Friday, August 22, 2008

Running out of fodder. Plz send halp.

I wish I had lunatic neighbors. Now that I'm not waiting tables anymore or riding the bus, my interpersonal interaction is pretty limited to friends and neighbors. My friends are mostly nuts, but not in the oh my goodness this will make a great story kind of way, and my neighbors are pretty normal. They wave. They smile. They mow their lawns. They haven't brought us any pie, but they don't glare at us over their hedges or blow smoke in our faces as we walk past.

I miss people like Baked Potato Man and Strip Club Lady and Mr. Smiley and weirdo bus riders.

(I have a lot of entries about weirdo bus riders. I just didn't want to dig them all up.)

But, all we got was Ed. I suppose we should be thankful for Ed Next Door, but I was hoping for a lunatic.

The day James and I bought the house, we came by just to look at it and dream a little. We hadn't been there in a while, and found a prairie restoration project taking over our yard. There was a lawnmower of dubious quality hanging out in the spider-infested shed. We didn't know what to do.

Three days later, we came back to start work on the house, armed with industrial-grade cleaners and disinfectants. Our lawn now resembled a golf course. Huh.

Later that day, I saw an older man puttering around in the side yard between our houses. I grabbed James and told him we needed to go ask if he had mown our lawn. We went out, introduced ourselves, and yep, Ed was the lawnmower man.

He continued mowing our lawn for a good month, month and a half until we moved in and figured out that the lawnmower did, indeed, work (though it does have a broken wheel bracket that annoys James to no end; there are certain perks to being heavily pregnant--one of them is getting out of the less-fun yardwork).

One of the conditions in the sale of our house was that the seller provide dirt for grading around the house. The basement flooded during our freakish monsoons, and part of the reason was that the ground around the house sloped inward. So, the seller bought 12 metric tons of dirt and had it dumped in the driveway. That's about 12 times too much dirt. We don't own a truck or even any kind of equipment to load a truck with that much dirt, so we had no idea what we were going to do with all of it.

It just sat there in the driveway forever. With the chunk James had taken out of it, it looked like an earth elemental baring its gaping maw at our trash cans. I imagined innocent squirrels passing by, never to be seen again. One day the sky looked like tornadoes, and James and I made nerd jokes about not being afraid of the dirt because it was weak to wind. Then it started to grow weeds and looked less and less elemental and more and more just plain trashy. What to do?

Ed knocked on the door one afternoon. I answered. "Hi! I was just wondering what you were planning on doing with all that dirt!"

Oh no, I thought, we bought a house next to one of those guys--a yard nazi. I braced myself for a tirade and said, "We have no idea! The seller provided it for grading around the house, but it's way too much. We have no idea how to get rid of it all."

Ed said, "Oh! Well, do you mind if I use it? I just dug up a couple trees, and I'm looking to level things out back there." It would have been inappropriate for me to kiss him, but I thought about it.

Then, a week ago, we came home to find our kitchen window broken. The hole in the screen indicated that it was a pretty small rock that did it. We found little pieces of that red volcanic landscaping rock all over our kitchen. It seemed pretty likely that Ed kicked it up with his lawnmower and had no idea what had happened. He had mowed that day. What to do?

James decided to go over there and casually ask if they'd seen anything. Without accusing, he also mentioned the possibility that the lawnmower might have kicked it up. If we'd lived here five years already and had solid relationships with them, it would be one thing, but we weren't about to go accusing our really awesome neighbor, even if it was 99% likely that it was his fault.

Ed didn't know what had happened, he said. James didn't push it. After all, we've gotten hundreds of dollars worth of free lawn care from the guy. His denial kind of left a sour taste in my mouth, but unless he or we knew for sure that he'd done it, there always remained the possibility that some kid with a nice slingshot and bad aim did it. We're going to be living here a while; it just wasn't worth it.

The next day, Ed came by with a little paper bag. "Hi! I was thinkin'. I don't know if my lawnmower kicked up that rock or not, but I'll pay for the window." He didn't say it with that put-upon, passive-aggressive tone of voice you might imagine. He just said it. I immediately felt better about the whole situation.

I told him, "Oh! I don't think you need to worry about it. We have no way of knowing for sure how it happened. Really."

We chatted a bit, then he held out the paper bag to me. "I got these tomatoes from my garden for you two."

I think I scared him. He had no way of knowing how I feel about tomatoes, and with my pregnancy taste buds, any food I like is more of an obsession than a favorite. "OH MY GOSH I LOVE TOMATOES THANK YOU SO MUCH." He kind of blinked. I felt silly. But really, no one has any idea what kind of lengths I would go to for a good home-grown tomato.

"You're welcome." Ed seemed a little befuddled.

"Sorry. They're one of my favorite foods, especially when they're from the garden. Thanks a lot."

We said goodbye, I took the tomatoes in and whispered sweet nothings to them. One of them wasn't quite ripe, but the other looked beautiful. I ate it that night, and it was one of the best tomatoes ever.

So, we like Ed. A lot.

But I still wish we had a crazy neighbor. It's way too difficult to make a good story about nice neighbors.

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