Which Is It; The Hatfields, or The McCoys?

We live in a battleground.

Okay, so that might be an exaggeration, but it doesn’t mean that it feels any different.  While it’s true that there aren’t bullets flying through the air, nor is there the crushing weight of petty crime threatening our day to day existence, living in our neighborhood has been one small battle after another.

This isn’t to say that we’re the perfect family.  We have our flaws, our weaknesses, and every day is a new beginning by necessity.  Like many people of our generation, we bear the burden of debts so massive that most would break under their weight.  Between us, we have three jobs, four if you count the catering I am occasionally called upon for friends.  We have four children, all ours, three of which are now in school.

We have our skeletons.  Things we’ve put away so deep into the closet that every time we open the door, their shadowy figures cause us to jump in fear.

We’re not the best of people, but we try to make the best of our lives, if but for our children’s sake.  We recognize our flaws, and we work hard to instill the reverse in those we have sired.  What we can’t teach them, we leave to the Church.

In the fourteen years that we’ve lived here, we’ve watched many a neighbor come and go. The house to the north of us has always been the more tumultuous of the two.  Over the years, we have had a variety of miscreants, from cheaters to wife-beaters, fraternity brats, drug abusers, and more.  We’ve come to expect a certain level poverty on this side of our home, as well as from the patronage that inhabits it.

Which is a shame, considering the amount of work that goes into improving our home.  As this house is torn apart, piece by piece, ours grows with a new improvement each Spring. Some aren’t always finished until much later, but the rate of improvement far surpasses that of this particular domicile.

Our neighborhood is fairly safe, all things considering.  The people that live in this, and another house like it two to the south, mostly come out after hours.  They spread like cockroaches, coming to life when the lights go out, crawling out into the street and beyond!  It’s unsettling at times, but so far, it hasn’t gotten to Breaking Bad levels.

We don’t often let our children out to play, not without supervision.  With our yard being open, and with no feasible way of closing it in, we often let our fears get the best of us.  I mean, wouldn’t you?  Just with the things I have spoken of, alone, it’s enough to turn your hair white at the thought of it!

What’s that, you say?  What haven’t I spoken of?

How about the fact that on our block, as well as with-in the surrounding four around us, are no less than six registered sex offenders.

How’s about we go for a bike ride, kiddies?  How about a walk around the block?

It’s sad that I feel that before we can all go our for a fun family outing, I have to research a safe place to do so.  One which will put my mind at ease, or, at least will feel statistically safer than what we have readily available!

Seems realistic, doesn’t it?

Not so much.  Truth is, while we do find these kind of places to play every now and again, most times, we are confined to the few scraggly feet of earth right outside our door.  We should be able to walk outside, pause to stretch and smile at that which we have, and continue to earn, and not worry about someone lowering the value of our happiness.

I’m sorry, how forgetful of me!  I have told you so much about our neighbor to the north, and what I could of ourselves, that I have overlooked the house to the south!

It’s an honest mistake, really.  In all the years that we have lived here, we have had no troubles from the house to the south.  The majority of years we’ve been here were shared with a woman who mainly kept to herself.  Like me, she was self-employed to a certain degree.  While she was gone for a few hours at a time, she made most of her living from behind her doors.

She always met us with a smile, spoke kindly with us and to our children, and never had a bad thing to say.  (Even when our lawn grew a little shaggy!)  Sadly, she passed away due to complications from an unfortunate accident, one which we never saw coming.

After some time passed, maybe it was a year, maybe it was two, our next pair of neighbors took up residence.  Like the woman before her, they kept to themselves.  The husband always met me with a smile and even went so far as to offer his garage as a place of storage for my lawn equipment!

I regret haven’t spoken with them more, but just as time is wont to do, they moved on as well.  Uhm, no, not in the same way as their predecessor!  Far from it!  They fell victim to a much less deadly, though never to be underestimated adversary, the economy.  After losing his employment status, they could no longer afford to live there, and soon enough, the house was back on the market.

