[This account is based on a true story, but the names of the people have been changed, to protect the not-so-innocent…yada, yada, yada…so truth be told, it’s fiction to entertain.]
Neighbours to Entertain
Gliding home in her Toyota, Mum waved at the children gathered in the street around the corner from her place. Karl, her younger teenage son scowled, ‘Why did you do that?’
‘Just being friendly, love.’
‘Stop being friendly. It’s embarrassing!’
‘Just changing the culture, you know, trying to make this community more friendly.’
‘We should just keep to ourselves,’ Karl muttered. He slouched in the passenger’s seat and pulled his hoody over his eyes.
‘Now, remember to let your brother, Phillip in, if he comes home before me,’ Mum said.
Karl mumbled a reply that Mum hoped resembled the affirmative in “Karl-ish”.
The mother dropped her sulking son home and tootled off to her hair appointment in a nearby shopping centre. The hairdresser was very chatty filling Mum in on all the latest gossip and then emptying her purse of cash. Mum didn’t trust credit cards; she always paid in cash. After shopping at the local supermarket, she loaded her environmentally-friendly cloth bags filled with groceries into the trunk of her car and sailed back home.
She pulled up the driveway, and observed Ned, who lived across the road, leaning against his fence and peering over at his neighbours. “Never trust a man in brown trousers,” her friend used to say when she spotted the man lurking in his garden. Ned was wearing the said trousers and a dirty white singlet, that day.
‘I wonder what he’s up to?’ Mum murmured as she dragged the groceries out of the trunk.
Shouting echoed across the road.
Mum placed her loads down, and then ducked behind the acacia bush. She watched through the lattice of leaves and listened. JP, the father of the young family next door to Ned, raged at a pot-bellied man.
Mum frowned. ‘Poor JP, still in his pyjamas. Hmm, he doesn’t look happy. Wonder what Potbelly did to wake him up?’
JP jabbed his finger at Potbelly. ‘Get out of my home!’ he yelled. ‘I’m a shift-worker! You’re disturbing my sleep!’
Potbelly edged backwards up the drive as JP drove him up there with his finger-jabbing.
JP’s daughter darted around Potbelly. She waved her arms around and pleaded, ‘Please! Listen Mister…’
‘Get inside!’ her father snapped. Then back to Potbelly. ‘What gives you the right to come knocking on my door—waking me up. Did I mention that? How dare you accuse…Rah! Rah! Rah!’
Three more children emerged from the shadows and joined the dance around Potbelly, squeaking their protests. The grown men, as if bulls, launched at each other, locked horns with words, and flailed arms on the edge of blows.
Mum darted to her carport door where she watched, willing their fists to cuff. She breathed out. ‘More exciting than television.’
One boy, maybe a friend of JP’s son, lifted a mobile phone to his ear. The men, angry eyes only for each other, ranted.
JP bellowed at his kids, pushing the children before him as he steered them into the house.
Mum sighed, and then crept around the back of her home, entering through the rear door. Pushing aside the living room curtain, she observed the continuing drama.
Mobile-boy’s mum rolled up in her little red Honda sedan. Voices now muted by the intervening glass, Potbelly, his face the colour of beetroot, railed at her. He pointed at the boy. Clutching his mobile, the boy ran the back of his hand over his eyes, and his shoulders shuddered. His mother raked her fingers through her dark curls. JP’s boy and girl stepped out of their home. They stood each side of “Mobile-boy”, placing their arms around him.
‘Mmm, this looks interesting,’ Mum said, and on the pretext of taking out the clothes-washing, slid out the back door. Instead of heading for the clothesline, she wandered down to the side gate and poked her head over it. ‘They can’t see me, but I can hear them,’ she whispered while catching glimpses of the action through the shifting apple tree branches in the breeze.
‘But we can’t find it!’ JP’s boy bawled.
‘We’re sorry, we didn’t mean it,’ JP’s daughter bowed before Potbelly whose elbows jutted out as he bore down on his victim.
Mum moved her head left and right. ‘Trust the bush to be in the way.’ She then scuttled around the backyard and out to the carport again. ‘Darn! What happened?’
Potbelly and Mobile-boy’s mum were shaking hands. Then he shook the hands of another parent, a man.
‘Must’ve turned up when I wasn’t looking’ Mum murmured before returning to the backyard. She disappeared into her home to continue on with her life and dinner.
Pot-belly’s voice boomed. Mum dashed back outside to her stake-out position behind carport door.
‘You see,’ Potbelly said to Ned who still leaned up against his neighbour’s fence, ‘I saw them by my car. Fiddling with the wheel. By the time I got there, to them, they had run off and my hubcap was gone. It’s a Porsche, ya know. I chased them and caught up with them here. I want my hubcap back!’
Mrs Mobile-boy-mum spoke but the wind caught her words and blew them away. She pointed at JP’s carport door. Then the children and Mrs Mobile-boy-mum rolled it up, revealing the way to JP’s backyard.
Ned eased himself off the fence and followed the procession into the backyard of interest.
‘I wonder if they found the hubcaps?’ Mum said.
Mum turned. Karl towered over her, his arms folded across his chest of black windcheater.
‘What’re you doing, Mum?’
‘Er, um…just looking for the…I thought I heard…there was a disturbance…just checking it out…’
Karl tossed his head and flicked the dark fringe from his face. ‘You’ve been spying again, haven’t you.’
Mum glanced across the road. Ned and Potbelly had resumed their station leaning against the fence and mumbling in low tones.
Karl’s brother, Phil, backpack loaded with university books, strolled up the driveway. He threw a look behind him. ‘What’s up with those two? What’s with the glares?’
‘Mum’s been spying again,’ Karl replied.
A few days later…
All was calm, all was quiet for Karl who slept contentedly while his mum, dad and brother ventured down to some local hills spring festival. Karl smiled, pleased that his demand for his family to stay in their own little box, out of neighbours’ way, had been obeyed…And that he didn’t have to take any more drastic action.
‘Thank goodness nothing came of Mum’s spying,’ he said, smacking his lips. He patted the shiny hubcap under his bed, sighed and then drifted into dreamy entertainment of his childhood lost.
He was glad he’d been friendly to the neighbourhood kids the other day.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature Photo: Sunset Gumtree © L.M. Kling 2017
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