The Alley

Last night I heard a ruckus in the alley behind the house. The yelling and loud vocal expressions for a brief moment made me think that prostitution had made its way back into the alley. So I turned on the back porch light and moved upstairs to observe what I could from the 2nd floor window. The noise continued and I could see movement, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Then I saw him. A kid, about 8-12 years old, ran partway up the alley then hid himself in an alcove between the fences holding a fat long stick like a rifle. His further movements reminded me of footage of American soldiers in Iraq fighting in urban settings. Listening a bit more clearly I could hear the voices of another boy. What were they playing? Cops and robbers? GIs and insurgents? Some live action version of one of those shoot em up games? I was happy that it wasn’t what I thought it was, but then, it was late, it was dark, and those kids should be in the house.
The alley behind the house has improved a lot since I moved in. When I first came, there was prostitution (there is no consensus among neighbors if it’s gone or not) and a big dumping problem. HUGE dumping problem. I once caught a guy dumping plumbing pipe in the open yard of a vacant house, and he was so emboldened he gave me attitude. When the owners of vacant property would finally clean their yards, it wouldn’t be too long before something else got dumped in the yard, starting the whole process over again. What didn’t fit in the yard, overflowed into the alley. Old appliances, trash bags of clothes, building materials, you name it was dumped in our alley. Recently, that has all changed. First, it helped that almost everyone now has their backyard fenced in. There are no obvious spaces when dumping. Second, several of the vacant houses are in the process of being fixed up, so their yards aren’t attracting foreign trash, just their own. Then, the trees have been trimmed away making the alley more light and allowing light from the alley light to brighten the alley. Lastly, last year the alley was repaved, so it looks nicer.