BY LIZ McADAMS
Copyright is held by the author. This story originally appeared in Twisted Sister in August 2016
“EDNA SMITH, you nosey cow, don’t you have anything better to do?” Mr. Switzer stood on his front stoop, glaring, positively glaring at my house. I shrank back behind the white lace curtains in my front window so he couldn’t see me.
He stood looking at my house, and then suddenly launched into a fury, ripping up the white envelope in his hand, and tossed the scraps into his rhododendron bushes. He was, if truth to be told, a savage man.
Looks like I’d have to write a letter about this one too. Littering. Improper waste disposal. Blatant disregard for community standards — on his own property, no less.
Turning toward my typewriter, I slid another sheet of paper into the roller. A package of crisp white office paper sat waiting; for there were more letters to write. Many more.
I keep the folks around here on their toes, that’s for sure.
And I’m watching, always watching, because the rules are there for a reason, not meant to be broken. Like the time Mr. Fitzerland down at number 83 put out his trash a whole half hour too early — I wrote him a letter.
Just a short note, nothing too harsh mind you. Just to let him know he put out his trash too early, and next time would he be a little more considerate of his neighbours. We all have property standards to uphold.
We can’t let things slide, for if we let the little things go, goodness knows where we’d be. The riffraff would creep in and then it would be all over.
You might say I perform a community service. A civic duty. I mind the law and order, and people, whatever they might say, appreciate it. I’m always discrete.
I type out the letters on my old Underwood typewriter, and make sure I type out the address in full on the envelope and drop them in the post. Anonymously.
I just sign them, from your neighbour.
Nobody knows it’s me. Oh sure, I think by now they’d have their suspicions. Like the time Ol’Pete Tater down at 97 opened his mailbox one morning and shook his fist at my house and yelled, “Goddamn you Edna Smith.” I believe he gave me the finger too, but I didn’t have my binoculars on me then, so I wasn’t too sure.
I wrote a letter to the police about that incident, let me tell you. Suspected vulgarities. It’s practically assault. I believe the police still have the letter on file, for evidence, you see.
So when that nice new couple moved in right next door, I walked over to introduce myself, and brought them some homemade cookies.
Good-looking young couple, she had bobbed blond hair, and looked run off her feet hauling boxes around like she was a man. He was trying to move a refrigerator or something big like that, and just nodded at me and went back to work.
That’s how men are anyway.
I talked to her for a bit, and she kept looking into the moving truck like she was busy, so I only stayed a couple minutes. I pointed out the front garden needed replanting, and a good watering; the old owners never did take care of it properly, even though I’d write them regular reminder notes. Of course, I didn’t tell her that.
So about a week after they’d moved in and the garden was looking worse than ever, I wrote a little letter, just letting them know about the neighbourhood standards and expectations around here. Nobody wants to look at dead leaves in a garden.
I saw them on the day they got the letter, opening their mailbox and staring at it, trying to figure it out; turning it over back and front and looking at the post mark. No return address. I believe she stuffed it in her purse, and they went into the house together.
Wouldn’t you know it, with all the moving they did, I guess they had a lot of boxes to get rid of, so they set them out by the curb a whole day early. Garbage collection only comes on Tuesdays. So I wrote them a nice letter explaining that they had put out their garbage far too early, and sent a copy to the town office, just for safe keeping. Because you never know.
A few days passed by, and then it started to get loud over there. Sometimes I’d hear arguing, voices yelling late at night. Both hers and his. Fighting about something or other; you know how young couples are.
So I sent them a little note asking them to be more considerate of their neighbours, and keep the noise down.
A couple days later I watched as she opened the mailbox and stood on her front step, staring at the envelope. Her address neatly typed across. Tearing it open, she stared at it, and then turned around, looking up and down the street, as though trying to figure out which house it was coming from.
I sank back behind my curtains when she glanced at my house, and still hidden, I watched her walk into her own home.
Because, you never know.
After that the noises seemed to get louder, lots of yelling, mostly at night. A couple days of it. I thought about telephoning the police it was so bad, but I sent the young couple another note, asking if they could please keep it down, otherwise I’d have to make a noise complaint. I did send a copy to the police; I just used carbon paper when I was typing.
The next week at garbage pickup they had far too much trash, and their recycling wasn’t sorted properly, I could see it from here; they had a couple wine bottles and beer cans mixed in with the newspapers.
No wonder the garbage collectors left it.
I watched from my window as he hauled black trash bags back inside his garage, and then dragged them into his car the next day. Guess he was going to the dump.
That night the yelling was really something else, his low rumbling tones and her voice screeching above it all. She was screaming awfully loud, and then suddenly, it stopped. Probably realized what a terrible racket they were making and closed a window.
It’s not polite for a woman to yell so much.
I wrote a letter about that, and advised them to talk to our local pastor if they’re having so many marital problems.
The next day I saw him bumping out more black garbage bags from inside the house; like they were doing a big clean up or something, and he loaded them into the trunk of his car.
Good fellow, he learned his lesson, and was taking his trash straight to the dump. Street pickup’s only for small amounts of garbage anyway.
The following Monday I watched him leave for work, same as usual, only she wasn’t in the car. Only one vehicle between them, and I didn’t see anybody pick her up.
The same thing when he came home that night; he just sort of rushed into the house, grabbing the mail on his way by. Things continued in this way for a few days, eventually I figured she was off visiting or on a business trip. She’d be back soon.
Over the next couple days the heat set in, and I could see that front garden of theirs was just wilting. I thought about dragging a watering can over to their place, and soaking the whole thing, but of course, it’s none of my business.
As the plants turned yellow, I wrote a little note, reminding them about the value of curb appeal in our neighbourhood, and that nobody wants to see dead plants. It was time to pull them out.
On Saturday morning I watched him busy around the yard, cutting the lawn, and raking leaves. I didn’t see her, I guess she was still away.
Maybe visiting her mother, or an aunt, you know how some young women are. Can’t abide by other people’s rules, so they leave for a bit. Cooling down time, you see.
By late afternoon he was hauling a few more garbage bags into his car when a police cruiser pulled up. He shut the trunk real quick and wiped his hands on his pants, and then stood, talking to the officer for a while, nodding and smiling. Both of them had a good laugh. Then the officer got back inside his cruiser and pulled away.
I leaned right up against my curtains, let me tell you; wondering what that was all about. After the officer left I thought about walking over, just to check on things, and maybe ask how his wife was doing.
But he looked pretty busy, hard at work hauling garbage bags into the trunk of his car. Good thing he was taking them straight to the dump, they were far too big and heavy for regular trash pickup. Lumpy bulges, most of them, and dripping some kind of red liquid.
Probably smelly too.
And I’d hate to see those bags sitting on the edge of the curb; it’s so unsightly. We do have our standards around here after all, and I was glad to see that now they’re following the rules.
Sure looks like all those letters I wrote paid off.