I’m going through a little sumthin’ sumthin’ right now. On Saturday night my car was involved in a hit and run accident. Coming outside to find your car in ruins is one of the worst things a person can go through, especially when it was sitting outside your house parked!
I’ll be honest with you, when I saw my poor Lizzy in shambles, I cried like a baby and didn’t care who saw me. As my tears flooded, a young guy walked up to me and said, “I know who hit your car. He lives right there and he was drunk.” He pointed at the house. Turns out it was the neighbor who lives directly across from me. He had hit my car in the middle of the night and kept going hoping I wouldn’t find out. Because he parks on our side street, I never would have noticed the damage to his car if the young guy didn’t tell me. Plus, I never would have thought a NEIGHBOR would have done something so foul. To make a long story short, the culprit admitted he hit my car when I confronted him, but he later recanted his story after thinking about the consequences of his confession.
Needless to say, this has ignited a war. A war where the word motherf*cker was thrown at him along with God in the same sentence when he tried to say, “For all I know, you hit my car.” Are you for serious?!!! “God is gonna get you, motherf*cker!” I screamed. This story is still developing as I type and naturally I’ll keep you posted, but what is going down made me think about a short story I wrote back in 2008 that I won second place in a contest for. Since then, I would like to think that I've grown as a writer, but I want to share it anyway. It’s called The Neighborly War and, unfortunately, my neighbor has just ignited The Neighborly War Part II. Sit back and enjoy and I’ll keep you posted about the real-life drama as it unfolds.
The Neighborly War
For months, I watched them closely. That’s how I knew that bright red gas guzzling Ford Explorer belonged to their son. Bright red. How fitting. Something flashy for a young boy who wanted to go around impressing the ladies. In my mind that hunk of environmentally threatening junk seemed as big as a fire engine sitting in my spot…my only visitor spot.
I could feel the heat emanating from the warm concrete and playing with the soles of my slippered feet. After years of ambling about, holes threatened to rip the fabric apart but were unsuccessful. Soon I knew the holes would win and force me to buy a new pair. Any other day I would have noticed how good the warmth touching my feet felt, but today I was on a mission as my feet shuffled along the pavement. Swoosh. Swoosh. My steps got quicker the closer I got.
Although the comfortable spring air was caressing my skin, I refused to be coddled because I knew the nice weather would slowly disappear. Eventually it would be replaced by the warm (soon to be oppressive) heat that’s so typical in the
area where I have endured 39, almost 40, sticky summers. As a child, I never noticed. Isn’t it funny how you begin to notice everything as an adult…the quick passage of time, the heat, the cold…but those things barely register when you’re going about your life as a kid? I’m gonna be 40. Damn. They say 40 is the new 20…or is that 40 is the new 30? I don’t know. I tend to get mixed up. I swear I must be on the path to Alzheimer’s. Baltimore
I glanced at the SUV again as I made my way up the walkway to their small rowhouse. Like Siamese twins, our houses shared the same walls. I knocked long and hard, skipping the preliminary friendly knock…the one in which you lightly tap the door as you politely wait. No answer. I knocked harder. It was in the morning so I couldn’t understand why no one was there to greet me. I knew they didn’t leave the house until or so to go to work and college. At least I suspected that’s where their boy was going. Sometimes when I saw him he would be carrying a hunter green backpack and all so I figured he must be in college, right? Too old for high school.
I readjusted my robe and glanced around the spotless block in Federal Hill. The scent of the beginning of summer welcomed my nose. I breathed deeply and rubbed the thick fabric of the pink terry cloth robe. Come on. Where in the hell are they? I thought, rolling my eyes. Open the goddamn door.
“Can I help you?”
He was tall, dark and…I hate to say it because it’s so cliché…handsome. But that wasn’t going to stop me. I was used to his good looks by now after seeing him out my window over the past few months. Plus, he had a wife and I wasn’t interested in playing the role of the homewrecker. That’s never been my style. He and his wife were close to my age, it appeared. Their son, I suspected, was probably 18 or 19.
