He stood over us. Leaning his angry body on his deck railing. Grimacing. Mim and I were in the valley of our Kudzu mountain. It is part drainage ditch part natural area with inviting creek. Angry Neighbor lives one street above us condo people in the flood plain. Between us and Angry Neighbor of Parkwood Drive is an eroding cliff simultaneously besmirched and contained by kudzu. He has claimed his domain multiple times in alcohol drenched rants when neighborhood children (mostly Rodis) jump crevasses, scale the crushed cinder block range or reach the summit of a corrugated metal pipe with a people sized diameter.
Angry Neighbor is rarely home so we become complacent. I think it is referred to as the most difficult kind of reinforcement. It is extremely negative attention meted out in an intermittent pattern. You would hate him. And then just enough time might pass that you would forget him. He once yelled at Mim when she was just gaining independence and exploring within my view instead of within my touch. She was flittering in the long stringy grass of late spring and he yelled about trespassing and property. Another time, he swatted at my dogs with a broom. His aggression was countered by his drunken aim. No one hits my dogs.
The area between our condos and his duplex is a no man’s land for the city. He has no claim to Kudzu Mountain. The height with which he resides would cause anyone to assume reign. He towers over our adventure land and humble lowland homes. But he doesn’t even have authority to command the weeds to grow.
Mim and I were on the condo side of the creek. She was in her swing that hangs from a tree branch that is just out of reach of falling and landing into the creek. The tree is what I have learned an indefensible tree. A trash tree. It has no good features. Like a hackberry. It seems to attract disease, tiny bugs and lightning strikes. It is the opposite of the oak or maple. Barely worthy of a name. The swing hangs from this particular tree because it bothers no neighbors, is out of sight and the bank of the creek was already eroded so the children swinging cannot cause more harm. The first branch had to be cut down after a year or so of swinging. The branch was dying and the rope was moved one limb higher.
Frida and Linus needed a walk. During this cold damp Christamstime, we all needed to be outside.
A month ago, we would have gone through the chain link gate to the creek and unleashed the dogs to run in the kudzu. To catch the scent of mice and dead opossums or unearth hiding frogs. Frida is a bull dog and she tears through the underbrush and tromps through the creek like a hippo. Linus streaks past again and again running circles around us and Frida. But lately when we free Frida, she does not return. It took me close to two hours to catch her. Instead of unleashing them, we attached the end of their leashes to the rope of the swing. They had a bit of freedom and quickly figured out their boundary. The birds who flock to one of the condos’ bird feeder were taunting Linus and Frida. Just a few trees away Orioles flitted and swished. Linus barked like only a dachshund can bark. Constant and assaulting. Frida joined her. Her bark is unreal. Imagine a bulldogs bark. Nope. That isn’t it. She sounds like a stuck pig. Hoarse, high pitched, and shocking. Our dogs are pulling the ropes of the swing. Mim jumps onto the swing squealing with them. I let the conniption fit continue. Mim rarely puts herself in unpredictable situations. She almost never allows her body to be moved by anyone besides herself. I’m proud of my sensory sensitive girl going toward the crazy instead of backing away. With Mim on the swing, the dogs are running every which way- barking at birds, squirrels, and ropes that give and then pull. Gravity and dogs are controlling Mim and she is laughing through shrieks of joy.
Angry Neighbor appears. I don’t see him walk out of his poorly made french doors. He skulks to lord over us without a morsel of authority other than that given by the HWCU that bestowed ire and chauvinism. Mim spots him first and she drags her galoshes to stop the chaos. She automatically yells “Sorry.” I stop her. Honey, you don’t need to apologize. You aren’t doing anything wrong. The dogs don’t stop. He glares down from his post. Evil gleams in his eyes that I can’t quite see clearly with my age reduced eye sight. He has disturbed our fun. Party pooper would be too kind of a term. He wishes us ill with his scowl. I do not quiet the dogs. Mim is dragging her feet, head bowed. I offer to push her. She answers with her all encompassing “I’m good.” The moment has passed. The dogs quiet. I have never before been disappointed that my dogs stop barking. I don’t say anything to Little Lord Parkwood as he continues to bore through our life. I untie the knots of leash and rope. We pet our mutts- thanking them for their company, and go inside where it is warm and Christmassy. His meanness can’t reach us. Home.