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The House Next Door

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It was windy today.

I leave the front door ajar for Butters so that she can exit and enter when she needs to.  It opened and closed with each gust  and outdoor furniture slapped and thudded against the porch.

Butters is not brave, but what she lacks in courage she makes up for with volume.  Startled barks peppered the morning and when startled turned to alarmed, I would go to the door and check that it was in fact just the wind.

I don’t always assume she’s barking at nothing – and try not to get frustrated at the nine out of ten times that she is.

After all, she’s guarding her territory.  And, in turn, us.

No one needs to know she’s all bark and no bite.  It’s comforting that she is on duty, albeit, over zealously most of the time.

One such zealous bark had me looking out the front door and that’s when I noticed the man in the road.

He sat past the nearest cross street – his legs out in front of him, in the dirt.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this at first glance.  A jogger resting?  No.

He looked like he was injured – perhaps wincing.  His hand on one leg, his head moving back and forth.

Then I noticed a pattern to his movements and the repetitive motions made it clear he was having some sort of a seizure.

I called out to Nic – to come with me to see what was the matter. Then decided the man needed help quickly – threw my flip-flops on and headed out the door.

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I went through my gate, shut it and started toward the man.

As I passed by my neighbor’s house, I noticed that two men were outside working on their cars.

How are they not seeing this?

I continued past them and called out “Are you okay?”

As I got closer – a voice from behind me “Be careful.”

I turned to see one of the men looking toward me.

“He needs help …”  I kept moving forward.

“That’s his brother.”  The speaker thumbed in the direction of the other man.

Why are they not helping him??

I came closer to the man in the road.  Noticed the spittle and drool on his chin, his denim shorts caked in dust, a sheen of sweat on his contorted face.

“Are you alright?”

I saw his eyes – wild and unfocused.

“He’s got mental issues.”  A different voice.

“Well, he seems to be having medical ones right now – is he having a seizure?  What can I do??”

The first speaker suggested ice water, and both men now had phones in their hands.

I assumed one of the men was my neighbor, but didn’t know which.  I really only hear him, when he’s yelling at the children.

I don’t see much of the people living next to me.

(See HERE then HERE)

Regardless of who was who, it appeared they were calling for help, so I turned to head back to my house for ice water.

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I found a cup I didn’t mind not getting back, filled Nic in on what was happening and headed back out the door.

I saw now that the man was no longer in the road and felt a little better.

Until I reached my neighbor’s house and saw what must have been the brother (my neighbor – the puzzle pieces were fitting now) yelling at him.

The man who was no longer in the road, still looked awful.  Shaky on his feet and eyes still wild.

I didn’t understand why this was a good time to yell at him.

I held out the water and it was taken.  I can’t recall who reached for it, but it ended up in the right hands.

“He needs help, not reprimanding!”

“He has mental problems.”

Again with this!

“Regardless of any mental problems, he clearly needs help!”

“Go back inside your house lady.”

It wasn’t said with any room for debate.  My racing heart and hot body suddenly felt chilled.  I had been dismissed and I was not to continue questioning or inserting my opinion.

Having had a past with these particular neighbors, and knowing what they’re capable of, I once more headed back to my house.

As I walked away, the man who was in the road said to me “I’m sorry … I’m sorry.”

The walk back was uncomfortable, surreal and daunting.

I felt like a child who had awoken to fighting in the house – seen someone they cared for being hurt, only to be commanded back to bed by the aggressor.

Helpless.

Small.

Submissive.

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Some time later, Butters started barking again.  This time at my back door.

I peered out to see only a hand and the cup I had taken over earlier.

I told Nic to hold Butters and slipped outside.

It was the woman who lives in the house.

The one who yells at her children almost every night:

“GO TO FUCKING SLEEP!!”

The lullaby of dysfunction.

The one who told her children that daddy was trying to kill mommy – and then brought them back in the house.

The one who said she was leaving when she could, and never did.

As time has passed, I notice that she is an instigator in the chaos.

I am not saying she’s ‘asking’ for any of it – I just notice (from my couch, yes, she’s that loud) that she does the majority of the screaming and yelling.

So she’s standing on my back porch with the cup and for some insane reason, explains to me what had happened.

The man in the road had been staying with them for four months while he sobered up.

She explained with feigned ignorance of the topic “He does those rocks, you know, the ones you crush and smoke?”

Just say CRACK woman!  I see your teeth, I know you know what it is!

He relapsed apparently and what I thought was a seizure was – but of a drug induced kind.

