Suburban Soliloquies #9
The shriek entered my dream. The
discordant sound merged into the nocturnal tale my
subconscious had been composing, converting it into a
nightmare. Then Boris, my 190 pound [86kg]
Newfoundland dog began to bark incessantly. I snapped
awake. Sitting up in bed I called out to Boris
to be quiet. He obeyed, temporarily.
There was another unwholesome shriek and Boris began
again his barking.
Leaping out of bed, throwing on my bathrobe to
conceal my nakedness, I dashed from the house in the
middle of the night to rescue the supposed
woman. Boris was at the end of his taut chain
barking in the direction of our street advancing
south. The woman was not to be seen. I
thought, perhaps, our large bush was in the way and
looked around it, but found at first nothing. A
moment later and I saw a small, stubby legged dog,
what I imagined to be a Welsh Corgi. I searched
about for the pet's master, whom I assumed to be the
source of these middle-of-the-night screams.
Even calling out "HELLO!" nothing came of
it. I was halfway up my driveway when the
shrieks started again.
It was the Corgi. The creature was cocking back
its head and wailing like a banshee to the sky.
The sound issuing from its narrow jaw was
indistinguishable from what I would have expected of
a woman in peril. Only then did I consider how
I might not be looking at a Corgi. Maybe I was
staring at a fox.
Taking several steps in the direction of this fox,
for I have come to know it for a fox, did not perturb
the animal as I expected it might. The fox,
which I assumed would fear me, watched me with
indifference, at which point I considered the very
real threat that I could be dealing with a rabid
creature. I retreated. The fox, flinging
its head in resentment, took off in the opposite
direction. It issued its eerie scream several
more times before returning into the forest a hundred
All this took place last year. For several
nights that week the fox returned regularly to our
house and I wondered if the fox came because of
Boris, to scream his indignation that his cousin
should be so immense. A crime against nature
the way the fox saw it, the fox being not even
pounds (7kg). It also might have been that
Boris stood in the way of the fox eating our cat.
It is the insolence of life, of the things that grow,
that causes weeds to rise out of cracked city
sidewalks, and compels a fox to visit suburbia. We,
meaning all of life, want to live, even if we don't
have the consent of others. Sometimes we manage
it in spite of others, making our homes where they
were not intended to be.
In 1950, U.S. Steel began building their new steel
mill in Lower Bucks County, just in time for the
Korean War. It was named the Fairless Steel
Works for then U.S. Steel president Benjamin
Fairless. The mill was to employ 6,000
people. In 1951, the Danherst Corporation, a
U.S. Steel, built about 1,500 Cap Cod cottages,
shoeboxes with roofs, and named the community
Fairless Hills. It was adjacent to this
community that William J. Levitt, seeing a good
thing, decided to build his complex.
Soon after their astonishing success with Levittown,
New York, Levitt and Sons came, in 1952, and built,
by 1958, 17,311 single family homes on the fertile
farmlands of Lower Buck County. By 1954
Pennsylvania's Levittown had 60,000 residents, and
soon after 70,000. What William did, that the
Danherst Corporation had not done, was commission
someone (his father Abraham) to do landscaping.
The senior Levitt planted trees everywhere. He
also left intact the narrow stretches of woodland
that traced the creeks.
Forty years later, this community, which at the onset
looked more like the surreal terrain of a sterile
golf course, has become almost a forest. Here I
live. We have rabbits and squirrels despite
many pet cats and dogs trying to keep them in
check. Occasionally our homes are adopted by
mice and toads. Sometimes, and most regretfully, we
run over a skunk with our cars. Once, when my wife
was serving tea to a guest, a lost fawn found its way
into our backyard. Twice a year a Great Blue
Heron stops by our creek for a week's respite in his
migration to and from. Mallards have also
settled on Levittown for their nurseries. These
breeding grounds are no longer exclusively for the
So much of biology is in contempt of geology, life
forms making their homes where they are not invited,
our own species most contentiously of all. Life
crawls into every nook and cranny; takes seed,
persists, and sometimes prevails.
And now through the open window come the repeated
shrieks of a fox, perhaps the same individual having
returned from last year. The fox is prepared to
contend with us suburbanites. Its insolence
gives me hope.