“You’re parked in my visitor spot. You need to move your car,” I said. Of course I already knew they didn’t have any additional parking spaces. One car was in the garage out back. The other was parked in their allotted visitor spot. I could care less where they moved it. I just wanted them to get it out of my space. Jesse would come over soon enough and he was going to be furious. Especially late at night and having to drive around and find another spot. I wasn’t going to let that happen.
“I’m sorry about that, Ms…”
The last thing I wanted to do was exchange salutations.
The last thing I wanted to do was exchange salutations.
“Jenkins. Tammy Jenkins,” I reluctantly said, smoothing the stray hairs on my head down.
“Robert Smith,” he said.
Did I even ask him? I looked at him carefully, squinting my brown eyes. I could feel my nose itch. That wasn’t a good sign.
“Ms. Jenkins, my son moved back in with us late last night because he and his roommate had an argument. I guess he needed a parking spot and used yours,” Robert said, scratching his arm which happened to be the color of dark chocolate. He brought his massive hand up and readjusted his glasses with his pointer finger. “I’ll have him move it.”
“Good,” I said turning around to go back home. I could hear the door close behind me as I walked away. I went into the house and got ready for work in a state of agitation.
When I got home, the car was still there. You have got to be kidding me, I thought. That was the first conversation I ever had with Robert…my first contact with my neighbor who had been living there for a few months. The neighborly thing to do would have been to obey my wishes but he hadn’t done that. What the hell!
I made my way over to the Smiths’ house and banged on the door, which was quickly opened by the Smiths’ teenage son. He was in a rush and almost knocked me down. He was tall, just like his father, but lighter skinned…a cross between his mom who was damn near white and his father, I supposed.
I always wondered why dark-skinned folk always chose a light-skinned mate or vice versa. It was almost as if they were trying to seek out the opposite of what they felt they lacked. Not being light enough, the dark-skinned person with a complex sought for a way to bleach out his DNA. Not being black enough, the light-skinned person tried to chase melanin. I myself was in between. Caramel…coffee with milk…whatever you want to call it. So I escaped those issues of black skin that most of the race grows up with. I was content with being me. Tammy. Good ole Tammy Jenkins.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the boy said, after I let out a huff at his disrespect. “Can I help you?”
“Your dad was supposed to but that didn’t happen,” I snapped. For a second the boy looked confused. Then he smiled, looking slightly embarrassed.
“You must be Ms. Jenkins. Sorry I didn’t move my car earlier, but I’m about to move it now.” He flashed a smile as if that was some sort of payment for the inconvenience he was causing. What was up with those Smith men? Did they think that good looks would take care of a multitude of sins? It didn’t and to prove it, I frowned at Smith Jr.
“Look, Junior, I have a friend who comes and parks in that spot. Do you guys think you can do whatever you want? Is this the way you treat your new neighbor? What an impression ya’ll are makin’!” I said staring squarely into his light brown eyes as I put my hands on my hips and felt the warm breeze slide under my arms. It was trying to whisk the layer of sweat away that was beginning to form under them. Junior stopped, didn’t move for a second. He frowned at me.
“I said I would move my car.”
Was that a battle stance? Was that boy challenging me? Disrespecting me? He was young enough to be my son. I wanted to slap his ass.
“Well, run along, then,” I said, condescension purposely clouding my speech. Who in the hell did he think he was, I thought, as I walked away looking straight ahead and pursing my lips. I knew his eyes were burning a hole in my back like the sun burns a hole in the earth with the use of a magnifying glass…ready to start a fire.
It was a little while before it happened again. Using the spare key to open the door, Jesse came in at at night. I was lying in bed waiting for him almost falling asleep. When he strolled over to the bed I could see his bearded face in the dim night light.
