I was relaxing in my special chair meditating before I was about to write an article. I do that most days. When my mind is allowed to relax in meditation, I find that – My doorbell rang. Crap! Who the hell is that?
“Hey, hey, Frank,” said my next door neighbor. “Don’t mean to disturb you.”
“No, no, it’s fine,” I said.
“You know your landscaper,” he said.
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “He finally got around to raking my leaves today.”
I have a corner property, thankfully no sidewalks. Our village has been designated Tree City USA; we have a lot of trees. I have giant ones on my property; so does my neighbor; although he did cut a couple of big, leafy ones down recently.
“He left some leaves on the edge of my property,” said my neighbor.
“Isn’t he your landscaper too?” I asked.
“I fired him. He didn’t do a good job so I got rid of him. I prefer to do my property myself. It’s done the way I like it when I do it. No leaves at all when I do it.”
“Did he blow them onto your property?” I asked.
“No, they are on the edge, just past your property line. Touching my property.”
“Ah.” (“Ah” is a great way to respond to something that you don’t know how to respond to.)
Now my neighbor is very particular about his house and his property. When I start writing at five in the morning I see him outside – in the dark – raking his leaves up. After he rakes, he vacuums his back yard and his front yard with his outdoor vacuum cleaner. In the fall, you would be hard-pressed to find a single leaf on his property. He rakes quite a few times a day.
Once at 3 AM, the cops stopped at his house to arrest someone that they thought was a burglar trying to gain entrance. Someone had reported some dark figure using a flashlight on the property. It was my neighbor with a miner’s cap on his head, the kind with a light on it, raking leaves. He explained to the cops that he was keeping his property clean.
The police left satisfied that he was not a burglar.
My neighbor also climbs a tall ladder to go up to his roof and clean the gutters; I’d say he does that at least twice a week. Once, when a nor’easter was heading towards us, I heard some kind of large animal on our roof. I went outside to see. I didn’t want any raccoon trying to gain entrance into my house. We sometimes have families of raccoons hanging around.
I had nothing to fear; it was my neighbor cleaning my gutters. “You want to make sure these are clean,” he said. “When that storm hits you don’t want your gutters overflowing.” He was right, of course; I didn’t want my gutters overflowing. Our gutters were slated to be cleaned the following week but they were now full of leaves.
“I called the police on that landscaper,” said my neighbor. “He’s doing this leaf thing to annoy me. I also called the village to complain about him. You have to have a license to do landscaping in this village and I want his license revoked. He did awful work for me. He shouldn’t be allowed to garden in our village.”
“Yes,” I said. “I’ll give him a call and tell him to come back and get the leaves on the edge of my property.”
“Do we really want to keep him if he’s causing so much trouble?” said my wife, the Beautiful AP, entering our foyer. “I wasn’t happy he waited so long to rake up.”
“We’ve had him for twenty-five years,” I said somewhat quietly.
“I fired him,” said my neighbor. “I didn’t think he did good work.”
“Maybe we should get a new landscaper,” said my wife.
“Ah,” I said.
“They are all way too expensive,” said my neighbor. “The company that does the house across the street charges way too much, almost as much as yours.”
“Well, ah, you know our property is basically one big Japanese garden. It takes a lot of work, uh, a lot, you know,” I said.
“We should look into getting another company,” said my wife.
“Well, first I’ll give him a phone call and get him over here to clean up what remains,” I said. “Show him,” I said to my wife meaning show my neighbor, “my big fish tanks while I call the landscaper.”
My wife took our neighbor into my office where my 210-gallon tank resides just behind my desk along with a 55-gallon and a 20-gallon. I’ve always loved fish. I also love looking out the windows of my office, which is three-quarters windows. I see the birds in front and to the sides of me; I see my fish behind me when I take little breaks from writing and I see the damn cats people let loose trying to get at the birds. Also squirrels and raccoons, and possums, and occasionally I spot a field mouse scampering by on my deck.
My landscaper’s phone message system was full. I told that to my wife and neighbor as they reentered the living room.
“You should think of doing it yourself,” said my neighbor. I guess he could see the look of horror on my face. “Okay, if he doesn’t come by tomorrow I’ll do it myself.”
“No, no, no,” I said. “I’ll get him to do it.”
This was a Saturday and his phone messaging system stayed full until Thursday. By then my neighbor had raked up all the leaves and put them in the road outside my house. In a neat, neat pile, not even a trail of tiny little leaves. Also he had put some in huge leaf bags, totally full, in the street outside of my house.
I had asked my wife why she was so fierce about firing our landscaper. “I don’t want to get into a conflict with our neighbor. We’ve all been good neighbors for 25 years. If it’s a choice between our landscaper or our neighbor I choose our neighbor.”
“Well,” I said. “He did do a good job on our gutters before that big storm.”
I left a message for our landscaper about the leaves and the fact that our neighbor had called the police and the village about him. I said he had to make sure when he does our property not to get a leaf on our neighbor’s property. I didn’t want a problem with my neighbor.
Several hours later the landscaper called.
“Hello,” I said.
“All he does is complain,” said the landscaper.
“Nothing was ever right with him when I was doing his property. He’d inspect everything as we did it. He was never happy. If a leaf blew down from a tree he’d start complaining. Leaves fall down from trees! Leaves fall down from trees all fall and even in winter! They fall! Jesus!”
“Ah,” I said.
“I’m coming there and going to his house to tell him what I think of him,” said my landscaper.
“You see, I still have this big pile of leaves in the street outside my house,” I said.
“You shouldn’t have raked them,” said the landscaper.
“I didn’t,” I said.
“He did! Jesus! He did! Oh, man, he did! He did! Jesus!”
“You know when we do your property I make sure that we do some of his property even in summer when we are cutting the grass and taking care of everything else. That’s so he doesn’t bother you,” he yelled.
“I am going to talk to that guy. Jesus!”
“Uh, can you come by and get those leaves?” I asked.
“Can you believe that guy raked up everything?”
“The leaves are on the side of the property,” I said.
“Come on, Jesus,” he said. “He raked!”
“There are two huge garbage bags there too.”
“He can’t just be an average guy? What the hell!”
“If you can come by and get them as soon as possible,” I said.
“I am talking to that guy. You can bet on it. Calling the cops and the village on me, Jesus.”
“As soon as you can,” I said.
“This is my job, you know. This is how I feed my children. I have four children! Four and my wife wants more. Can you believe her? More. I work like a dog and this guy wants to ruin my business? Jesus.”
“Okay,” I said. “Good talking to you.”
The next day I was meditating in my special chair and my cell phone rang. “Hello,” I said.
“Yes, it’s me,” said my landscaper.
My home phone rang.
“Just hold for a second,” I said to my landscaper. “My home phone is ringing.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Hello,” I said.
“It’s me,” said my neighbor.
“Listen,” said the landscaper in my left ear. “I’m coming by in five minutes to rake up.”
“Can I come over in a few minutes to talk to you?” asked my neighbor into my right ear.
My wife came in from the garage and stood in front of me. “So is everything straightened out?” she asked. “Why do you have a phone on one ear and a phone on the other ear?”
Because we live in Tree City USA!
Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores. Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com.