“Charlie, he’s done it again.” Retha’s left pinky was pushing up a venetian blind slat and she was intently studying the neighbor’s yard through the spy hole. Sunlight reflected off her wedding ring onto the ceiling, causing a dancing splash of color.
“Um, hmm.” Charlie shuffled a pile of papers. “Didn’t you get a 1099 Miscellaneous Income statement from …?”
“We’re moving, Charlie. I’m serious…”
“I’ve got to have it, Retha. I can’t complete our…”
Retha wheeled, hands on her broad hips. “You’ve got to call the City. We aren’t taking this.”
“You call ‘em, pet. We have a refund coming. I’ve got to finish our taxes.”
“Are you listening to me? Come see what the clown has done.” Retha pirouetted and lifted a slat.
Whatever had gotten underneath Retha’s girdle, Charlie didn’t want to know. There was nothing he could do and whatever the City did, the battle would be ongoing. Just last week his afternoon nap had been shattered by the sounds of lawn mowers and weed eaters and shouting, as a city crew gave a haircut to the jungle next door. A uniformed policeman made sure their work wasn’t interrupted.
The neighbor about had an apoplectic fit. “I’m an American citizen” he shouted. “I have the right to go green. You’re ruining my xeriscape.” Before he went inside, banging the hinges loose on the door, he shouted, “You just think you’ve won.”
The house was the exception in a subdivision of well groomed flower beds, foliage and manicured lawns. His argument that native plants and drought resistant grasses and shrubs were saving the aquifer didn’t garner any support. One man’s xeriscape is another man’s weeds.
“Retha, I can’t find our contribution statement from the church. I’m sure we gave something last year, didn’t we?”
“Pocket change, Charlie. You only put in pocket change. You can’t claim that.” She dropped the slat. “This is horrible. Call the City and tell…”
“I’m not getting involved in whatever he’s doing.” He grabbed at a #2 pencil rolling off the table and missed. “I don’t even want to know.”
“Well, everyone that drives down Maplewood will see it from two blocks away.” Retha rubbed away a tear. “I want to move, Charlie. But he just made it impossible to sell our house.”
“Didn’t we give something to Goodwill, last year? I’m looking for deductions, Retha. Pay attention.”
“If we sell our house at a loss, will that be a deduction?”
“Not for last year. We’ve got equity; we’ll make money when we sell.”
“You think? You better look.” Retha crumpled on the bed, wiping tears from her eyes. “We’ve got to move, we’ve just got to.”
The phone was ringing but Retha didn’t budge.
“Aren’t you going to get that?” Charlie asked.
“No. It will just be someone wanting me to run our neighbor out of town. I’m not up to the conversation.” She pounded the bed with her fist, shouting “We’ve got to do something, Charlie.”
The pencil snapped in Charlie’s hand. Pushing up from the table he went to the window and flipped the blind open. “Oh, my gosh!”
“See, Charlie. I told you. What are we going to do?” Retha joined him, thrusting her chin over his shoulder.
Charlie was taking deep breaths, counting way past ten.
“Aren’t you going to answer me?”
“I’m guessing purple isn’t your favorite color” Charlie said. “Maybe it will become a tourist attraction and you can sell snow-cones from the sidewalk. There’s not another house in town sprayed that color.”
“Charlie…” Retha wailed.
“Look! He’s painting the window trim orange.”
Retha flopped backward onto the bed, slamming a pillow over her head, muffling her voice. “Isn’t there something in the City Code about unsightly properties?”
If Charlie heard her, he ignored her. “I know what we’ll do. We’ll fight fire with fire. Let’s paint our house black with yellow trim?”
Retha threw the pillow at him. “If you’re serious, I’m filing for a div…”
“Hang on, hon. I’m kidding. Let’s call Brother Soloman.”
“Pastors solve problems, don’t they? Maybe he can untangle this mess.”
“You’ve never even had a real conversation with him and you’re going to call him?”
“Why not? Let him earn his money.”
The pastor’s wife said Sollie would call back; he was indisposed momentarily, scrubbing his hands with turpentine.
“But,” she chuckled, “his garage is painted lime green with coral trim.”
Charlie hung up muttering “Birds of a feather…”
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Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (NKJ)
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