“We were trying to get him sober.”

“You know you can’t get someone sober?  He’s going to have to want that for himself.”

I suggested a local mental health location in our town as a possible resource for her.

The whole time I stood there – holding my cup that now had crack saliva on it – and hating her.  Hating her for having that man in an already horrible environment around her children.

“You should be careful – having him around your children.”

Oh God.  I said that out loud.

She nodded at me – much like she did when I offered my home as refuge in the past.  But I knew she wasn’t really listening to me.

I said I hoped things would be okay – and I meant it.  She went down the steps and disappeared.

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I tell you this knowing my house is made of glass.  I share my anger because I can, I have already been in their shoes.

My past is not perfect.

The difference is, I made a choice to change.

Even after I learned that the man in the road was there due to drugs, I hoped he would find help.

Even after I hear the woman screaming at her children, I tell myself “She’s lashing out at them because she is unhappy and feels powerless.”

Even when I hear her partner being violent in the house, I think “What horror must he have come from to end up so angry?”

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Nic and I had to leave the house to visit my parents shortly after the woman left.

I was uncomfortable leaving as there were repercussions the last time I spoke to her.

I decided they wouldn’t try anything in daylight and Butters could be trusted to deter anyone from entering the yard. 

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(I’ll admit, I fear for her too though.  Who knows what they are capable of.)

In the car, we spoke of what happened.

“People like that should be wiped off the planet.”

“Nic, people can change … there’s a reason for their behavior.  They were once children perhaps in that same environment.  Besides, I’ve done drugs. I drank. And I changed.  I chose good. “

I love that he knows this.  I love that we can talk about anything.  No skeletons in our closets.

“But you always had that in you.”

“Are you saying you think they’re inherently bad?  Do you believe there are some people just born evil?”

“Yes.”

I hope not.

But I just don’t know.

My favorite quote by W.H. Auden comes to mind once again:

“Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.”
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Musings from the Laundromat: Bad neighbors, Babies and Berlin

It’s topsy turvy at the laundromat today – which pretty much sums up my weekend.  Things I need to do have not been done … yet.  I almost put laundry off until tomorrow night, but a burst of ‘get your arse moving’ kicked in.

So I’m here and there’s only 2 other people currently.  Yet, my favorite seat is taken, there was no yellow coil cash card or laundry cart available – and my favorite machines were taken.

Talk about out of my comfort zone!

I’m ok.

I’ll be ok.

This weekend brought the unexpected – and I am glad for it.

Friday night, not so much.  My neighbors, who form the other two parts of a triangle like configuration with our houses, decided to get into wild screaming matches.  Not with each other even!

One house must have set the other off … “Hey, listen to them screaming and smashing things – we have to join in!”

I can be light about it now, but it was very uncomfortable at the time.  I never know when to step in.  It’s late on a Friday, they’ve maybe had long weeks and a few drinks and arguing isn’t against the law.

But when you hear threats of hitting … it’s hard to know if someone is in danger or if it’s just bluster.  My inner child cringes though.

I can’t even stand my son slamming things around the house.  Even in jest.  I beg him not to do it.  My stomach clenches and a whoosh of tangible fear travels the length of my body.

So suffice it to say, when there are angry raised voices and smashing and screaming – I don’t like it.

I awoke early the next day – 5:30 to be exact.  I was incredibly tired, but I’ve long since lost the ability to ‘go back to sleep’.  Once I’m up, I’m up.

It was still a little dark outside.  And peaceful.

I sat clutching my coffee and gazing up at the sky – then a thought came to me.  Wouldn’t it be great to stand between the two houses that offered me such audio the night before and just start screaming?

Wake THEIR arses up with a taste of their own medicine.

Of course, I didn’t do it.  I’m a lover not a fighter.

I had little motivation the rest of the morning – I just sort of scooted from one spot to another in the house.

Then the phone rang.  My boss has connections at the venue Berlin was to be playing that night.  I’ve been wanting to go ever since I saw the first advertisement.  Yes, he could secure me two tickets and we’d arrange later to meet up.

Color me happy!

I spent the rest of the day doing less scooting and more horizontally.  I put golf on the tv and had a short nap.  It’s not that golf bores me to sleep by the way, it’s more of a comfort memory.  The soothing tones of the commentators and soft claps from the gallery make for great white noise.

I awoke to Butters barking her head off.  She’d really been doing that all day – false alarms.  But this latest bark was in fact announcing the arrival of a guest.  Two to be exact.

