Thanking The Neighbor (pt. 1)

Cover image courtesy of Karmadaluna of CHIN’Arts Studio/Brands

Arnold Dallow sat outside on the back patio, waiting. His family was inside, making dinner for his birthday party. They arrived uninvited at his house, as they did every year, not only for his birthday but every Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. He admired his friends’ families whose policies were to not bother each other and he wished his family could follow suit.

His mother, Jean, had knocked loudly on his door, with a lit cigarette in her mouth. He never smoked and his rule was no smoking at his place. However, she either never remembered or chose to ignore it. She was the only member of the family, other than he, not morbidly obese.

Also present was Darwin, Jean’s brother, and his daughter, Caitlin. They both weighed three hundred and fifty pounds each, though Darwin looked slightly less large because he was taller. Caitlin was a nice person and the only member of the family who did not irritate Arnold. Darwin was making a spitting sound with his mouth, causing driblets of spit to land by Arnold’s direction.

The other relative who showed up was Vanessa, Jean’s sister. She was the only one of the bunch who made decent food but she could never stop complaining the whole time she visited anyone. Also, Jean insisted on making the whole dinner and that made Vanessa’s presence completely pointless.

Arnold looked occasionally behind him to see what was going on in the house. He shut the patio door so he could not hear them but their gestures and mouth movements indicated they were still arguing. Earlier, the issue was how to cook the ham. Vanessa said, “I don’t want to bone the ham.”

Arnold responded, “It’s very difficult to cut into the ham when it has that large bone in the middle.”

Darwin said, “You shouldn’t bitch, Arnold. Your mother paid her hard earned money to buy you something wonderful. Four dollars for a large piece of meat is an excellent price.”

Vanessa said, “You use half the can and the ham is already loaded with salt and then you salt the food again when you serve it. If salt was a prostitute, you’d be the pimp or, more likely, the pimple. You’re a raggedy old ugly tramp who can’t even put on a decent dress on your son’s birthday. At least Darwin found clothes without holes or stains in them, even though not even a gay man on drugs would be attracted to the tub of lard.”

Darwin shook his head. “This is coming from the woman who is ten pounds heavier than me.”

Vanessa said, “You know I have a gland condition that makes me this way.”

Darwin laughed. “You’re not grand.”

Vanessa yelled, “I didn’t say grand! I said gland! Stupid moron! Get a hearing aid for your brain!”

Jean looked at Caitlin who was sitting in the living room, watching television. She was purposefully staying out of the conversation but not because she had nothing to say. If she said what she thought, she would not be able to stop. Watching television was more productive. However, Jean was annoyed and said, “Caitlin! I’d like you to come in here and help me baste this ham!”

Caitlin sighed and entered the kitchen. “What are you talking about? You don’t need to baste that type of ham. It’s forty percent water.”

Jean said, “I’m not using water. I’m using pureed asparagus.”

“That makes even less sense. Are you trying to make a meal that nobody can eat?”

“I’m trying to satisfy everybody! Seemingly, nobody wants salt on their food. They’ve all turned into hippies. So, they get asparagus.”

Arnold said, “Mom, I don’t really like the flavor of asparagus unless it has mayonnaise.”

Jean said, “Okay. I’ll  add mayonnaise to the basting liquid.”

Arnold shrugged. “Why not just leave the ham alone and serve the mayonnaise on the side as a dip?”

Jean said, “I’m the one cooking dinner, not you. As it is, I have a wild rice and radish casserole with lemon meringue frosting to take care of. If you have nothing good to say than don’t say anything. How about you play that CD you brought, Caitlin?”

Caitlin said, “That would be great. I have Morris Albert or Patrick Hernandez.”

Arnold said, “I’m going outside. I need some time alone as my birthday present to myself.”

Darwin said, “Well, thanks a lot! Your family means nothing to you.”

Arnold smiled. “You mean a lot to me but you wouldn’t want to know how. Anyway, I’m going outside to get some fresh air. I’ll be back after a while.”

He was glad he made that choice. If everything happened how he hoped, he would see a treat. Across from him, with her patio facing his, was a neighbor who was very good looking. She lived on Hyacinth, the next street up from Bradford. Once or twice a week, he walked a half block up Bradford, turned on Harris and down Hyacinth one or two blocks so he could look at the houses which he thought looked slightly better than those on Bradford. He picked a time when perhaps the woman, who lived across from him, might be outside.

