Love Thy Neighbor

He is coming around, again. I can see him walking by my shrubs. He leans into his turn. Positions his body to fit his flight path to my front door. I’m not even sure if he touched the steps and he is on my porch. Feet planted squarely on my generic welcome doormat, his momentum transfers smoothly into his arm as his fist briskly makes a triple appearance against my maple barrier to the world hub.

He’s quiet now, focused. He works on hiding his frown so that he can put on his neighbor face. He’s here once a week, to complain. He has tried three times to start a neighborhood standards watch. He tells you what to do and tries to make it sound like a suggestion.

I know he is focused because I told him twice to fuck himself. He cares about the appearance of things. There is the way things are and there is whatever is in his head. He always thinks I should be doing something different. He probably wants me to water my lawn. It had started to lose color, a few days ago, and I haven’t had to mow it for a 3 weeks. He mows his lawn everyday and then trims it by hand with shears. I had a hedge and a vegetable garden put in, so there would be less for him to crusade against. One would think that wheel of fortune was still on television for a reason.

Then the old man, Mr. Hobbes, does something to surprise me, as I make no attempt to go to my door. The old man’s fake smile turns genuine. Then as if there were a pair of brain cells having a ridiculous contest with each other, one of the cheeky bastards sent an impulse to top that last. The man started to giggle. I didn’t know giggling could be gravely but it makes sense coming from his old-man voice. Then the winner makes him laugh out loud as he grabs his knees for support.

“Cannot say I expected that reaction, Rick.” I’m lying on my porch, covered in dirt, using my shoes as a pillow, and my only companions being a half empty bottle of gin and a spade with the sales tag still attached. My surprise is that there is any gin left, and I am spared a headache.  Old mister Rick Hobbes has his hands on his knees. His surprise is seeing his not-so-passed-out neighbor only feet away, and definitely not behind the door that he was facing. I take this opportunity to wax philosophical, like I do. “You, Ricky-boy, are a pretty cool guy I’m sure. And I like it when you visit. I mean I love human contact and attention, but for all intents and purposes I love to talk about stuff.” I prop myself up and find that I am off balance. Must still be drunk. “Except, lawns. They require thousands of gallons of valuable drinking water, you cannot eat it, and mine is so small that there is barely enough room to lay down. So, Mr. Hobbes, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit on this beautiful Saturday morning?”

He cleared his throat. “Well, Raymond, if I can trouble you for a glass I think we can finish that bottle by lunch. Your yard looks better than ever. Have I told you about how I use to T.P. this house, back in 48, because my English teacher lived here and would make us do reports on his shitty unpublished mummy-romance book?”

“Rick, I thought you were born in your house six foot four with a mortgage and ex-wife to pay. The fine china is close to the door, anyway.”

Last night I got drunk, dug up my entire yard, hauled it away by the square foot, and covered the expanse with beach sand.


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