That is, until recently.

Ah yes, the fruit of my labors, the final piece of the puzzle, the Pièce de Résistance!

Them Damned McCoys!

Or, or is it Hatfields?

I’m not sure which of us will later be referred to as whom in the history texts, nor should there ever be a need to write a text about it beyond this!  But here are my recordings of what has quickly escalated into an uncomfortable situation.

We knew that the house had once again been inhabited, as we had seen her walking about the property on several occasions.  We didn’t think of it at the time, but it was only when we were working on our latest renovation, a window installation on the south side of our home, that something wouldn’t come to pass.

Yeah, that’s the side of our house facing hers…

We are a tight-knit family.  We depend upon each other when projects like these arise, and we help the other out whenever we can.  That being said, I had the help of my father-in-law and his youngest son, the vehicle of his daughter’s husband, and some of his tools to boot.  Now, you can tell me that I played those words a little funny there, but it is what it is!

As a result, his daughter and her husband stopped by to check on the progress, as well as to get their truck.  While standing outside, our new neighbor makes her appearance, dramatically, bursting forth from her front door much like Kramer from every episode of Seinfield, ever.

I’m paying no mind to her, as the window is much more important at the time, but it’s later brought to my attention that as she patrols the property, she has her eyes set on our guests.  Evil, malevolent eyes, that glare daggers into their souls!

Skip forward a few days.

We have the window installed, albeit the outside trim, when my wife notices something new about the house next door.  Every window now has “No Trespassing” signs posted in them!

Eyebrows are raised.  Speculation commences, but we both know that there’s an inevitable confrontation approaching.  What we didn’t prepare for was the speed with which it reached us!

That night, as my wife was paining near the window, and unbeknownst to either of us at the time, she has taken root outside, lying in wait.  Yes, an ambush as been set, but before I describe this encounter, I have to ask you; “Who the hell doesn’t just come to the front door?”

I mean, seriously?

She stood outside this window, for who knows how long, staring into our daughter’s room and through the open door to the living room, stealing glances at our private things!  What kind of person does that?  What kind of person lowers her blinds, posts signs of warding, and then does the exact damn opposite?!

Well, okay.  I guess I do know the answer to that one.  I’ve created characters just as, if not more, creepy than she.  It’s just a little disturbing when it happens off of the pages!

Finally, after who knows how much time she had been there, my wife passes into view and she pounces!  In a brief, if but heated, exchange, she accuses our children of vandalizing her property.  Our children, whom we have instilled our values into, whom we keep a close eye over whenever they are outside, were accused of going onto her property and filling her fire pit with rocks.

Our children are well aware of the dangers of the world, sadly enough, and there is just the right amount of fear in them that they would never caught setting one single foot on someone else’s property, let alone crossing a fence where we couldn’t see them.  They would sooner spend a day in their rooms, separated from one another and grounded from snacks, than to do something so bold.

Let’s not forget that I had a close eye on them all day, on the day that this allegedly happened.  Unless each of them suddenly gained superpowers, of which I am not aware, then Houston, we have a problem.

Immediately, mama bear is riled up, and rightfully so!  You don’t just accuse someone’s children of something that you did not see them do.  And, she hadn’t.  She only lashed out at them because they were the only ones she had seen playing in our neighborhood over the last few days.

What this person doesn’t realize, what she failed to complete before moving into this neighborhood, is that it is one which has been riddled with petty crime.  Over the years, there have been burglaries, vandalisms, and other crimes that if she knew the half of, she may have thought twice before thrusting her blame through our window.

I’m more apt to direct my little ones to the other side of the lawn when I can.  I won’t give her any reason to continue down the path she’s chosen for our strange new relationship, but I won’t back down from a challenge just the same.  The same can’t be said of my wife, however, whose hackles have been raised.  Even now, as I write this, she’s strapping on the battle armor and preparing to go to war.

