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No mention of the chickens

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In this neighborhood, my household is often referred to as ''the new lady near the end of the street,'' since I've lived here only 25 years. It was not until 10 years had passed that I began to have an understanding of the layered and intricate relationships among the families of this very large block; of the early times when their children were young; of the idiosyncrasies of all those remaining.

I also came to realize that many neighborhood controversies, over the years, involved the lady on the corner, shrill of voice and free with advice. I was glad that several houses separated us.

This spring, as we all visited over the burning barrels in the alley, I learned that the lady on the corner was angry with nearly everyone on the block for having refused to sign her petition.

Somehow she had missed me in this effort against the Bulb Man; my part-time job is often a blessing. He possessed, she vowed, a hen and a rooster in defiance of the health authorities and we must all bring pressure to bear. She couldn't prove this, but she said the rooster awakened her once with his crowing , and this was proof enough.

No one wished to sign the petition since they considered the hen and the cock to be pets of the Bulb Man - producing pets at that, as the recipients of gifts of eggs could testify.

Matters might have grown more tense if it hadn't been for the wood duck. And that little duck still surprises me. My house is far from the river in this town; why did she choose my boulevard oak in which to hatch her eggs?

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