Enchanted Neighborhood

This is Ott’s tree. Looks like it belongs in Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Forest, and any minute now, Silky the Fairy will pop out from the knothole and invite you to tea. Or perhaps, the Angry Pixie will pelt you with peppercorns before you can take cover. But most likely Peter Ott will emerge from the house he’s occupied for the past 60 years and head for his 1967 Land Rover parked in front. You’ll wonder if he’s off to help the Laguna Beach police with a snake or exotic animal they can’t handle, or perhaps Santa Ana Zoo has an unwanted iguana. And then you’ll remember how he helped you retrieve a frightened and confused squirrel that got trapped under your couch. You’ll also remember that huge python he keeps in a glass cage in the middle of his living room, and all the paintings and sculptures for which he’s famous. A parrot will squawk and you’ll glance toward the back of his compound where he keeps a menagerie of Mexican lizards, iguanas, rattlesnakes, tortoises and birds, only to see Pete Ott himself emerge from his house. He’s in shorts and a bush hat. He smiles and waves to you as a parrot, perhaps the same one as before, calls out something in a screechy human voice behind him. You wave back, thinking how lucky you are to be living in such an enchanted neighborhood.

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