By Leah Williams
He wore Ace bandages all over his body, but bore no injuries anyone could see. The bandages covered his thin, muscular arms, tanned from the daily mowing of his immaculate lawn. You could hear his self-congratulations houses away after he finished his race down the block. As he reached the finish line, he would wrench his body forward to break the tape and jump up and down for his cheering fans.
There was no tape. There were no fans.
Other voices, though, you could hear, voices of children on the bus pounding on the inner windows as the elementary-school students on his street made their way to the stop in front of the blue-trimmed white ranch he shared with his mother. "Cra-zy Ed," they chanted. "Cra-zy Ed."
Asked to describe him, parents would fall on generalities, his height, his youth, his hair color—they were keeping those details in mind, for the police. Specifics were hard to nail down, though, since they were always looking at him sideways. How old was he? "He was the man who was always 30," a girl who grew up on his street later said. But were his eyes blue or green? His armbands Nike or Reebok? His white yap dog a Bichon or a Pomeranian?
The dog would bark at children passing, and Ed would look over, would leave his task giving the eagle emblem on his house its daily blue coat and would run around his lawn, tossing a football and calling out the plays, and jump up to touch the telephone wire. When they were gone, he would climb up his ladder, and begin again.
Once the eagle was painted to his satisfaction, he would disappear into the shaded house, and then reappear, with wax. Slowly, he would massage the boat that never left his house, wax it slowly and carefully, years before Mr. Miyagi told the rest of us how.
He had time, did Ed.
Children would talk about the bucket he carried every fall, the white bucket for carrying the leaves of an Indiana fall—red that matched his boat, gold that matched the hair trapped under his sweatband. "Have you seen Crazy Ed?" Megan would say. "He picked up every leaf on his lawn—ONE AT A TIME." Megan was new to the neighborhood. The other children would nod. They knew. "That's nothing," one would add. "Did you hear—"
And then they'd tell stories about what he did to the candy at the factory where he reportedly worked part time, and at Halloween, the listeners would hold out their bags at his house, wondering.
Mothers didn't wonder though. They watched, Mrs. Walker with her lights off, trying to "catch him"—at what, she didn't say. And they called, to have the bus stop changed, to report sixteen-year-old Leslie's peeping tom complaints, to gossip about his hiding little Rachel's bike in his garage, to obtain one, then two, restraining orders for his hitting the neighboring teenager for walking on his lawn, for decking the father of the paper girl.
Mrs. Walker, one evening after a report about a local girl's kidnapping, dialed the police, chiding herself for paranoia. "I know this is farfetched," she began. "But this man on my street—he fits the profile."
She reported her address, and the policeman laughed. "Not him," he said. "In fact, lady, you're the sixteenth person who has called." And Ed, fresh from another loud rout of his mother, having in two seconds flat scared away a prospective buyer of the house she wanted sold, was cheering to fans in the background.
Leah Williams is graduate student in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa, where she teaches creative nonfiction. Her work will appear in upcoming issues of Redivider and The Binnacle and has been broadcast on WSUI, the Iowa City public radio affiliate.