Good neighbours

Last night (and this morning) I was sleepless because of the dog-that-never-stops-barking and the attendant drama.  The wretched creature lives on the street that parallels mine and, judging from the sound, a few houses down from mine. The incessant barking comes day or night.

Then there are the people who shush the dog. One of them is a middle-schooler with the voice of a disgruntled bullfrog. “Shuuut uupp!” he croaks. It’s bad enough during the day, but after dark I want to throw a brick at him. Preferably a brick still attached to a wall.

(No, I don’t think he’s part of the Middle School Mafia. I’m just a morning person, which means I become a homicidal maniac when someone prevents me from sleeping.)

Last night it wasn’t the Bullfrog Kid who shushed the dog. It was a woman with a voice like a banshee forewarning death by sleep deprivation. Or at least that’s how it sounded when I trying to burrow into my luxurious bed.

Then a man – another neighbour on that street – came to have a few stern words with the woman about the dog. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember thinking, “Amen, brother! Now grab that dog and take it to the pound. And while you’re at it, hit yourself with a brick, you loudmouth.”

Mr. Loudmouth is a pretty good neighbour, expressing the communal discontent so that others don’t have to leave their beds. The dog and the dog’s family are bad neighbours.

You may think, “But it’s only a dog! You can’t blame it!” Au contraire, mon frère. (That’s French for ¡Cállate! o o te golpearé con este ladrillo. Also known as “Shut up, bro, or I’ll hit you with this brick!”) There are as many dogs in this neighbourhood as there are houses, and most are good dogs. Yes, they are. Who’s a good dog? They are!

My previous next-door neighbour-dog, Paquito the Mosquito (his wrestling name for lucha libre events) barked a lot, too. But he barked only because he detected threats to his mistress: falling leaves, noisy cars, the smell of coffee, me reading on the deck, and silence. His mistress was apologetic and quieted him, and he stayed quiet for long periods of time. (Months in Chihuahua years.) He was a good neighbour-dog.

Plus he hated middle-schoolers, so there was that, too.

Beyond the four-legged animals, I have other good neighbours. If you were one of my real-life confidantes, you would be now interrupting with “Wanda stories!”

That is an adult equivalent to “Yay! Bedtime stories!”

Wanda is my octogenarian neighbour who lives with her son and daughter-in-law. She is originally from Tennessee, hence her adorable way of talking. She’d probably object to me calling her adorable.

I’ve written about how she tended my garden last summer when I was hurt.

I don’t usually blog about her on the general principle that she deserves her privacy and I can’t think of a pseudonym as cool as her own name. (Although I write in my journal about her funnier adventures and turns of phrase.) But so far no one in my community has read this blog, so I think it’s safe to mention her.

Wanda is a good neighbour.  If she made a ham salad (I don’t eat ham salad), she’d bring me some. A couple of years ago when winter came early, she gave me an afghan she’d made.

Her standard good-bye to me was, for many years, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. But if you do, name it after me.”

I stumped her once by saying, “A boy named Wanda?”

Then she said, “Sure. Like ‘A Boy Named Sue.'” Which is a Johnny Cash song, and since Johnny Cash was my favourite country singer, it gave me another reason to like Wanda.

Last fall I was taking a bag of stuff to the local Goodwill – just a bag, mind you. But Wanda was in her yard, and when she heard what I was doing, she asked me to take the two bags of clothes that she had in the garage. She couldn’t carry them herself because she had surgery and a big cast on her arm. So I accompanied her to the garage.

It was a trap, of course.

Wanda asked matter-of-factly, “Do you like sweet potatoes?”

Why yes, Wanda, I do.

“I got a bag for you. It was bought on accident cuz she [her daughter-in-law] thought they were reg’lar potatoes.”

Then there was a detour through her garden, a wonderland of flowers and vegetables. Her son built a koi pond with an artificial waterfall. We watched blue jays alight at the top of the cascade and bathe. We both like birds.

She looked a little like a bird herself, toddling between the plants and pointing out treasures. Did I mention that she’d had surgery?  She was ill for so long that she lost two dress sizes, but evidently she was still at fighting weight.

Her physical problems didn’t bother her nearly as much as bad company. She complained about “that gossipin’ bitch down the street” and “that bitch that wanders over here to be nosy.” (It looks awful in print, but in person it’s rather endearing.)

I finally asked, “Do you call me a bitch behind my back?”

She said, “Sure! I call you ‘that bitch schoolteacher’!” and punched me in the arm, which I took to mean she’s kidding.

Before I left, she’d given me some yellow tomatoes and seeds from a 3-foot flowering plant that I’d admired. If my arms weren’t full, I believe she would have made me dig up a couple of hostas for my back garden.

And those two bags of clothes? They were big bags used for heavy-duty use like collecting branches and road kill. Between them and extra blankets – “It’s gonna be a cold winter for folks” – Wanda filled my car’s trunk right up.