Her name was Angela Taylor, which he found out when they met. She had been talking to a man, presumably her next door neighbor. She asked, “Would you know where it’s located? I only know the one a couple of blocks away.”

The neighbor answered, “I hadn’t even known there was another close by. Maybe the gentleman would know.” He pointed at Arnold.

Arnold smiled. “I might. What are you looking to find out?”

Angela said, “I’ve heard there were two Lakeside Markets around here. One is supposed to have a section which sells fresh fish. I know that the one right around here doesn’t sell fresh fish. They only have canned sardines or pickled herring.”

Arnold said, “Oh, I know what you’re talking about. The store that sells fresh fish is Lakeside Groceries. The names are similar but they’re two totally different types of stores. Lakeside Market, is like a small corporate store that just sells regular stuff you can find in any supermarket but they raise their prices because it’s conveniet for people to go there instead of a regular chain market. Lakeside Groceries is run by a family who lives in town and it’s still consistent with their goal of selling some organic produce and better quality meats and fish. It’s on Parker Street, the same street Lakeside Market is on, but it’s up about ten blocks away.”

The neighbor waved and walked in his housel

Angela smiled. “Wow. You know a lot about this town, don’t you?”

Arnold said, “Not that much but I did know that.”

“Well, my name is Angela Taylor.”

“I’m Arnold Darrow.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“Same here.”

She shrugged. “Well, I have to go inside. I’m making a pot roast and I like to check on it from time to time so it doesn’t get overcooked. Maybe we’ll talk again sometime.”


She went in her house. He walked back to his place. That little bit of conversation was worthwhile to him, not because of the information but because of what the experience meant to him. She had worn a long-sleeved polo shirt, with her sleeves pushed up and the shirt tucked into belted jeans. She was dressed attractively with attention to detail, unlike most of his other friends and acquaintances, especially family members. Not one member of the Darrow family, other than he, tucked in a shirt ever, nor did they wear clothes that matched and only on rare occasions were the clothes clean. Angela represented the type of woman he pictures as his ideal in the same way people watched situation comedies on television and imagined being a part of a fictional family.

The next day, as he was sitting outside on his patio, he noticed she walked out to her patio which was located directly facing his. She was wearing a white button work shirt tucked into belted slacks and her sleeves were rolled up. She noticed him ad waved. He waved back and she went inside her house. She must have gone out there to water a plant or do something else specific. However, that little bit of interaction with her made him feel there was something to appreciate when it happened and it would take his mind off of his problems.

Now, he noticed she was outside on her patio again. She must have been there a while and had either sat in a chair or had bent down but was not initially visible. When she got up, she glanced behind her and saw Arnold. She smiled and said, “Hi.” She was wearing a plain T-shirt tucked into running shorts.

Arnold thought she looked sexy and he appreciated what he saw, especially on his birthday. He said, “Hi. How are you?”

She shrugged. “Busy. There’s a lot of stuff I have to do. I have to rearrange some things in my house and it’ll take a while since I don’t have anyone to help me.”

He nodded. “I would help you but my family is here and we’re having a birthday party for me. But otherwise I’d be glad to help.”

“Oh, it’s your birthday? Happy birthday! If you’re serious about helping me, I could use you tomorrow. Does that sound good?”


She clapped her hands. “Yay! Okay, shall we say you’ll come over about eleven o’clock tomorrow morning?”

“That’s fine.”

“Great! I’ll see you then.”

He laughed. “Believe me, it’ll seem more like a birthday party compared to what I have to deal with now.”

“Really? What’s going on?”

“Let’s just say family bickering, bad food and generally complete stupidity.”

She nodded. “Hmm. Sorry to hear that. Well, I tell you what. If you help me tomorrow, I might have a present for you. It’ll be something I think you’ll love.”

“I can’t wait.”

“Alright. Well, I have to go in and do some things. See you tomorrow.”

“Right on.”

She and he waved. She walked back in her house. He continued to sit outside a while. Work was not his favorite activity, other than working on writing a story or a musical composition, but helping a woman neighbor like her would be more than work. It would be an opportunity to get to know her and see what she was wearing. Of the times he saw her, either on her patio or in her front yard as he walked down Hyacinth Street, she always wore her shirts tucked in, with no exceptions. He could not know for sure if she ever wore any shirt not tucked in but something in his consciousness, perhaps a metaphysical feeling, told him she did not. The way she wore her shirts seemed like her tucking them in was as important to the outfits as the clothes. So, when he went to her house tomorrow, he would see what specific outfit she would wear for his arrival. That was the real reason he wanted to help her. As shallow as surface appearances were, they could be interpreted as a sign of something else. In that instance, an appearance would represent how one person communicated feelings to another person. Of course, those ideas came to him because he was excited she would let him visit her. Yes, the idea was for him to do some work but, to one extent, his birthday party seemed like work to him because he was making an effort by not leaving altogether.

