DON'T LET THE QUAINT PICTURE FOOL YOU. The cock of the head; the earnest smile; pattycake palm inviting the world for a high-five. My camera wasn't even back in my pocket when that same hand grabbed me by the shirt and held me two feet off the ground like my legs were laundry in the wind while she warned me not to talk shit about her on here. Thatha, our mutual South African neighbor, would be the first person to visit me, she said with a steely calm that crushed my eardrums to a fine, silvery dust. Thatha is a lovely woman, but she doesn't look like she couldn't put me through a plate-glass window. Using her free hand, she pointed to a nearby wall upon which her young daughter sat beside several local youths who look like they spend a fair amount of time in the counselor's office. "We call that the 'what the fuck' wall," Cindy said. "'Cause that's what you'll be screaming after them boys run your head into it a few times." She said she'd show the locals what I've been writing about them - Jesse the parking lot king, Julio the drug-dealing octogenarian, Nilella the female Highlander - and send them to my mayoral compound furnished with lead pipes ripped out from my own building's gas lines. Even lies aren't beneath her; she said she'd tell Amelia Earhart I called her The Clown Lady, then tell Casper and the rest of the guys at the halfway house next door that I said drugs are for pussies. Then she dropped me to the floor, laughing like Ving Rhames, and kicked me in the ass as I ran off.

"AND my dog pissed all over that mattress you were posing on last weekend."

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