The Punisher’s been sweeping lately.
I don’t know his real name, but we call him that because he’s always pacing, hard fist grinding into open palm, huffing to himself. He always wears an unlabeled black basketball jersey with sagging black sweatpants, though sometimes when its sticky he goes shirtless. From the iron-railed porch where he perches two yards above the sidewalk, he see everything in his neighborhood, bright and dim. In neighborhoods like this, you’ll find blocks with both a safe end and a rough one. The Punisher is just barely on the bad side, his dismal house looking like the cheery development a few yards away sucked all of the life out of his place.
People come in pairs to visit him. They park across the street, look nervously at each other, and one usually asks if the other is sure they have the right place. The Punisher’s business is the kind you don’t advertise with a sign outside your front door.
Every day this week, I’ve seen him sweeping the sidewalks of his street. There are no leaves to be pushed away; They haven’t even fallen yet. But you can hear his broom’s straws rasping against concrete from a block away, amplified by a row of homes that are all brick wall and tarred yards.