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Bad neighbor policy

Keeping child molesters at bay

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If you were a convicted child-molesting masturbator, I suppose you would need to live somewhere, I was just hoping it wouldn't be on my actual damn street. I was hoping, in my small world, all convicted child molesters could live in prison, maybe, perhaps bricked up inside a jailhouse toilet or something, not four blocks away from my front door. That's practically ejaculation distance, according to Grant.

Lary says I should shoot the pervert in the head and drag his body onto my property to feign an intrusion, but that's Lary's answer to everything. He is always wanting to shoot people and drag their bodies onto his property.
"Wouldn't it be easier to just lure them inside, then shoot them?" I ask.

"I'm not alluring," he answers.

Besides, Lary wants to leave a big blood trail for the police to ignore. Ever since Lary shot at that escaping burglar years ago and the police told him not to miss next time, he has been itching to test the boundaries of their complacence. In fact, he's been looking on the GBI sex-offender Web page to see if any perverts are living on his own street within comfortable dragging distance. I'm sure there are, but this is all sport to Lary, as he doesn't have a kid.

I, on the other hand (and fantastically enough), do. That is the reason I moved here; soon after signing the contract on my previous house, I discovered not only that I was pregnant but also that the police had recently found a severed human head in a plastic sack on my street. These facts aren't related to each other in any way, I just wanted to illustrate that it's hard to shake the portents you feel when, on the cusp of becoming a parent, you move into a neighborhood littered with enough body parts to pass for a looted Peruvian graveyard.

Surprisingly, though, it wasn't such a bad place after all. I lived there three years -- got married and gave birth during that time -- never had a problem, not one problem, except for the occasional crack addict knocking on our door for a handout, but even that stopped after Chris said if he ever saw them again he'd tear the brains out the back of their skulls.

Still, I worried almost every day that a good rain would uncover the rest of the severed head's other body parts somewhere within crawling distance of my kid. Plus, I discovered that our bedroom had a boarded up fireplace within the wall, which is a good place to conceal a corpse if you ask me, so I kept imagining I saw seepage through the plaster.

So we moved here, just four miles away, which is closer to Lary. There are still plenty of homeless people around, but at least the crack factor has been dissipated from the streets, so far as I can tell. Before buying, I drove by this place 15 times at 4 a.m. to make sure, because 4 a.m. is crack-whore happy hour in Atlanta for some reason. Our old neighborhood would be boiling with them at that hour, along with addicts and dealers and other dregs of the trade. Here, though, none were to be found, so we signed. I wish I'd known to look for child molesters as well.

Chris has driven by the molester's house a few times. So has Grant, Daniel and Lary, if for no other reason than it's hard not to when you're coming to visit me. They're ready to pounce, they say, in case they catch the guy masturbating on a school bus or whatever. Anything to protect my girl -- little toddly woddly girl -- anything to keep her from the frosty, random fingers of evil that wrest up from the Earth, ready to rip your heart out from your ribs when, hey, they don't have to go to the trouble after all. Because there your heart is, all bundled up and teetering around on the outside of you, all big-eyed and vanilla-smelling and dough-bellied, with tiny ears like intricate seashells you could stare at all day. There your heart is, ready to pluck like a ripe button mushroom. Such is the sweet punishment of parenthood.

Sometimes I'm so overcome with a general fear that I can do nothing but simply lay beside my sleeping girl and beg for forgiveness, because often I anguish over the groundless notion that there's some kind of karmic roll-over policy, and that Mae will be made to suffer for my past apathies. And, God knows! I should have been a better person. I should have been a better daughter, sister, wife, whatever. I should have not stolen milk money from my first-grade classmate, I should have not taunted the neighborhood senile lady when I was 10, I should have -- oh, God -- I should have not deserted my father the night he died.

If I had only done or not done these things, maybe we wouldn't be living down the street from a convicted child-molesting masturbator right now, and maybe I wouldn't be what I am right now, a sorrowful refugee on hiatus from my own ignorance. Maybe I would not be wondering what I did to deserve my daughter. "I'm sorry," I keep saying into the emptiness. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Hollis Gillespie's commentaries can be

heard on NPR's "All Things Considered." To hear the latest, go to www.hollisgillespie.com.

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