b Papa Dog's Blog: A Little Sketch About Mr. Murphy

Papa Dog's Blog

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Little Sketch About Mr. Murphy

I found myself ready to go at an unexpectedly early hour this morning, well before Mama Dog was ready for me to put Baby Dog in her car seat, which has of late been our morning departure ritual. Instead, I said my good-byes in the kitchen, where Mama Dog was making lunches and Baby Dog was in her playpen, absorbed in a book and barely taking notice of my requests for a farewell kiss. When I got to the front door, I heard her say “Daddy!” I turned and there she was, standing up in the playpen, waving good-bye. “Bye-bye!” I said, waving. “Say ‘bye-bye’ to Daddy!” She waved and said “Buh-bye, Daddy,” sounding, as she sometimes does, like David Spade.

I opened the door, still repeating “Bye-bye!” and was startled to see Mr. Murphy* at the foot of the steps, grinning up at me. Mr. Murphy is one of the most recognisable characters in our neighbourhood, a senile and unintelligible old codger who shuffles around the block on his cane every morning, muttering and cackling to himself. Before we knew his name, we called him “Crazy Boob-Touching Man,” on account of his somewhat unorthodox method of greeting Mama Dog one morning. Actually, the name kind of stuck even after we learned he was Mr. Murphy.

We would often see Mr. Murphy out front, talking to our house. At first we couldn’t understand what he was saying, but the neighbours filled us in somewhat. Apparently, he was sweet on Mrs. Nixon, the widow whose passing landed the house in probate court for us to find. When he talked to our house, he was more than likely hashing over old times with Mrs. Nixon. Or maybe trying to talk her into coming out for a walk. It’s hard to believe Mrs. Nixon would ever have fallen for Mr. Murphy’s line of guff. She was a respectable lady, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see the alley cat Mr. Murphy must have been in his youth.

When I came out the door, Mr. Murphy grinned widely up at me from behind his dark glasses, laughed the way he always laughs, “Hihh, hihh, hihh, hihh,” gesturing up at me with his cane. “Heard ya talkin’” he said. Mr. Murphy likes children and dogs and has always made admiring comments about ours. It was an oddly touching reaction; he was laughing at the silly baby-talking white boy, sure, but he seemed kind of sentimental about it too. I have no idea how many children Mr. Murphy had. There’s a rotating passel of grandsons who hang out at his house, not a one of them showing evidence of being any damn good, but all clearly doting on and being doted on by Mr. Murphy.

I came down the stairs and waved and said good morning as I went on my way to work. Mr. Murphy grinned some more and mumbled something about working ‘round the world. That had been gibberish to us when we first moved in. It turns out that Mr. Murphy helped build the freeways in the Bay Area, and maybe did work all around the world. When he’s not talking to Mrs. Nixon, he likes to reminisce kind of boastfully about his working days.

As I passed by, I realised suddenly that Mr. Murphy had grown frail. We’ve lived in the house four years now, and he’s always seemed older than Methuselah and very slow as he hobbles by on his cane, but he’s always seemed robust. It struck me that I hadn’t seen him in a while, and I wondered if he had been ill. He looked shaky, something he never had been before, and the flesh was hanging a little more slackly on his face. I don’t think Mr. Murphy has many years left now, and it makes me sad that Baby Dog probably won’t remember him for the vivid character he is. When he dies, his jumbled memories will go with him, Mrs. Nixon, his work around the world, and the untold miles he’s trod circumnavigating the block. That’s a shame, because he’s the last living link to a long stretch of history in this neighbourhood. It’s his neighbourhood; we just moved in here.
*Fake name devised by Mama Dog in a long-ago post of her own.


Blogger Twizzle said...

Damn, I wish I'd left my blog up so that you could link to my post about Mr. Murphy. Perhaps you could find it and post it as a comment? (Just a thought.)

9:05 AM  

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