Twenty minutes later, he went back inside. Jean took the ham out of the stove. It looked actually okay. He asked, “What did you do right this time?”

Vanessa said, “I slapped her on the face and told her to stop being a space cadet and let me make this ham. She freaked out because her cigarette fell out of her mouth and she said it was her last cigarette. She was going to pick it up again but I scrunched it with my foot so there’s no way she could continue smoking it.”

Arnold smiled. “Thanks, Aunt Vanessa.”

“You’re welcome, sweetie. At least you have one smart person at your party. My brother is completely a loony who only thinks through his stomach and my sister is not sure where she put her brains. I think she threw them in the garbage. Caitlin, I don’t know if she ever had any brains. I think that, when she was born, out came both her and a television set and the set got the brains and she got the fat.”

Darwin said, “I do not have my brains in my stomach!”

Vanessa smiled. “I rest my case.”

Jean went in the living room and layed on the couch. “I think I’m having a heart attack.”

Darwin said, “I’ll call the ambulance.”

Vanessa grabbed the phone from him. “You will do no such thig. If the ambulance arrives, they’ll just make her feel better and she won’t drop dead soon enough. The stupid woman is only acting. She just wants Caitlin to buy her cigarettes.”

Caitlin said, “I’m not going to walk to the store just for cigarettes. Somebody will have to buy me a soda.”

Jean said, “You lazy bitch! After all that I’ve done for you, the least you can do is buy me some smokes.”

Caitlin shook her head. “After all the dirty lungs you gave me, the least I can do is let you give me more? I say no.”

Darwin said, “I’ll go and buy her cigarettes. Don’t eat my portion of the food!”

Vanessa said, “Don’t worry about that, Mr. Behemoth. You like to spice up your food to the point where not even a fire breather could put it in his mouth. I’m surprised you won’t have a heart attack. I’ve been wishing it on you for some years now.”

Caitlin said, “I think we should just eat. You’ve been using your mouths on words. It’s time to use your mouths on food.”

Darwin walked out of the house. Everyone else sat at the table and ate. During dinner, the conversation became less about each person’s stupidity or weight size and focused more on pet grooming and flower arranging. Caitlin insisted on playing another Patrick Hernandez CD. Arnold stayed quiet, hoping they would leave before too late in the evening. After everyone else ate, Darwin returned with candy cigarettes. Jean screamed at him and Arnold waved to everyone and went in his bedroom. An hour later, the noise stopped and he assumed they took the hint and left. However, he was not going to look, in case they were quietly waiting for him to return. Instead, he rested peacefully, thinking about the next day.


He did not know what to expect. All of a sudden, on an otherwise typical workday, Arnold Baker received a message from his secretary that and Fulton, assistant manager, wanted a mediately to see him. We never met her before and knew very little about her role in the office other then she worked for his boss, Zachary total, in the law firm of total, Jones and Davidson.

