The Bad Neighbor

I’ve moved five times in the past ten years, as I could afford something better, as we were outgrowing places, and so forth. Pretty standard for renters with young kids, I’d imagine.

As a result, I’ve had a lot of neighbors. Some places I didn’t know them at all, and some I knew all of them. I had a neighbor throw a two-day party under my bedroom window in the summer who later threatened to kill my indoors-only cat for pooping in his bushes (it was just Nietzsche, you see, who could go incorporeal at will, and not all the other outdoor cats in the neighborhood). This was probably the worst one. I had a sweet old Swedish grandma type. I had a Moonpants. I’ve tried to be a good neighbor when I could, and most people have done the same.

However, I am now, decidedly, The Bad Neighbor.

This is funny to me, because we moved to a neighborhood where you barely see your neighbors. This, no doubt, lent a hand in our immediate robbery after moving in. To this day I cannot get the neighbor across the street to even acknowledge my existence as his neighbor, in spite of directly greeting him multiple times and very obviously coming in and out of my fence. He does talk to P. so I suppose that’s something. Point being, it’s just not a very social street.

It took eight months, but I finally made contact recently with the lady next door. It turns out she’s the one who left an anonymous cake on our porch right before Christmas. I thought about going door-to-door and asking who was nice enough to leave us a “welcome cake” as the unsigned note said, but then it was Christmas and I didn’t want to bother anyone. I was weeding the front bed when she walked up.

“Hi, I’m the one who left you the cake on your porch for Christmas,” she said first thing.

“Oh, that was you. I wondered. Thanks!”

“Well, there was a note.”

“I’m sorry, it was unsigned. I wasn’t sure,” I said.


Strike one: I was an Anonacake Ingrate.

She went on to ask about my cats and told me they were pooping in her flowerbeds.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “I can give you some tips…” She interrupted me then and took her leave shortly thereafter, but not before she took in the giant gold vampire head on my porch and my children and me and my flaming red door. I got the picture we were not her first choice for neighbors.

On the border of our mildly conflicted nations there is a laurel hedge. P. has been working to cut it back over time since it was about eight feet wider than it needed to be to still provide a privacy hedge. I wasn’t thrilled with how it looked at first, especially as I saw holes appearing, but it has filled in quickly as they usually do. Then he moved on to another shrub and proudly showed me the bonafide face-height hole which exposed one of her windows. When we moved in you could not even see her house. I panicked.

“We have to go to the hardware store NOW!” I said.

“Wha? Why?” he asked.


As it turns out, there was time to explain, since the hardware store is five minutes away.

“We need a bamboo screen thingie or something,” I said.

“Okay, why?”

“Well, we’re looking at ten years here, probably. She’s not that old. She’s already mad about the anonacake and our cats. I think we should plug that hole.”

He got it and we did.

Then there is the matter of my address. I filled out the little form to change my address before moving, as you do. I filled out P’s at the same time, since address changes were on my to-do list for moving. I double checked the address before dropping them in the mail. They were both the same, and correct, and as neatly printed as my deformed-from-years-of-typing hand could make them. P. started getting mail, and I started getting *some* mail. At first I didn’t think I was missing anything, since I got the deluge of catalogs you get when your mortgage broker and real estate agency sells you out.

Within a couple of weeks, our letter carrier figured it out–all my mail was going a couple of blocks up the street. One number had been entered incorrectly at the post office. Of course the letter carrier told me I filled out the form wrong, to which I said nothing, because it doesn’t matter. She put in for a change and all my first class mail started being forwarded correctly. The poor neighbor whose house my mail was going to had dutifully bundled some of my mail and had passed it along to the letter carrier, along with an angry note scrawled in pencil, “Figure out your mail forwarding! I’m going to start sending this back!!” Actually I’d prefer that to the note and the puddle my mail had been dropped into. Then the sender would know the mail was going to the wrong place.

