Litany for Your Neighborhood Watch


That’s your house? You don’t leave it at night without the porchlight burning, and that sticker in the window that says beware of owner, means beware of gun, lies cause all that’s in your top-drawer are balled up tighty-wighties? Beware of what, then? Beware of you who ducks down the alley, when you see him walking that slobbering dog stretching taut its chain?

Beware of you who loiters outside his yard at night, nervous where shadows pool beneath the orange tree, eyeballing the bicycle on its side that you swear belonged to you, would swear it to God if that same claim did not prove he was strong enough to take it? What else he got in there? That stereo missing, replaced by the cold air from the open window, when you got home from your date? Think he got Jimmy’s Dayton rims? Junie’s girl’s cherry? Just what-all fine-ass things is he trashing?

Don’t he stir in the dark on his porch? You see his red-tipped cigarette arc over the silver-wet grass? One night soon, won’t you break down, break into his home, like he’s done to yours? But for now do you hear the screendoor open and shut him safe inside? You eyeball the dog curled on the porch, mangy, yellow, cropped ears and tail, no end or beginning—doesn’t the eye pulse like a fly’s egg? Just take stock of all the wrongs been done, right? You know there are other thugs like this one but you’ve made this one yours, and don’t he belong to you as much as what he’s stolen used to?

Stop asking questions. You even begin to ask a question, you already know the answer: wait. Take stock. Just you take some stock. As you stroll home empty-handed, tally all the losses. As you pass the neighborhood-watch sign, planted just before your yard, go on, jump up and, for now, slap that thing’s cold face.

~ fin ~


Christopher David Rosales, PhD, MFA, is a novelist and short-story writer from Los Angeles. He is the author of Gods On the Lam (2017, Perpetual Motion Machine), and Word Is Bone (2019, Broken River Books), winner of the International Latino Book Award. Rosales is a Professor in Chicanx & Latinx Studies at California State University Long Beach.