A friend and her grand baby.

I love this friend.  We’ve worked together … well – in the same field and do business together – for 10 years.

I love that she just thinks to ‘stop by’.

She has a vibe to her that I won’t do justice if I try to describe.  You know I’m going to try anyway though.

She’s unpretentious and comfortable to be around.  She’s funny and warm and has dimples that join her eyes when she’s smiling.

You can’t meet her and not like her. You know how you’ll come across someone every once in a while who just has ‘that something’ and you can’t put your finger on it?  She has that too.

Okay – here’s her description lol: she would be the person in the animated forest that all the animated woodland creatures came to hang out with (move over Snow White.)  Only, she would be saying “get the hell off me” with a laugh in her voice and the woodland creatures wouldn’t be offended.

I was happy she visited – and happy that I got to hold this tiny foot:

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Phone rang again and now I had a meeting-up time to collect the tickets from my boss.

I had planned to do my weekend job that night – and I still could have if I gave up my visiting time.

I chose not to give up my visiting time.  I know what’s important in life.

Visit over it was time to get ready for the concert.

Here’s Nic and I waiting outside for my boss.  (Who happened to be waiting inside for us – isn’t that always what happens?)

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Concert was amazing.  I sang along to ‘The Metro’ and ‘Sex’ and of course ‘No More Words’.  I love exposing Nic to genres and artists he might otherwise not hear.

Terri Nunn left the stage and stood singing in front of me – I was able to get this picture.  And by the way – what a presence she has.  She loves to perform and she loves to dance – you can feel it.

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So here we are at the tail end of the weekend.  Sunday – and I have to squeeze everything I didn’t do into it.

That’s okay though – I am blessed with new memories, old friends and teeny tiny baby feet.

Butters vs the chihuahua

Ah Tuesday morning.  I’d just waved goodbye to my sick son – feeling a little guilty sending him off to school as stuffy and half awake as he was. 

Fed the dog, grabbed some coffee – dressed in a long black skirt, a pink sweater and black knee-high boots. 

Plenty of time to relax and play a little Candy Crush on my ipad as I sat outside and enjoyed the breaking dawn.

Chaos erupted.

It sounded like a pretty gnarly dog fight. 

Crap. Where’s Butters??

I none so gingerly plonked my ipad onto my wicker table, spilled my coffee and panicked. 

What to grab? 

What’s going on? 

Get the mace??? 

No … that’s gonna hurt!  And let’s face it, since I don’t react too calmly in chaos, probably I’d be the one hurting when I accidentally sprayed myself in the eye instead of the source of the growling and frantic barking.

Big stick.  I spied a big stick and grabbed it – bravely and briskly walking toward the ruckus. 

Butters was going berserk.  Absolutely, totally, kitten on crack crazy over the neighbors chihuahua. 

butternose(The only picture I could find related to Chihuahuas and Butter lol)

It had slipped under its fence and was under some illusion that it stood a chance against my 65 lb Sharpei/Sherpherd mix. 

It stood (about 7 inches from the ground to the tip of it’s little snack like head) snapping and snarling from the opposite side of my barely-a-fence. 

It’s more like chicken wire … big gaping holes that a very small dog could simply walk right through and into the mouth of my dog.

Please know, Butters is by nature a lover, not a fighter. 

She gets excited when strange dogs go by – wags her tail and wants to play.  Cats – not so much.  And what she must have been thinking was “WHY is this cat barking and baring its teeth so close to my territory?!”  Meanwhile, she was jumping up on the flimsy ‘fence’ and trying to get at the ‘barking cat’.

My first attempt to separate them resulted in Butters slipping her collar.  (Insert Butter joke here _______)

My second attempt, after inserting stick in between dogs, left me with only one option. 

Pick up angry, barking, snarling dog and carry her inside.

Remember now, I’m wearing a long black skirt, pink sweater and boots. 

Nice.

Sixty-five pounds feels a lot like one hundred and sixty-five pounds when it’s still snapping and wriggling and thrashing it’s hindquarters in an angry tantrum.

I plop her down in the house and catch my breath.  My heart is POUNDING.  I can not DO exertion.  No, seriously, I have sinus tachycardia, and walking up a flight of stairs feels like I’ve run a marathon. 

But no time to waste.  I have to leave for work in 20 minutes and there’s still the issue of the rat dog.

I exit from the side door, much to Butters chagrin.  I hear her miserable pleas as I meet up with the trouble maker outside. 