Because of this early mistake, apparently this neighbor is now doomed to get my junk mail for all time. I still get junk mail forwarded with angry pencil scrawl, which I recycle. I know my neighbor isn’t walking it up the street, because I have a locked mailbox. The letter carrier is “forwarding” these pieces up the street. I thought about dropping them a note letting the neighbor know what the situation is, but I am not sure I want someone who is this angry to know where I live. So I will keep recycling the junk.

This weekend I am going to finish up an application for a writing fellowship that’s due Monday. It’s drafted, I just need to make sure it’s perfect. And then I will enjoy this lovely rainy weather. Happy summer. :(

7 thoughts on “The Bad Neighbor

  1. I lived in a house where we were the bad neighbors. It’s an odd feeling after being so vanilla for 98% of my life. There were four of us women there, all lesbians (one couple, one single) and me. My lesbian couple housemates would greet each other smoochingly in the driveway, which drove the across-the-street neighbors insane, so then of course my BF and I had to do a little making out, then he set up some scenarios of faux romance with the roomies just to make the neighbors wonder What the Hell Is Going On Over There Anyway.

    We had a busybody next door and one day, Robin and I decided to dispose of an old rattan chair in the back yard by burning it, since it wouldn’t fit in any trash receptacle and it was undisassemblable. It make a surprisingly large flame…maybe 15 feet high. We had plenty of clearance and hoses at the ready, but we glanced over to see the fence…and the nosy neighbor’s beehive clearly visible over the top of the fence as she peered through a knothole.

    We ignored her but she couldn’t keep from shrieking for long and soon began threatening to call 911…we squirted our chair and it sat, burned and hulking, in the backyard evermore.

  2. I really don’t see how you are the bad neighbor here, for wanting to improve your yard and property in a reasonable manner. As the owner of a succession of pooping in the neighborhood cats, however, I know that feel. We have also been guilty of being noisy and tipsy. Thank Yeezy we live on a corner, it affords a bit more space. Weird how the neighbor dynamic can be. All the little kids around us are grown and gone, so it’s pretty geriatric and quiet when lawns aren’t being tended to in the wee early hours!
    Good ju ju towards the writing fellowship! You are most worthy.

  3. How does one keep the cats from pooping in the neighbor’s flower beds? Do you post signs? “Do Not Poop Here!” ?

  4. A picture of grumpy cat.

    Actually, there are some things that I told Moonpants about, who had this complaint as well. Sticks stuck in loose soil; keeping loose soil damp, pebbles/river rock, citrus peels. YMMV.

  5. I’ma move into your neighborhood and challenge you for the title of “Baddest Neighbor”. My clutch move is singing at the top of my lungs to Evita’s “Rainbow High” (London Cast Recording, please) on my porch in my Zorro suit at 6am.

    Seriously, though, these sound like cantankerous old biddies, so eff em.

  6. I’m pretty sure we’re the bad neighbors too, at least as far as the folks on the right go. They hate our chickens and the BAWK BAWK BAWK, which I find ludicrous, as the highway overpass is like 30 feet away and far, far louder at any given moment than the sporadic clucking emanating from our yard. Our ridiculous grapefruit tree also bombs their back yard with sour hellfruit on the regular too, but I’ve already told them to feel free to chop off any part of that tree that hangs over their property line because I fucking hate that tree. I think they enjoy having something to complain about, honestly. It gives them something to do besides Call of Duty and chain-smoking.

    Good luck with the fellowship.

  7. We’re the bad neighbors, too! But it’s because we don’t mow often enough. Everyone in this neighborhood mows and rakes and picks up all their little sticks from their yard assiduously (like two or three times a week, I shit you not) and a couple of them have these machines that they ride around on the vacuum the leaves and bits of tree trash from the yard (again, not even kidding) whereas we just barely manage to get our crap yard mowed once a week (maybe once every other week).

    Last year one of our neighbors called the yard police on us for not mowing often enough. We got a lack-of-mowing ticket. Who knew you could get those?

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