A woman scorned, and all that jazz.

So which is it?  Years from now, how will you remember us?

We have been slighted this week, by a silly old fool who came to our window spitting venomous poison.  Not at us, for that would have been too difficult an argument for her to stand against, but at our children.  She attacked our children that day, children who spend all of their creative energy playing pretend, and it is something that she will never live down in our eyes.

The ‘signs’ are all there.  She’s making her stand, and sadly, it’s one that’s ill-informed, unsubstantiated, and absolutely uncalled for, and as Neal Page once said; “You’re messing with the wrong guy!”

 

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Trespasser (Part XII)

“Rowan!  Get your ass up here!”

John released the trigger on his welding torch until the flame was a small blue remnant of its former glory.  After a few well practised twists, he shut off the gas flow and the flame was gone.  Quickly, because his boss was the kind of person you didn’t keep waiting, he stripped off his face guard and hurried to the foreman’s office.

“You have a phone call, John,” he was told as he entered, which was followed by; “Every second spent on that thing is money lost,” as he picked up the receiver.

“Yes sir,” he answered.  “I’ll make it quick.”

“Marsha,” he asked.  “What have I told you about calling me at work?”

“John,” Davie Robinson answered.  “I’m sorry to call you here, but I’ll make this quick.”

“No, it’s okay buddy.  What’s this about?”

“It’s about your daughter,” the other answered.  John glanced restlessly over to his boss, whose eyes had remained fixed on him from the moment he had entered.  “Can you come over after work?”

“I’m pulling doubles today, I won’t be off till late…”

“That’s okay.  Just let yourself in the back.”

“What’s all this about?  Can’t it wait until tomorrow,” he asked.

“It’s about Vanessa,” Davie replied impatiently.  “This can’t wait John.  Even now, she’s…”

“She’s what,” he answered nervously.

He didn’t get to hear what his neighbor said, however, because his boss’d had enough.  He’d only caught a couple of words, because his focus was now on his foreman.  The latter had stood up and was closing the distance between himself and the phone’s base.

“I have to go,” John said quickly, “I’m needed on the-”

He didn’t get to finish his sentence, because at that very moment, his boss pressed the disconnect button and ended their connection.

“I’m not paying you to act out ‘Gossip Girls’, he spat as he stepped just inches away from John.  “While you’re up here chatting it up with your girlfriend, you’re holding up my other workers down the line!”

“It was my wife, sir,” he stuttered.

“Don’t give me that shit, Rowan.  Unless your wife is an old black man, which I’m fairly certain she’s not and you have something you want to tell me?”  He paused, waiting for John to answer.  When the other shook his head from side to side, only then did he continue.  “Get your ass back on the floor.  You’re working extra tonight.  Oh, and in the future there will be no personal calls on company time.”

“Yes sir,” John answered softly.

“What?!”

“YES SIR,” he yelled.

“Get the fuck out of my office,” his boss grumbled.  John wasted no time complying, and as the door closed behind him, his foreman left him with one final piece of ‘wisdom’.  “…worthless piece of shit…” were the words that chased him back to his workstation.

His blood boiled.  On one hand, he knew that his friend wouldn’t call him unless something was seriously wrong.  On the other, how dare that son of a bitch talk to him that way!?  He had poured himself into his job for fifteen years, all of which he had never been late, missed any days, or had a complaint about his quality.

With twelve hours left until he’d finished both shifts, and whatever was being tacked on at the end, It was going to be a long day indeed.

Trespasser (Part XI)

Vanessa sat at the edge of her family’s front lawn, not quite in her usual place to play, but far enough from the road that her parents could be comfortable not keeping a close eye on her.  As she does every other time she plays outside, she has her dolls and figurines sitting before her.  Some are posed as if they are conversing with another, while others have been manipulated to simulate various actions from work, to play.

It’s chilly outside.  The sky is overcast, and a light breeze is blowing down from the North, but this doesn’t stop her from playing outside.  She’s quite used to the changes in the weather and has prepared adequately by wrapping herself in a warm jacket and scarf.

