The Neighbors

The neighbors behind our house keep reaching new heights. They're sort of like hick-hippies, and each new addition of crap in their backyard makes me yearn for a Berlin Wall between our properties. All told, we have two hand-constructed corrugated tin-and-stick huts to look at (presumably where they do their scientific experiments on the aliens that fell into their yard), which are both falling apart (naturally), two enormous piles of refuse full of dead wood and brush probably collecting a nice community of rats, a newspaper box pilfered from god-knows-where, various and sundry pieces of scrap wood, broken bicycles, blue tarpaulins thrown here and there, and the recent addition of a landscaped, straw-lined path leading from one refuse pile to another. But they have decided that something was missing.

Yesterday afternoon we watched in horror as the proprietor set up a small tent in 30-degree weather outside his back door. A tent. In January. Who was going to stay in the tent? Their aunt Enid? "One of these days they're going to make a fire pit back there," my husband said. "And then we're screwed."

We were cooking dinner, and our kitchen looks right out over their yard. It was extremely unappetizing. But like a car accident, we couldn't pull our eyes away. The tent was wobbly, but definitely up. The neighbor shook one of the poles to test its integrity but didn't opt to improve upon it when it listed to one side.

Then he toddled off in the direction of a new pile in the yard. He grabbed some straw from the path and began fiddling with it. Smoke rose up in a small puff.

"I think you got your wish," I said. Indeed, the neighbor, ass-crack in the air, was huddled over a hastily dug hole lined very poorly with jagged stones. He was lighting his hole on fire. He had built a fire pit.

We couldn't believe it. There he was, three feet from his shoddily constructed tent, five feet from two different tinderboxes of old brush which could go up like sticks of dynamite, surrounded by trees of all types adjoining other peoples' property, casually lighting a fire in a dug-out on a windy afternoon in early January.

What are they doing in their fire pit? Roasting Tofurkey? Sacrificing hemp and flaxseed clothing to the ghost of Jerry? Regardless, we didn't know what to do. We called Public Safety, but it seemed too meddlesome, too uncharitable, so we didn't make a report. On the other hand, they are actually a threat to public safety, sitting in the middle of so much kindling that their house could go up. Worse, they could take others' houses with them.

The light faded. An orange glow surrounded our neighbor who kept feeding his paltry fire with more straw from his path. We watched attentively as we made tacos. We wondered what was going to happen.

Night fell at last. An hour after he had started, our neighbor being blessedly free of any real Boy Scout skills, never got his fire going and went inside. But the fire pit remains.

Tune in to discover whether or not the fire marshall is going to become a part of our story.