The Invitation

Joseph was looking forward to some excitement for a change of pace. When he went to the parade in The town square. He did so in order to escape having to spend more time with his family. The Johnsons lived in a nice part of town but they were not that they were not the easiest people to get along with. His mother became a vegetarian and did not like to use any spices in her cooking and his father usually stayed away from the house so Joseph never really had much of a chance to talk with him. His older brother Roberts listen to it the middle music all day in that gave Joseph a headache. His younger brother Stephen polished rocks and he will and he was a nice guy but his room had Opal rock dust all over the place and it had a spell that Joseph could not stand. These were minor complaints compared to how his friends had thoughts of their families but he just needed to get away for a while. His family was not very good looking even though he did not really care but he wanted to see some good looking people at the parade. He saw only a few because most of the people in town who went to parades were not very good looking themselves. However, he figured that he would search for what he may call A gym in a pile of rocks. He noticed one woman who wore a long sleeve shirt tucked into melted jeans and her sleeves were pushed up. She was talking with a couple of friendsand Joseph had a mediately she could be someone in his life as opposed to this family. None of them ever took in their shirts and none of their friends so either. While the more troops were marching during the parade, Joseph was being attention to the woman, not so much because she was the ultimate for him but because she represented something higher then he could obtain. He figured that there was a certain type of person who could know someone that looked special in a way that’s the person appreciated as opposed to someone like Joseph who had to settle for what he had. He thought about that as he looked at the woman who might be someone ordinary except she wore her clothes in the truck that way and that’s totally changed Joseph’s interpretation of who she may be. He stayed at the parade for approximately a half hour because that was how long the lady was there before she walked off with her friends. When Joseph came home, his family was watching an infomercial on how to fix radio transmitters. That was the most exciting thing that they probably did. His father was Home, as a change of pace, but he just sat in the living room and was reading a newspaper. He did not look like he wanted to talk. His mother was who wanted to watch the informational even though she was not mechanical and Joseph had no clue as to why she would be sitting there and seen something so boring. His brothers were not home so he was there with only his parents. He felt like asking what’s the plan to eat but he was afraid that he would find out. Instead, he asked if there was anything new going on their lives. Finally, his father said, believe it or not, I’m glad you came home. My coworker, Gary, asked me if I knew anybody who might be able to help sits for his sister. She is going on tour with her art book and she need someone to feed the cats. I think that maybe you might want to take up the offer. It apparently pays $200. She lives not too far from here on grounds for their street. If you would like, I can call her and tell her you’re coming. Joseph did not even think about whether or not he wants to do that but he figured there was no harm in finding out who this person was. He thought she might be not so great but if that were the case then he would at least have something to complain about when he talked with his dad again so he shrugged and said I might as well see what it is. His father called her on the phone and then told him yes she would like to meet you. She said there has been a change of plans and she is not moving away after all but she still would like to know who you are in case she ever does need to have someone watch her house.

The Intriguing Neighbor

Photos courtesy of Ann:

image .

I stayed at Hawthorne Avenue for one month only but I wished my time there never ended. My uncle Patrick received twelve thousand dollars from his father, my grandfather Harold, in a will. When grandfather died, Uncle Patrick was not sad because his dad never tried contacting him when he was alive.

However, Uncle Patrick felt better after receiving the money. He planned a trip to Iceland for a month because he wanted some time in a country with cooler weather, away from where tourists would typically travel. He needed me to stay at his house while he was away because someone had to feed his dog, Snifter.

Hawthorne Avenue was on a hill, not as steep as some hills I had walked on but steep enough. There were a lot of trees and the houses looked generally like a dream come true for a writer like me. My apartment was in a part of town that was flat and had no shade. I would stay in my apartment, with the air conditioner on, so I could feel halfway comfortable.

In my uncle’s house, I was comfortable every day. Splinter, the dog, was a white poodle and he was very friendly. He liked chewing on a rubber steak toy on the back patio so I would sit there, watching him.

On the first day of my sitting outside, I noticed a woman outside on her patio next door. She had worn a grey T-shirt tucked into black jeans. I loved how women looked when they wore tucked in shirts. There was something sexy about that style in which I noticed. I knew nothing about her other than she was watering some potted plants but my imagination had me thinking she grew up in a small town, away from the bigger cities where women did not dress similarly. I assumed she tucked in her shirts every day.

I sat outside on the back patio during the next day. My excuse was so Splinter could be outside and play with his chew toy. However, I was hoping I would see the woman again. I did see her. She was wearing a yellow long-sleeved turtleneck but it was not tucked in. The sleeves were pushed up and that looked somewhat sexy but the suspense was broken. My wondering if she tucked in her shirts every day was met by the answer no.

On my third day at my uncle’s house, he called me to ask if I was doing fine there. He said, “If you go to the dollar store you can buy Snifter some Doggy Boy treats.”

I replied, “The dollar store is ten blocks away. I can go to Sherman’s Grocery and get a better brand of dog snacks for just fifty cents more.”

“You need to save the money I gave you. I already paid the rent at your apartment so you could use your rent money on food over there. The fifty dollars I gave you for dog food should last all month and I’ll need back whatever you didn’t spend.”

“Fifty cents is no big deal.”

He screamed when I said that. I had eventually apologized and said I agreed with him about everything. When our conversation ended, I went outside so I could go to Sherman’s Grocery and buy the better brand of dog treats.