He follows me – rather pleasantly as I head to his house.

“C’mon, let’s get you home.”  He trots along beside me. 

Now,  Chihuahua lives with a friend.  Friend is a corgi.  Corgi seems nice enough. 

I arrive at my neighbors gate and read the ‘Beware of Dog’ sign. 

“Well”, I reason, “I’m WITH the dog”. 

And corgi is nice.

In I go.  Dog is now home and I ring the doorbell to let them know they need to patch the fence so tidbit doesn’t wander into Butterland.

No answer.

But I do now hear the corgi. 

Who proceeds to leap up and nip my arse!!!

Keep calm!  Dogs can smell fear!  Do NOT emit any dog-fear-pheromones!

I ring the bell again. 

Nothing. 

I now have to make it from the front door – to the gate to exit.

Crap.

The corgi is eyeballing me – and preparing to make another move.

I reach the gate and gently block the attack with my boot and scoot out to safety. 

I’m now left with having to patch up the escape route myself. 

I’m picking up rocks, pieces of wood – the dogs are at the fence, snapping at my hands when they get too close to their faces. 

10 minutes ’til I have to leave for work.

I decide I can’t risk coming home to carnage.  Butters will have to stay inside in our absence.

Felt awful all day.  Poor thing.  Was also praying she would use my bathroom if she couldn’t hold ‘it’.  (The tile being easier to clean I mean.  Obviously she can’t use the bathroom … I wish!)

Grabbed some ‘U’ fence posts on the way home (kissed $23 goodbye for those) – figured I could at least reinforce the ‘flimsy’ so she couldn’t leap out after the bugger.

Stopped by the neighbors, who still weren’t home, but did get to explain what happened to a friend of theirs who happened to be out front.

Came home, threw off my dog hair covered black skirt and pink sweater and went out to sledgehammer in those posts.

Considered using the hammer another way – but I borrowed it from a friend and don’t want to stick her with evidence.

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Mustard Monday

Busy weekend.  Long awaited replacement of my bathroom floor occurred.  I knew it would be loud and knew Butters would be barking and outside.  I requested Monday off.  I wanted a day to clear up the sawdust and then to relax. 

Nic and I pulled some weeds to the soothing background sounds of a compressor to our left and screaming and fighting to our right. 

Yup.  The neighbors.

I debated calling the Sheriff – decided against it and went inside. 

Later, I was on my porch chatting to my mom on the phone.  I saw my neighbor walking to the trash bin we share. 

“I’ll call you back mom.” I said. Clicked the phone off and called out to the neighbor lady.

She stopped and walked toward my neck of the lot.  I met her half way and I told her I wanted her to know if she ever needed anything, I was available.  If she ever wanted to bring the little ones over at a ‘bad time’, I could put a cartoon on for them.  She told me, with tears in her eyes that when she got her tax refund, she was leaving.  I gave her a hug and reiterated that if she ever needed me … I was here.

I felt like I had finally done something of purpose.  Something tangible – I hadn’t called the police, but now she knew she wasn’t alone. 

Now I’m feeling a tad different.  Woke up this morning – my day full of promise.  A day off! A day off! 

Got Nic off to school and turned and smiled at Butters.  What to do?  Read first?  Put a movie on?  Go back to bed?? 

Read.

I sat on the porch and as the sun came up and the words of a new book started warmed the cockles of this reader’s heart – I saw … this.

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UG!  I’m no sleuth, but considering I’ve never ever had an incident of this type before or ever been a victim of shenanigans – the coincidence was glaring.

I didn’t know what the substance was – but groaned before grabbing my camera realizing part of my day off was to be taken up by dealing with whatever ‘this’ was.

Called the Sheriff.  I went out to the car once he arrived and noticed there was more.

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And more

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I filled the Sheriff in on the history with my neighbor.  He went next door to ask them if they ‘saw anything’.  Yeah right. 

And, if they didn’t admit ‘yeah, I did that’ – basically there was nothing he could do.

Of course, they didn’t know anything.

I wanted to call CSI and have them find drops of the substance – I wanted it to lead back to their house, to be on his shoe.  GOTCHA!  But, apparently that only happens on TV.

So, after the Sheriff left – I grabbed a watering can and cleaned off what I had originally thought was egg yolk.  Picturing someone inside their house watching me and chuckling to themselves.

I held my head up higher than was probably necessary just in case.

Who dunnit?  I have no proof – but considering the substance, I know we can’t rule Colonel Mustard out.

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