“Hey, babe,” his deep voice said as he bent down to kiss my cheek. Through his thin slacks, I could tell he was happy to see me. I smiled and shifted as the mattress squeaked while I stretched my arms. “Didn’t you talk to your neighbors?” I looked at him in bewilderment, confused. In response, he said, “That SUV is in my spot again.”
No need to say more. Like a slap in the face, that woke me up. I sat up and pulled my lace camisole down and shook my head. “Not again, Jesse,” I said as my mouth twisted and I got up and headed straight for my robe. Without saying anything, I walked toward the kitchen.
“Where you going, Tammy?” Jesse asked. I heard one of his shoes drop to the floor with a clunk. I didn’t answer. “Can’t it wait til morning?”
No it couldn’t. I pulled the smallest cutting knife out of the wooden block that housed all my knives…the knives I would normally use to slice food. Tonight I was going to slice something different. I was going to teach those bastards a lesson. That motherfucker wasn’t going to park in my spot ever again.
I slowly opened the front door and glanced around the block making sure no one was around. I stood there for a few moments and tightened my robe around my body as if the robe would somehow render me invisible if anyone was watching. One by one I glided down the steps that got me closer to his SUV. As I stooped down, I took one last look around. Still no one. I could feel the thickness of the rubber under my hands as I punctured the shiny black tire with a small hole. No need to slash it. No need to do more than one. Those bastards would get the point when their son came out and his tire was flat. And the good thing: they couldn’t prove a thing. I had watched enough Judge Judy to know that if no one sees it, there was no way they could prove it. I smiled…feeling my work was done.
I was standing at the door signing for my package from UPS when I saw her walk out the house. If looks could kill, I would be dead that morning. It had been a few days since I gave her son a flat tire. They never said anything to me about it. They must have seen enough Judge Judy to know the deal as well. I smiled at her. She rolled her eyes.
“Have a nice day,” I said to the UPS man loud enough so she could hear me as she got into her car. Her son hadn’t used my spot again after that incident. She glared at me one last time as she started her engine and drove off.
The next morning, the sun was shining so bright that I could feel it warming my cheeks as the rays came through the window and stroked my face. I yawned and got up letting the good feeling I had envelop me. It’s time to visit my plant friends, I thought. I had neglected them long enough.
I threw on a pair of sweatpants and my blue Nike hoodee and took the stairs in a daze. I strolled over the black and white checkered floor, opened the refrigerator and grabbed the carton of orange juice to pour a glass. My open windows were like mouths waiting to catch a gentle breeze.
When I sauntered out the back door and went over to the small patch of garden at the foot of the yard, I felt calm, peaceful. Getting in touch with the earth was always relaxing for me. There’s just something about feeling dirt slip through your fingers as you plant something and watch it grow…nursing it until it transforms from a seed to a stemmed being.
That’s odd, I thought. It didn’t rain last night. The earth was moist beneath my fingers and there was a smell. What in the world is that? I thought, bringing my fingers to my nose. There was a green tinge. Those motherfuckers. It was antifreeze. I knew that if it could kill a dog, it would definitely damage my babies.
“I’m gonna call the cops. They poisoned my plants,” I whispered in an angry hiss. It had to be his wife. Only women can be that goddamn devious, I thought. I went to the kitchen and picked up the cordless phone. Then I put it down. Judge Judy had indeed educated us all. I walked over to the stainless steel sink and slowly washed my hands thinking of my next move. Ah ha. It’s Saturday morning...they’ll be home.
I went to the bathroom and glanced at my reflection. Good enough.
Just the person I wanted to see, I thought, as he opened the door. My voice was thick, syrupy.
“Mr. Smith. Or Robert, should I say. I think we started off on the wrong foot. We’re neighbors. We should be nicer to one another…get to know each other better. I apologize for being so rude the other day,” I said as I looked coyly into his big brown eyes. Perhaps I could be the homewrecker after all.