In which I’m talking neighbors

Neighbors make me nervous. We’ve had some lovely ones over the years and some not-so-lovely ones. Our current neighbors are delightful. We never hear from them, and even though I am highly suspicious about the new compost bed (come ON, that thing is 30×40 feet and bordered by 6-foot tall stockade fencing–it is not so much a compost heap as a BODY FARM), they are quiet and that is the most important quality in a neighbor.

Well, quiet and not creepy. The two can often go hand-in-hand, as I discovered in Texas. We lived across the street from a very sweet churchgoing couple. They were devoted to each other and their four children. They were quiet and thoughtful; the husband mowed the yards of elderly neighbors and the wife took them home-baked treats and pictures colored by the children. It seemed like they were too good to be true, and it turns out, they were.

After a few years of quiet domesticity, the wife disappeared, and the husband and children seemed unkempt and disheveled. It transpired that the wife had left the family for good to live with another man. Her pusher to be precise. Naturally, neighborhood sympathy fell heavily on the husband, but these things so often have two sides, don’t they?

On the day the wife had told her husband she would be coming around to collect some of her things, he got the children ready for school and put them on the bus. Then he sorted his wife’s clothes into garbage bags and stacked them neatly in front of the garage to await her. Above them, right on the garage door, he hung her wedding gown, a pristine white dress with an overlay of lace and an ENORMOUS SCARLET LETTER on the bodice. I’m not kidding. He had cut a letter “A” out of red felt and stitched it (alright, maybe he used Aleen’s craft glue) to the front of the dress.

It hung there all morning, swaying gently in the breeze. I know because I watched it. I kept thinking about him, sitting up at night, crafting his revenge–literally–and I was deeply horrified. (And wildly interested too, if I’m honest. It was the most riveting thing to happen in our neighborhood since an adulterous couple chose to park in the cul-de-sac around the corner for their noontime trysts. The mailman surprised them one day. Or they surprised him, I’ve forgotten now.)

Anyway, by the time the children came home, the gown was gone and the bags collected. I never saw who came and got them, or what the reaction was to the ruined dress. Only the wire hanger was left, twisted and limp as if someone had jerked the gown off of it in a hurry. The husband and children moved away shortly after and never heard of them again. Everyone blamed the wife for abandoning her family, but sometimes I wonder. A man who is capable of hanging out your wedding gown with a blood-red mark for the whole world to see might not have been the easiest sort to live with in the first place.

I’m just glad he didn’t keep a Body Farm…