I was sitting at my computer at the back of the house shortly after twelve noon, when I heard the thud of a vehicular door. Expecting a parcel and always curious, I trundled up the stairs to the front door, and, in checking the mailbox I noticed parked in front of out property a white fire truck and an ambulance behind it. Flashing lights. A uniformed fellow with a bright orange-red suitcase crossed the neighbour’s drive and disappeared behind the corner of the neighbour’s garage. I was mesmerised, and, decided to wait and see if he would be transferred by gurney to the ambulance.
These, my neighbours on the that side of our house, are not my favourite people. They have always been secretive, maintaining an embargo of indifference to the subdivision. Since two summers ago we do not acknowledge one another. I was building a fence. The good appearance of it focused on the inside, towards us. He had indicated that he would help pay for a portion of the expenses for the fence between our properties. I had not asked him. I could see his wife in the upstairs window surveying my work. At one point she sent him to tell me that the dirt was falling on her side. I looked up at her, then to him, and continued. She became more vocal, having opened the window. When she made a snide comment on my work, I retorted that if she was not pleased she could build the fence. The window slammed shut. I completed the fence, at which point he said his wife was not pleased with a portion of the fence which left some timbers exposed. I suggested if he bought the boards I would nail them up for him. He agreed. One day, a week or so later, he said he was ready to put the boards up. I saw no boards in his yard. But anyway, I said I would when he paid me for half the material for that section, and handed him an invoice. He snorted that he would not pay because he had not agreed on the style of fence I had raised. This after he had seen what I was building at the rear of our property. I quietly replied that I didn’t think he would pay, because I thought he was that type of fellow. He appeared to be visibly hurt. “Furthermore,” I added, “Should you tack one nail into this fence, I will take you to small claims court for half of the cost of the fence including my labor. You need to know that the fence is entirely on my property, and as such you have no right to it. If you don’t believe me you can have it surveyed.”
They were odd neighbours, anyway. Never got along with the neighbourhood. They had trapped another neighbour’s cat and put it in the city pound. And, i remembered years prior to that, the winter after they first bought the house, I had snowblowed their drive. She had told me that she didn’t want me to do that.
The ambulance’s many flashing lights continued their horror code. I waited, keeping it in view. They should be moving him on the gurney any minute now. I considered that if they did not remove him, that he had succumbed to the grim reaper, or, that she had called 9-1-1 in error.
He was a timely guy. Mowed his lawn, rain or shine, drought or flood, hot or cold, every Wednesday at three o’clock p.m. and Saturdays at four. This year, though, things were different. Even as spring enveloped the earth, his grass grew longer. Then I noticed Sunday mornings, there was someone mowing his lawn. It was the same fellow we used to use to aerate the lawn and blow the snow in the winter. He had moved to Calgary, but returned to service his clients. The first Sunday he came to the neighbour’s, he rang our doorbell asking if we wanted our grass mowed, as he was doing the next door. Then his mower, the one that coughed and sputtered its way through the Wednesdays and Saturdays, was neatly folded and placed in the back alley for the garbage man to pick up.
Two uniformed men came past the corner of the garage, one carrying the crimson red suitcase which he placed in the ambulance. They climbed into the fire truck, where two others had been sitting. After a momentary wait, the truck slipped away down the street. The warning lights continued their rhythmic dance around the crown of the ambulance.
I remembered the time I had seen them at the grocery store. As I was about to approach them to say hello I overheard her requesting the butcher to remove a small slice off the top of fillet of fish. He answered saying he would not be able to sell that tiny a slice to anyone else. She would have to take it or leave it. It stayed as packaged. I had seen the fillet. It was tiny to begin with. Barely enough to feed one person. I moved away without saying good day.
Two other uniformed men came. The driver reached through to open window of the ambulance and shut off the Christmas tree lights. The other threw a duffle bag into the rear and assumed the driver’s seat. With a clipboard in his hand the driver returned momentarily towards the house. The ambulance left.
As the days passed since this episode, the imagination conjured up all manner of possibilities. She was seen only once. Not that we kept track of their movements but over any number of days one or other would be seen either driving away or sauntering about the property. Nothing. Don’t know if a medical man came to provide a certificate to permit cremation or burial. Don’t know if his body was picked up, or, there was one to be picked up. We don’t know if he is still among us. We had not seen him at all for at least three weeks, and particularly since this event. We have seen her. But now, nothing.
Had she packed him the freezer?
No obituary was printed. Was he still hanging on? He must be pretty weak to not be able to push a lawn mower.
There was none of the goings on that occurs upon bereavement. No one came to visit, not even his daughter be a first marriage. No flowers were delivered to their house, that we saw. There was and is no activity there.
Weird or what?