Trespasser (Part XXI)

Something bad had happened recently happened to one of her daddy’s friends, but as it was most other times, it was about something her parents would not tell her. Like every other situation they didn’t want her to know the details, they said they would tell her when she was older.

She felt like they still treated her as if she was fragile, as if she couldn’t handle the woes of the real world, but what they seem to forget is that she had survived the sadness which came after Sammy’s passing.  He had been her friend when the other children her age would not, had offered her advice when she needed it, and protected her when her family wasn’t around.  He had been like a grandfather to her, but his final lesson to her had been about the harsh realities that come with growing older.

Her head was often in the clouds.  She enjoyed the worlds she immersed herself in, this much was true, but she was also intuitive enough to know when something was terribly wrong.

The morning when she first noticed her parents change in behaviour, strange cars began filling the driveway of the Robinson’s house.  Before long, they were parked out against the curbs and even so far as a couple of houses down the street!

In the few fleeting moments that she saw Mrs. Robinson, she was usually crying, and she was never without the company of one of her visitors.  It got so that she began to feel uncomfortable playing at the edge of her sidewalk, so she moved further down the street from where the activity was heaviest.  More specifically, she sat on the walkway leading up to the Burman’s home, the house of a nice older couple who only lived there in the summer.

It had been a couple of weeks since their lawn service had been through, but she didn’t mind, not one bit.  Not only could she create a jungle scenario for which her toys could play in, but it also gave her plenty of cover to remain unnoticed.  In addition to the overgrowth, the walkway was lined with small hedges, each also suffering from neglect.  With her back against them, and the tall grass before her, she was all but invisible to everyone.

All except for one.

“Hello Vanessa,” came a cheery voice from behind her.

“Oh!” she exclaimed.

“I’m sorry, did I startle you,” came the concerned response.

“No, I just didn’t see you there, is all.”

Andy stepped out from around one of the hedges, a warm smile on his face, and with his hands behind his back.

“You look very pretty today,” he said as he moved them towards her in offering.

“Thank you,” she said innocently.  “What is that,” she asked when she saw the small gift in his hand.

“Oh, just something you might like.  Something I made.  Just.  For.  You.”

She squealed, excited that he knew her favorite cookie was chocolate chip, and in seconds she was stuffing it in her mouth.

“That’s right,” he said with a wolfish look in his eyes.  “Eat it all up.”

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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!”

 

Trespasser (Part XIII)

From high above the first floor of the foundry, the whistle signaled the end of the shift.  As he had done much earlier in the day, he cut the supply of gas to his torch before removing his face guard and setting it aside.  Every muscle in his body screamed for relief.  It had been seven hours since his last break, a break which was long overdue.  The foreman, having found someone less competent at their job to bitch at, had forgotten to remind him of his extra time and he hadn’t the inclination to remind him.

Despite the interruption, he had still managed to meet his quota for both shifts, and then some.  Even though his mind continued to return to the phone call, he had completed his work with experience that was backed by decades of expertise.

“What did Davie mean, there was a problem with Vanessa?  If something was wrong, why didn’t Marsha just call him?  And for that matter, just where in the hell was she while this, whatever it was, was going on?”

All were questions that would have to wait, at least for another hour.  Before he could return to Bryer Street, a trip to the locker room, a brief shower and change of clothes, and an hour drive lay ahead of him.

“John,” a voice he recognized as that of the second shift foreman called out, “can I talk to you for a second?”

“Yes sir,” he answered with a sigh, and then under his breath; “…now what?”

“Hey listen.  I know you’ve been here for eighteen hours already, but I’m gonna need you to make sure the tanks are full before you leave.”

“Can’t you have someone else do it,” he spouted off.  “I don’t have much left in MY tank.  Besides, my next shift starts in a few hours, and, I could use the rest.”

He looked down at the smaller, younger, man with tired contempt.  He could tell, by the way he shifted from one foot to the other, that he was acting on the words of the man before him, following through on the promise that he had briefly entertained the idea of escaping.

“Oh fuck it already!”

John threw his hands in the air, resigning to the task before him, before shouldering his way past the very miserable messenger.

“I’ll fill your goddamn tanks!  I’ll replace the goddamn rods.  And then, after than, I’m going the fuck home.  Now, do you have a problem with that,” he growled after suddenly spinning around.

“N-not at all,” the younger man sputtered.  “I’m sorry John,” he offered miserably.  “I really am.”

“Fuck you,” was the only response he felt fit to offer.

When he returned to his workstation, he placed both of his palms against his forehead and pulled his hands down over his face in exasperation.  “If we’d only gotten into the Union, this shit would never have happened,” he muttered unhappily.

It was hard work, and at times he thought he wasn’t going to be able to finish the task, but an hour and a half later found him at the other end of a shower, pulling on the last of his outside clothes, and gathering his things together to leave.  It wasn’t until he looked at his watch, which now read 2:01am, that he remembered his friend’s cryptic request.

“Shit,” he spat.  He hoped that it was just an old man’s worry, that whatever the news was, was only a neighborly concern.  He didn’t have the energy for anything else.