Behind her, her mother kneels next to some of the many Tulips she’s planted along the front of the house.  She doesn’t pay close attention to her; she knows that her daughter will come to her if there is trouble and she has no reason not to trust her judgement, which is why she only looks over her shoulder when she pauses to stretch out her aching legs.

“Mommy,” she asks after one such moment.

“Yes dear?”

“Can we go out for ice cream this afternoon,” she asks with a sweet smile on her face.

“Mm.  That sounds like a yummy idea.  Perhaps if there’s still time, we will.”  She returns her daughter’s smile, briefly reflecting on how well-behaved her little girl has turned out, before going back to the bothersome task of pulling weeds.

Vanessa tilted her head back and watched the clouds for several minutes.  Just as she was often found herself lost in the tea parties and other such social gatherings she had with her porcelain, or wooden, friends, she watched as celestial adventures played out before her.

From the West came a fearful dragon, angry that his land had been invaded.  He swooped in with wings unfurled, smoke trailing from his nostrils, and claws open for the attack.

Directly above her were the dragon’s victims; a three-legged bunny, a knight with no legs, and about a dozen Furbies.  She giggled when the knight hopped onto two of the Furbies, beneath of which the rest stacked onto one another to form make-shift legs.

As the dragon drew ever closer, so did it appear to become larger as well.  It grew to over twice the size that it was when it first appeared on the horizon.  Fire shone through its eyes like crimson rubies, and its mouth began to widen as it prepared to douse the heroes in fire.

The knight, who was used to the adversities that his condition presented him, refused to back down.  With a determined look on his face, or so she assumed, he reached over and grabbed the bunny by the ears.  The Furbies, having been attached to him long enough to have gained an understanding of his needs, stepped forward to as he struck a heroic pose.  The bunny, also understanding the situation at hand, became slender, stretching out its front legs as a hilt, and its back leg into the point of what would now be the knight’s sword.

It seemed that a great battle was to take place before her very eyes.  Man and beast would face the greatest serpent the world had ever seen.  Blood would boil. Fur would scorch beneath the rage of the mighty drake.  Scales from litter the heavens, causing the Angels to cry.  Oh, this would have been a fight for the ages, had not a great magical wind from the north suddenly blown in.

More powerful than either of the mighty combatants, the wind came with a vengeance that neither could have prepared for.  It slammed into the knight’s chest, lifting from his furry, many eared, feet, flinging him into the waters to the South. The Dragon, a beast built on the very forges of Hell itself, was struck a grievous wound as the enchanted gusts formed into a spear of ice at the last possible second.  The spear sank into the breast of the monster, who in a desperate vie for survival, did the only thing a creature in its situation could; it used magic of its own to teleport itself to safety.  Wisps of smoke remained as a subtle reminder of the dragon’s passage…

“Well hello there, Vanessa,” interrupted the voice of her new friend.

“Hi Andy,” she answered with a smile.

“Whatcha looking at,” he inquired curiously.

Several minutes later, he was chuckling behind his hands as she finished her rather animated telling of the story she had just witnessed.  “That’s quite the tale you tell, my dear,” he said, bowing with his legs feet crossed at the ankle, and arms outstretched.

“Thank you,” she giggled.  “Would you like to play,” she asked seriously.

“Only if it’s okay with your Mom,” he said with a grin.

“Oh sure.  She doesn’t mind,” she replied.  “Here.  You can be Mr. Pickles.  Mr. Pickles is late for dinner and…”

Andy sat across from her, taking the offered toy without so much as a complaint, and with-in minutes the two were immersed into a world that was woven from the experience of a hundred such tellings.

Not too far away, a pair of eyes watched suspiciously from the darkened window of a neighbor’s kitchen, eyes which belonged to someone who would soon have something to say about the goings on of their newest resident; Andy From Up The Hill.