We have great neighbors, and several of them have kids. So next door one of them put out a little green man with a flag, warning drivers to take it slow as they drive down our alley. It was a great gesture, but of course, one day soon after the little green man's appearance his flag was stolen. It was there to be taken, so obviously someone was going to take it.
There he stood, impotent (or should I say useless?) His only function was to alert people, to caution them, but he couldn't do it without his flag. Then our neighbors across the alley looked in their garage and found a replacement. It's not a flag; it's more like a huge wand with a reflective bicycle light at the end. Not as good as a flag, but close.
Our neighbors started taking bets on how long it would be before that was stolen. Meanwhile, my son Eli made friends with the little green man. Whenever we went out for walks Eli would strike up a conversation with him. This arrangement worked out well, since the little green man is sort of quiet, and Eli talks enough for at least two people.
One night when Eli was at his grandparents, my husband Rich was standing in the kitchen when he happened to notice out the window that one of the neighborhood boys was skulking around the little green man. We'll call this boy Joe, in order to protect the not-so-innocent. Joe looked over his shoulder once or twice, then went and grabbed the little green man's wand.
Rich wondered, should he say something? He decided yes, he should.
"Joe," he called out. "I saw you buddy. You have to put that back."
Joe answered, "I was going to put it back."
Rich watched him meander around, then slowly, self-consciously, give back the little green man his wand. It's remained there ever since. However, Eli has lost interest in talking to the little green man. I guess the poor fellow wasn't contributing enough to the conversation after all.
Last week Rich and I were on vacation in Seattle, and we saw another little green man outside of a children's store. It was the highlight of the recount of our trip to our neighbors (of the recount, mind you, not of the trip itself.) I guess Dorothy is right about never having to look further than your own back door.