I look across my yard and notice the guy in the shed coming out for the umpteenth time, but this time it hit me like an epiphany. I questioned myself, He lives there? No, there’s no question, I realize; he lives there in a windowless, lean-to shed. The new owner of the property moved into this concrete-block house just a few months ago and apparently brought this tenant along.
How did this this guy get this way? I wonder. How did he end up with a tiny, barn-like shed as his home? A tiny, barn-like shed that he — not the owner — built.
I see this guy every day since the new owner moved in, and he works. He works like a bull dog, running back and forth across my neighbor’s yard, his tall and skinny, rail of a silhouette rarely wearing a shirt in our Florida heat, a humid, sticky sort of heat that can easily wear down the weakest among us.
He runs the hose from the house a lot and splashes water on himself. He runs into the house regularly, surely to use the bathroom, and he works on his car, which at one time ran. He rarely lets up moving around, though, working.
I initially thought he was the neighbor’s contractor, but no; he was no contractor like I’ve ever seen. Then, I thought he was a meth-head because of the way he looked: tall; skeletally skinny; and fine hair on a balding head. It could also turn out that he may be an illegal alien or may very well be just a hardworking guy down on his luck. That down-on-his-luck seems to be most true.
All I really knew about this guy is that he’s from the Dominican Republic, as I hear him talking to his Dominican owner. They talk loudly as the front door of the owner’s house is quite a distance away from the shed.
He’d clean the truck of his owner every day, every single day. He’d cut the grass, paint the house, and tend to the landscaping. He even prepped the owner’s house for Hurricane Ian and cleaned the entire quarter-acre property all by himself. The owner had disappeared during the entire Ian ordeal, but finally showed up with a container of food, which the guy ate as he showed the owner all the work he had done around the house. Then, he entered the shed and came out with a gray, polyester shirt, comfortable pants and shoes and went away for a walk.
And here I was thinking, at the least, the owner was a friend, but this friendship is so lopsided, just like the shed. The guy is, and I hate to think this is some kind of trend, but he’s the well-off owner’s rental person. The owner appears to get this guy to work day in and day out, seemingly every single day including Sunday.
I thought I lived in the land of the free, to each to pursue their own happiness, but this guy can’t possibly be pursuing happiness in a shed. Can he?
A slave in the United States is not something I ever expected to see with my own eyes, and here I stand unsure if that is what I’m witnessing. This isn’t your whip-cracking type of slavery. It’s more like a festering, blistering wound and all I get to see is the hard-working, homeless side. But slavery may be too strong a word. At the very least and as best as I can tell, the guy in the shed works as a domestic servant.
How is this possible in my neighborhood near Disney? How can something like this happen in my little town of Davenport? I thought my town was immune because, you know, it’s Mayberry, and shit like this doesn’t happen in Mayberry. But it does.
But it looks like it’s happening here. Here? No, I realize, there’s no question; it is happening here.