Apropos of nothing…
We long suspected that the house next door is some sort of halfway house. When we first moved in, we would be routinely awoken by some asshole yelling up at a window next door: “Hey Mike!! Hey Mike!!” as if they didn’t have a doorbell or hadn’t heard of knocking. One day a squad car stopped outside our house. The officer said he’d heard reports of someone in the area with a weapon and had I seen anything suspicious. Without thinking about it, I pointed to the house next door.
“Mike” moved out and the yelling stopped. Since then there has been a revolving cast of characters moving in and out of that house. I’m on nodding acquaintance with many of them apart from the old man who I think owns the house and who overwaters his lawn. Among the many who regularly make their way through the revolving door you will see: Limpy, Grumpy, Shouty, Quiet Guy, and Mike’s Creepy Friend. Shouty is a youngish guy who’s pretty friendly and seems to know everyone in the neighbourhood. He tends to mutter to himself and every once in a while he’ll get into a mood and earn the nickname I’ve given him. He’ll walk up and down the sidewalk outside the house and just yell whatever is going through his head. A couple of months back it was about someone stealing a bag of potato chips. Last week he got into it with the old guy, saying “YOU MAKE ME SICK!!” over and over and over again for about 15 minutes (which is a really long time to say “YOU MAKE ME SICK” over and over and over again). I like Quiet Guy. He mostly sits up on the deck and keeps to himself. Limpy is okay too.
On the other side of us is a retired teacher. I know this because R spoke to her a few times. Her son works in finance and he has a remarkable voice. You know how on TV they sometimes have to protect a person’s identity so they film them in shadow and alter their voice? His voice sounds exactly like that. It’s a bit eerie. He moved out a couple of years ago and since then R has taken it upon himself to shovel her walk. Because R is sweet like that. I mention them because I don’t want you to get the idea that my neighbours are all, um, unusual. Oh, there’s also the dude who used to be the crossing guard down the road: he’s quiet and has a gentle smile.
About three months ago we got new neighbours. They moved in a few houses down across the street. The first thing I noticed about them was that they had a really big TV in an upstairs room and someone was playing video games A LOT. Then there was the garbage. Holy hopping hell the garbage. So. much. garbage. It started out with maybe six garbage bags. The city picks up garbage and recycling on alternate Wednesdays and picks up our green bins every week but this family was putting out six bags of garbage every week. The recycling people don’t pick up garbage so it would just sit on the sidewalk until the following week. After several weeks of this, I thought they would either figure it out and only put their garbage out on garbage night OR they would just put their garbage out as it accumulated throughout the week. But no. They continued to wait until Wednesday to put their masses of garbage on the curb. Also, the city has these bins that you’re supposed to put your garbage, recycling and food waste in. Grey ones for garbage, blue ones for recycling, and green ones for food waste (and cat litter). I like to watch them on Wednesday nights: the truck has a driver-operated arm that reaches out to grab the bin then lifts it and turns it out over the open cargo area, shakes it a little and then puts it back down on the sidewalk. The driver recognises me now.
Then the folks across the road started with the furniture and the mattresses. Every week there’d be a minivan’s worth of “large items” requiring a special truck that would come along after the other trucks. We started a weekly mattress count: they averaged 4 per week but we saw six one time. R and I were fascinated by the volume. My theory was that they had started a junk removal business but rather than paying to have the dump take it, they were just putting it out in front of their house. After the 20th mattress, R hypothesised that the mattresses were a device for importing large quantities of illegal substances. Any way you looked it at, it was just plain weird.
It took a couple of months but one night the men on the large items truck lost patience with the mattress family. There were 8 or 9 pieces of crappy wood furniture – dressers and bedside tables mostly – and another 5 mattresses. And it was raining. We saw one of the truck guys calling someone on his cell phone and the next night there was a squad car outside the house. The mattress family cooled it for a couple of weeks but I guess they just couldn’t help themselves and the mattresses started reappearing. Once they reached a critical mass of 4 mattresses, the police arrived the following day. This cycle repeated a few times. And then…
And then there was a for rent sign on the fence outside the house! And a final deposit of three mattresses.