Tag Archives: Next Door Neighbour

Big, Little

The hedge encircling our house was a world onto itself, a network of tunnels and hidden places we scurried and hid in like rabbits. It was a refuge, a hideout, our shared headquarters. It went on and on, right around the house and into forever.

That was years ago. Years and years, the kind you can put into groups of five or ten and count on off. Our house, a squat three bedroom bungalow, was at the bottom of a hill, right at the dead end street behind which the train tracks that ran. Not exactly prime real estate, but then I never minded the trains (freight, never passenger), and missed them after we moved away.

Next door was our neighbour the hunter, and his pack of three walker/beagle hounds. Across the street was the family whose kids we feuded with on and off and whose grandmother had a pug. We also feuded (again, on and off) with the next door neighbour’s kids, three girls (but not one for each dog, as I’d assumed. The dogs were their father’s dogs and his alone).

Later, the next door neighbour acquired a chihuahua, which had puppies after he “accidentally” let it out loose in the neighbourhood with my aunt’s chihuahua. There were three or four of them, I could never keep track.

He named one of the tiny dogs Rambo. He never offered my aunt any of the puppies. As mad as she was about it, she still let her dog roam the neighbourhood untethered after the fact so it’s hard to feel indignant on her behalf.

***

I check in from time to time, on the old house, the old neighbourhood, despite myself.

The hedge has been removed, pulled out from the ground, roots and all, and replaced by a sagging wire fence (maybe it wasn’t always sagging…I have just only ever seen it sagging). The space the fence occupies, once enormous, seems so small now as to have been frankly impossible. Perhaps it shrank? Or maybe it just atrophied in memory.

The bungalow – somehow even squattier now and dingy in spots (the once white brick, the once gleaming windows) where I remember it had been pristine – has been split into two (of all things, lengthwise), and has been remade into a rental property with faded patio furniture in the driveway (at last glance, three off-white plastic chairs and an overturned table).

Other things, too, have changed.

The houses up the street have been bought up by the city and are in various stages of being torn down so that the street can be widened and a new, modernized transit system can be put into place – in this case, a light rail transit system and not, as I’d initially assumed, a monorail. Pity.

Some years ago, our next door neighbour died (in his basement), as did the man across the street (in his sleep), although that one is more recent. A coma and then a recovery and then that singular twist of fate that took him out of the picture.

The dogs, naturally, are all dead too. Rambo included.

My aunt gave away her dog soon after she had children. Be it shame or indifference or something more or light banal or benign, she never mentions him. It is as if he never existed, as if none of it ever happened.

Like none of us were ever there at all.

 

 

 

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Filed under Change, Childhood, Death, Dogs, People, THE PAST

Taint Nothing

My next door neighbour caught me in our shared alleyway (but let’s admit it, it’s actually my driveway, which her giant, looming house abuts) and told me that her garage bin smelled.

Excuse me?

“My garbage bin. It smells, doesn’t it?”

Unless she’s storing diamonds or jasmine petals in there, yeah, I’d say it smelled. It smells. Like garbage.

Garbage smells?

“Yes, it does, doesn’t it?” This was a genuine question and, I suspect, a real revelation. She gently lifted the lid of her bin and peered in, brow raised. Took a dainty sniff…as if to demonstrate the smell.

I don’t know.

This all can’t be real, can it? Can’t it be? What’s the game here, then, really?

Is she trying to tell me my garbage smells? Because it does, like garbage.

Is this some kind of test? I disagree and she’ll never, ever bring it up again? Or I agree and she shows me how deep the rabbit hole really goes.

Is she just amusing herself, inserting the absurd into the banal? Into each other? Hard to blame her, if so. But no.

No. I don’t think so.

***

Days later…

Her housekeeper was bleaching and washing the garbage bin in the alleyway that I must now adamantly insist is actually my driveway. But more than that: um, what?

Why?

“She says it smells like garbage.”

I had watched the housekeeper a while, confounded. She nearly fell into the bin in the act of cleaning it; so large was it that it half swallowed her whole was she dove in, head first, to bleach its gaping insides. And then, with a kind of practiced fall, she tumbled out and rinsed the bin off with a bucket and a fistful of sopping rags.

Garbage water everywhere, which smells, pooling at our feet. Like garbage, it smelled, even as it seeped into every crevice on the patchwork asphalt that makes up my driveway, even as it baked into the runoff from the lawn under the oppressive heat of the summer sun.

Please don’t do that ever again on my driveway.

“I won’t. I’m sorry. She told me. I just…she says she wants them clean.” It was almost a question.

But she will never get them clean. She will never get rid of the smell. She will never be rid of the taint.

But looking at this situation: taint ain’t nothing.

Is it?  

 

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Filed under Interruptions, People