Good Fences

Our neighbors are having some work done on their yard. In New York, this means getting a jackhammer and prying up the old ’70s-era concrete and putting down Italian paving stones or whatever your favorite overpriced glossy home improvement magazine tells you that you should have in your multimillion-dollar yard. I couldn’t care less, except for the fact that they start at 8 a.m., and, as a freelancer, I consider it my constitutional right to sleep til 9:50 a.m. — i.e., “not quite 10.”

There are two interesting things about the work our neighbors are doing.

1. The workmen start work at 8, but stop at 11. I know this, because I usually take a hard-earned break at 11 to put on pants. They do not, as far as I can tell, start working again afterward. It’s all coffee break, all the time, from then on out. Which means that they have somehow managed to trim things down to a three-hour day, and are therefore geniuses who should be writing bestselling self-help books instead of prying up a yard.

2. Our neighbors have never, so far as I’ve seen, used their yard. We’re in an apartment on the fourth floor, but our landlords are nice, so they let us use the yard for things like smoking cigarettes (Adam), standing on the low walls that surround the flower beds just to see what it would be like to be tall (me), and spying on the neighbors (both of us). From this, we know that the only time they use their yard is when their teenage son goes out back to have a little screaming session, which he does at least twice a week. He only yells one word, and that is “MOOOOOM!” We assume that it’s because she’s tired of his limited conversation and locked him out there, and none of us blame her.

Once I asked Adam if he thought the teenage son had an intellectual or emotional disability, because then I planned to stop making fun of him, and possibly call the authorities to intervene before it got cold and all his yelling expended his body heat and left him frozen in place like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” but Adam said he’d spoken to him on the street and he was just surly.

“Which is certainly a disability,” he said. “But not the kind the authorities care about.”

I have developed a limp from all this anxiety, and might actually see if the authorities care about that. Just kidding, I know they don’t. Still, it might be an amusing conversation. We can’t all get by on standing in the yard and screaming among the jackhammers.

Published by Jen Hubley Luckwaldt

I'm a freelance writer and editor.

One thought on “Good Fences

  1. I’m working with intellectually disabled kids from NYC in foster care. You can’t necessarily tell from talking to them (some actually have good verbal/social skills), but if mom is locking him out of the house and he just stands there screaming, he’s probably better off than 99% of the teens out there. Most of them would be running off and smoking pot.

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