When I was outside, the woman next door was outside, also. She waved. She was wearing a pink tank top not tucked in. I figured her wearing a tucked in shirt was just a one-time occasion. Yet, she smiled at me in a way that made me forget about her clothing. She was acting friendly and that turned me on. She said, “I assume you’re Patrick’s nephew.”

I answered, “Yes, I’m Joseph.”

“Glad to meet you, Joseph. I’m Ann.”

“Thank you. I’m glad to meet you, too.”

“I’m wondering, Joseph. I’m getting some new recliners and I might need someone to help me move some furniture so I can get them in my living room. They’re not going to come for at least another week but I’d like to know if you could help me when the day comes. My housemate, Gary, hurt his back last month and he’s recovering but I don’t want to put too much stress on him. I’d pay you for your time.”

“I guess I could do that. Just let me know.”

“Okay. I have your uncle’s number. I’ll call you.”

At that moment, she heard her phone ring so she went inside to answer it. I was happy she talked with me so I walked the ten blocks to the dollar store and got the dog treats my uncle suggested.

For the next five or six days. I would see Ann either outside her patio while I sat outside my uncle’s patio or at her front yard as I walked to or from the store. I noticed that sometimes she wore her shirt tucked in so I became intrigued again with suspense concerning what she might wear. We did not say too much to each other except for hello but she kept smiling at me in a way that made me think she wanted to know me more than what a quick hello would suggest. However, I figured she was waiting for her recliners to arrive and she did not want to say something that might make me change my mind about helping her.

I did eventually see her housemate, Gary. He looked like a young pleasant guy who would be otherwise nondescript except for his knowing her. When I sat outside with Snifter, Gary would occasionally go outside to water some plants but he never seemed to notice me. Not like he was ignoring me but more like he noticed almost nothing. A part of me thought he was romantically involved with Ann and the other part of me thought there was no way that could be the case.

Finally, on a Saturday, at noon, Ann called. She said the recliners arrived and Gary planned on helping get them in the living room but he was not home. She apologized for bothering me and I told her I was not bothered.

I was excited about helping her. I was curious what she would wear. Since she had already mentioned the furniture moving day to me, I figured she might put on something sexy so I would feel better about doing work. However, those thoughts were purely my imagination.

When I knocked on her door and she answered, I was almost in disbelief. She was wearing a tucked in hooded sweatshirt with her sleeves pushed up. Her blue jeans looked casual with some patches and she had on a white belt not too tight, but I had rarely seen women wear regular sweatshirts tucked in, let alone with zippers. I had immediately felt a certain energy, is if everything was planned on purpose. I did not know how much money she wanted to give me but I felt I was already paid.

She smiled and said, “Come on in.”

I walked inside and noticed no recliners. I asked, “Where are the chairs?”

“I have to confess something. The recliners aren’t due for another week and Gary doesn’t have a bad back. I just wanted to talk with you.”

I was nervous. If her liking me had been in my imagination only, I could handle it. However, I felt like I needed to leave. I said, “I’m sorry but I hardly know you.”


She extended her hand. “I’m sorry if I seemed too forward. Do you forgive me?”

We shook hands. I said “Sure.”

She continued shaking for a few seconds longer than I figured the regular amount of time was for her, whatever that may be. Her grip was firm and I tried letting go after thirty seconds but I could not pull free.

Suddenly, Gary walked in. He entered the living room where Ann and I stood. He looked at us in a way that showed he noticed but was not surprised. Ann’s facial expression seemed to indicate I should have known she would act that way.

Finally, I walked towards the front door, while she accompanied me, still holding on. I opened the door and said I was leaving. Her sneaky smile was telling me she had other plans.

However, something unexpected happened. Uncle Patrick’s car drove to his parking space. He got out of the car and said, “I was worried about Splinter. Did you feed him properly?” Ann let go of my hand and put her hands behind her back, in a gesture of mock innocence. I walked inside Uncle Patrick’s house with him.

I felt strange. In one way, I was annoyed he had to change his plans because he did not trust me. In another way, I was nervous and wondered how long Ann would have kept shaking my hand if my uncle did not appear. When I went home to my apartment, I thought about how sexy Ann looked in her tucked in hooded sweatshirt and belted jeans and how her pushed up sleeves aroused me while she gripped my hand.

I wondered if that type of situation happened to anyone else and if it may happen again to me. Uncle Patrick did not invite me to visit him again, at least not yet, and I was both wanting to see Ann again and avoid her. In the meantime, I could still feel her energy and that allowed me to write a few interesting stories.