May 22, 2011

Feudalee and Bertram

An original work written for and published on May 21, 2011.

I feel so sorry for our adult son, because growing up around us and living in our house must have been pure hell. Both my husband and I are completely out of our minds. Mostly we like to make stuff up, and then we say it so often that it becomes part of who we are; soon we aren’t even sure if it’s a lie.

Take this morning. A perfectly nice Saturday morning (well, except for it being the last day on earth and all)….we were sleeping in, that nice kind of sleeping in with nothing on the other side of it, when the cat is sleeping in between us, and it’s just cool enough to scrunch the covers right up to your neck.

From next door, the place my husband called “The Old Thomson Place,” there arose such a clatter, that naturally, I leapt to the window to see what was the matter. Though the orange and blue wooden real estate sign was still in place, someone was moving in. And how disrespectful at this hour. Why, it was only ten thirty a.m.! Who moves into a house at such an early hour on a Saturday morning?

There was a huge U-Haul parked in the driveway next to one of those shipping containers Ed Schulz points at in his Lean Forward commercial. A number of people were walking in and out of the house. Damn, I thought; now where will we park when we get our driveway resurfaced next week? You can see that my heart was already filled with love towards our new neighbors.

Immediately Herman and I began talking about the Rules for New Neighbors, and how we’d convey them. Perhaps a cake with a note cooked inside, wrapped in foil? Maybe I’d wear a tin-foil hat when I delivered the cake.

Therefore, let it be so:

1. New neighbors must have no dogs. Or if they have a dog, it must be mute, and able to use a cat box.
2. They must have no children, or if they have children, they must be perennially eleven years old and fluent in Suzuki violin, preferably Brahms.
3. They must provide lawn care on our schedule which is sporadically. They must never mow more often than every ten days, lest our lawn look all the worse by comparison; they must mow only between 4 and 5 p.m. on Mondays when we are not home. (Our previous neighbor had a very large tractor with headlights and mowed night or day, summer, winter or fall. Oh, yeah, and spring.)

After we laid out the rules, Herman suggested that I take over a “hot, home-cooked meal” and then we laughed uproariously. In their dreams.

We decided to go out for breakfast. It was still early, only eleven by now. I was a little crabby. Probably watching Cheers reruns on the Hallmark channel until 2 a.m. wasn’t a good idea and made me a little hostile. As we got in the car I was yelling at Herman over some sin real or imagined and he started talking to me in a southern accent, imitating his version of our new neighbors.

“Why, looka there. She’s yailin at him,” he said, in a crappy hick accent. I don’t know why he decided our new neighbors talked like molasses dribbled from their mouths, and they just stepped out of Gone With the Wind, but now I can’t think of them any other way. Of course, I couldn’t resist. They needed names. If we were going to befriend their southern-fried asses with a hot, home-cooked meal and our foiled-wrapped note of rules, they needed names.

Feudalee, I said, for the wife. She was named after her great grandfather, Confederate General Feudal Lee Brown.

Bertram for the husband, Herman said.

We laughed about that as he backed the car out of the garage. Recovering from our laughter, we realized one horrible truth. We had new neighbors, and they might expect us to actually speak to them. Oh, God, no.

They couldn’t possibly live up to our expectations.