life was long but was it good? He was a veteran of WWI. He was married to a woman in 1930 who was over 40 and they didn't seem to have any children. Rosie worked for the telephone company as an installer. And get this, he and his wife had a boarding house full of single women. WHAT? Yes, single, working women. I can't believe that man getting a wife, much less being congenial enough that other women would choose to live in the same house as him as well. But the name of that Mrs. Rose is not the name of the Mrs. Rose whom Rosie was last married to who died in 1980. In their obituaries, he is her only survivor and no one is named in his 7 years later.
Maybe Rosie hated us because he was childless. Maybe something hideous happened to him in the War. Maybe his first wife died. He may even have been a nice man once that simply got kicked too hard by life and the only way he could kick back was against happy children. I will try to find him in 1940 at some point. But for now it is enough to have a little insight on the man called Rosie.