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Rated: E · Prose · Community · #1922100
An observation and prayer for the Delray neighborhood of Detroit.
Nothing is alive in the old Delray neighborhood of Detroit, at least you would assume that nothing is alive there.  Most of the houses have been burned down, reduced to a barely standing husk of carbon and broken bricks.  The homes that haven’t been burned are only slightly better, windows covered with sheets of fiberboard, which are covered with graffiti.  Abandoned cars that most likely were stolen lie scattered around, stripped of anything that could be sold.  A park with round concrete picnic tables is barely visible from behind a fallen tree and an overgrowth of weeds.  This is a model location for any post apocalyptic movie that anyone could ever produce, but they wouldn’t want to film here because it is too realistic. 

It seems like a few of the houses that have staved off collapsing might still be occupied, but if they are, the people never step out of the houses.  Most people would imagine a clandestine hideout for a street gang, cooking shoplifted cough syrup into meth in the basement behind every still hinged door.  It is more likely that there is hidden an elderly woman or couple that bought the home when they were still young and in love when Delray was a functional community.  When men like John Lee Hooker lived there, playing his electric blues at the local bars. When people ate their lunches together in the park.  As urban decay necrotized the neighborhood around them they were unable, or possibly unwilling to leave.  Now they are trapped like convicts guilty only of being downtrodden.  I wonder if they have trouble sleeping, worried the hoodlums that spray paint their home will burn it down the minute they close their eyes.  I wonder if they can breath, the air muddied with filth from the steel mills, the sewage treatment plant, and Interstate 75 that tightly hug the area like a malevolent pedophile.  I wonder if they have even stepped out their door to notice what has happened…

The only sign that the neighborhood is capable of sustaining life is a mangy pack of feral dogs that has free reign of the streets.  Their ancient instincts have reawakened; it must make them feel like their wolf ancestors did.  Judging by their emaciated bodies, food must be scarce.  Scraps from trash bags tossed out of moving cars must be a staple of their diet.  It would be nice to think they are living a happy life, like Charlie B. Barkin in Disney’s All Dogs Go to Heaven, running underground dog casinos with a freezer full of steaks hidden somewhere in the rubble.  That can’t be the case.

A german shepherd, wet and muddy, ran into the middle of West Jefferson with a slight limp in front of a line of four cars (of which I was the last) this morning.  The cars stopped to avoid hitting him.  I was happy that the first driver didn’t decide to put him out of his misery at the hands of a twenty year old Buick.  The dog systematically ran in between the cars, running with the traffic like he was another driver.  I stopped the car when he ran in front of me.  The dog stopped in the dead center of the lane and stared directly into my eyes.  He looked scared, like a lost child that found a road while they were lost in a forest they thought was haunted.  He had been running from car to car looking for help.  I could feel his thoughts:
Please help me.  Get me out of here.  I’ll get your newspaper. I’ll do anything, just please take me away from this…

I wished I had a roasted chicken to give him.  I wished I could pick him up and take him back to my house.  Give him a bath and let him play with my own two dogs.  Let him sneak up on the couch and scratch his belly. In reality, I could do these things, but I’m not going to, nor is anyone else.  I would call him Charlie B. Barkin.  I wonder if he even knows that there are dogs out there that have such luxuries. 

He stared at me for what felt like a solid minute, though it was really only a few seconds, and then ran off as he realized I wasn’t going to help him either.  It’s the same feeling you get when you walk past a homeless person begging for change and pretend you don’t hear or see them.  That detestable feeling that you have let down humanity, or whatever is left of it. 

Tonight when I drive back through Delray on my way to the suburbs where the houses have glass in the window frames and the dogs have their own beds, I will look for Charlie to see if someone less patient or more cruel ran him down.  I’ll look for the adolescent vandals and call the police that won’t come.  I’ll look for an old man trying to load his belongings into a dilapidated station wagon trying to escape and help him break out.

I’ll pray for them all, just like so many others in Delray must have before, and like those that have not given up hope still do.  Maybe with one more voice God will hear us, or stop ignoring us.  I only hope that His answer will not be to burn it down like a modern Gomorrah.

God bless the souls of old Delray
Heal their spirits, heal their homes
Keep them safe from themselves
That they may overcome this earthly Hell
And see your glory once again
As they walk together unafraid
Through the streets of old Delray.

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