From our window I saw the For Rent sign being pulled up and went outside to talk with the owner, my friend Ben. “Who is our newest lucky neighbor?” Ben responded, “Dr. Weirdo.” So I came back with, “A relative, huh?” Ben laughed and shook his head no. “He bought the place. He made me an offer so hot I couldn’t defuse.”
I nodded and asked again, “So who is he?” Ben looked me in the eye and said, “I told you. Dr. Weirdo. Dr. Walter W. Weirdo.” With a slightly confused look I continued, “I thought our local crazy checked out last year. What’s the W. stand for?” Ben took a deep breath and continued, “Whynot. Dr. Walter Whynot Weirdo. I’m not making this up. Just talking to him I felt off center, like I was the one that was a little strange . . . don’t even think it.” Ben turned away and walked towards his car shaking his head.
Shrugging my shoulders I walked back to my office in the basement level of our house. After a couple of hours at the computer I got out of my chair and went upstairs to make lunch. My wife, Rose was still at work in her office, so I planned out lunch. I threw some small red potatoes and yams in our small second oven and set the heat for 450 degrees. In an hour I would have over-baked potatoes to feast on along with a small salad, a toasted muffin, sliced tomatoes, and a thin piece of deli ham with a sliced apple to share. With the better part of an hour left I decided to take my daily exercise of walking the perimeter of our yard. I try to do five revolutions five times a day. I’m not big on exercise, but I need to keep my doctor happy.
I went back to my office and out my door and began my first trip uphill. The second time around I saw a strange man next door. The third time around I waved hello. The fourth time around he waved hello. The fifth time around I invited him for lunch. We always prepared more than enough. He accepted.
Rose joined me in the kitchen. In was a nice day, so we decided to eat on the deck. Our house overlooks a small valley of homes as well as part of Commencement Bay and Vashon Island and the coast from Brown’s Point to Burien along the Puget Sound.
Dr. Weirdo rang the doorbell and Rose went to the front door, introduced herself and let our newest neighbor in. Soon we were dining and enjoying free spirited discussions about everything and nothing. A little Autumn Red went down easily for all of us. Finally, I said, “What do we call you?” Dr. Weirdo crinkled his eyes, rubbed his mostly protruding forehead, took off his glasses and cleaned them with a beautiful handkerchief, which Rose immediately went on point to see better and then said, “I think we are going to be good friends. To my face you can call me, Jack. When other people are around I would appreciate it if you addressed me as simply Doctor.” As we nodded, almost on cue we could hear a Muslim call to prayer. The relaxing almost musical chant grabbed the attention of all three of us.
Jack asked, “Does this happen all the time? I’ve been here in the neighborhood and haven’t heard this before.” Rose said, “I don’t know what it means, but it’s rather soothing.” It got me to thinking. I’m certainly not an expert, but I think there are particular times for the prayers, but they seem to come and go in our little valley. Jack just nodded his head and squinted his eyes a bit.
We didn’t talk to Jack for a few days, but we saw him walking from this block to the next and beyond all around the neighborhood enjoying the sight of our local deer, and other wild life. Early morning raccoons can be seen returning to their homes, rabbits scurrying about, crows constantly chatting if we get too cozy, and an occasional coyote. Twice in the next week we heard the call to prayer and then nothing.
Knowing pretty much our lunch time habit, Jack stopped over and joined us for lunch one day. We had a nice time catching up, even though it had only been a short time since we first met. After sandwiches and little white wine, Jack said, “Could you do me a favor?” Rose, beat me to the punch, she really enjoyed Jack’s manner and mannerisms. Obviously she recognizes a good thing when she sees it . . . meaning me of course. Rose simply said, “Sure, what can we do for you?”
Actually, it wasn’t so much what we could do for Jack, it involved another neighbor. Jack asked, “You know the yellow house at the end of the other block?” We did. We had seen it being built. They were asking a pretty, pretty penny for it; however, it hadn’t sold. The price had dropped and dropped for no reason that we could see. Jack explained about walking the neighborhood and looking at the un-sold houses, which were few and far between. He wanted us to talk to the owner of the yellow house in person and ask them to go back to their original price and let us know when someone was coming to go on a tour. We were to exact a promise to pay in cash, a finders fee. No sale, no harm. We were to record the conversation.
A week later we got a call from the owner and the time of the showing. After the showing, we got a call back and after the offer was made and accepted, we got another call. A month later we had cash. Jack was out of town so we put the money in a brown paper bag and put it in the freezer. We don’t have a safe. When Jack came back we gave him his cold, hard, cash. We three sat around our breakfast table as Jack explained what was going on. A fellow developer lived in a nearby house. The prayers were recorded elsewhere and only played when people came to see the new house in person. Potential buyers often arrive early to check out the house and the neighborhood. The musical chant, which we enjoyed, scared the people looking to purchase a nice home in a nice neighborhood; the Muslim prayers scared away purchasers. The prayers weren’t played when the agents showed the home. There were no Muslims, and even if there were, they probably would have been welcomed.
“How detestable,” both Rose and I chimed in. Jack reached over and opened the brown bag of cash. He counted out a third and put it in his pocket. He handed the brown bag back to Rose and said, “Amen . . . thanks for helping.” Rose and I looked at each other as Jack waved and said, “I’ll see you guys later. I might have another favor to ask.” Rose and I stood there for almost a full minute with our mouths open. I finally said, “Freezer?” and got a nod from Rose.