Not the nice new ones; they're nice; there's nothing to say.
The previous ones. The ones who had the screaming fights.
They only lived next door to us for about two years. I will not reveal their true identities here--cannot, because I have completely forgotten their names. She was young and pretty, with a short dark ponytail. She used to stand in the back yard in trim little shorts and practice her golf swing.
He was blond and lanky, and very young-looking. I think he was an artist.
They seemed quite nice at first--we'd chat awkwardly over the fence, not a lot to say to each other, since Doug and I don't golf and Riley was usually busily running up the sides of trees, distracting us all.
The fighting started almost right away. You'd hear these sobs--these loud, gasping sobs that stopped your heart and you just prayed were loud, gasping laughs, instead. Sometimes they were. Usually they weren't. I remember sitting on the back porch one afternoon when I heard her scream, "You awful, awful dog! I hate you!" And the back door flew open and their dog--admittedly, a fairly awful dog, but only because he was so thoroughly untrained--came flying out, rolling ass over tea kettle through the air, like what you might see in a cartoon.
The door banged shut.
It immediately flew open again and she emerged, vigorously shaking out a throw rug and sobbing.
Other times they'd lie in their hammock and giggle and grope so much we had to avert our eyes.
I do not know what it was that prompted them to stop speaking to us, but they did. Our last conversation was when the silver maple in our yard crashed down onto our roof during the big Mother's Day Storm. (I was upstairs looking out the back window at the violent sky, thinking, Wow, that sure is a loud freight train, while Boscoe, Riley and Doug were sensibly in the basement, waiting for me.)
After the storm passed, all the neighbors emerged from their shaken homes up and down the street. And I remember chatting with the golfer and the artist about what a near miss they'd had; a large tree branch had come within centimeters of hitting their gas meter.
And then they just--stopped. Started looking the other way when we walked out to the garage, stopped answering our greetings.
It was about this time when we gave up on trying to grow grass on half of the backyard. Riley was still quite young, and vigorous (now he's middle-aged and vigorous) and his running and digging had chewed the turf into mud. So we put down wood chips and gave up on the grass.
One morning as I headed to the garage, I noticed the golfer in the yard, vigorously sweeping the sidewalk. By then I was so used to her silence that when she spoke, it startled me. "I'm wondering what you're going to do about this," she said to me, with no preamble at all, and I stopped, my key raised halfway to the lock.
"Do about what?" I said.
She continued to sweep savagely. "Your wood chips. To keep them from going into our yard."
"Ah," I said, and went on to work.
That weekend, Doug tacked wooden trim all along the bottom of the white picket fence, to block the wood chips. And then he put up wire fencing about a foot away from the fence, to keep Riley an extra foot away from their yard. If good fences make good neighbors, we now had three fences between us.
If it appeased them, they never said.
They moved out about eight months later. They did not talk to us again. Those eight months were awkward and uncomfortable. Their hammock got stolen, but it was just as well; their afternoons of cuddling and giggling had clearly passed. Sometimes they'd scream so much we had to avert our ears. Often their really awful dog would spot us through the window and bark and bark and bark. He had yellow eyes.
We live in close quarters in the city; we learn to not see, not hear, not intrude, and that is how we co-exist. But every now and then you find yourself living near someone who rubs you completely the wrong way. Someone whose very presence puts your teeth on edge. I fear that we became those people for the artist and his pretty wife.
The why isn't important; I am certain that there was no real why. We did nothing more odious than cover our yard in wood chips, and have a couple of rambunctious dogs that sometimes got their dog riled up.
But the real question is what do you do about it? How do you handle it if you have neighbors that you simply don't like? How do you figure out how to get along?
A note on the photos: Three views of our yard. Pre-wood chips, post wood chips but pre-extra fences, and post extra fences. And yes, somewhere along the way they painted their garage. As always, click on any picture to enlarge.
Take me out to the ballpark...
8 minutes ago