The South |


by Glen Pourciau


New neighbors have moved in next door, and we're hoping for an improvement. Our former neighbor lived alone after his wife left him and took their two daughters with her. It was noisy with their girls splashing and shrieking in the pool, but it remained noisy after they'd gone. He worked at home and liked to take his calls in the backyard. He'd pace around the pool holding forth in a booming voice, everyone in the neighborhood able to hear his business, and in the evenings he'd sit poolside smoking cigars and braying like a goat. It took my wife weeks to convince me the sound came from him.

     We see several different vehicles park at the curb and in their garage at the rear of the house. We try to decide which belong to them and which to friends or family, and soon we identify the husband's black pickup truck with oversized tires and his wife's car. The owner seems to always park his truck at the curb, we assume because it's too long and too wide to fit alongside his wife's car in the garage. The problem is that he keeps parking his truck in front of our house, its black shape looming like a shadow, though most of the time nothing is parked in front of his house, as we can see by looking to our left through our windows.

     Out for the newspaper this morning, I walk all the way around the truck, noting that it's actually taller than I am, wondering if the elevated view gives him a sense of power. Does the truck express a desire to intimidate others due to subconscious feelings of inferiority? I have no way of knowing if the theory applies to him. I've only seen him a couple of times, medium height or less, trimmed beard, short hair, a glare that seems focused on nothing, mural tattoos all around his forearms. We discussed writing a note to him and putting it under his windshield wiper or in his mailbox or under his front mat, if he has one yet. But a large part of the context for our talk was that this is not the first time we've had this problem. At our previous house our next-door neighbors' son parked his car at our curb to catch some shade from the red oak tree in our yard. My wife wrote a note asking him to park somewhere else and put it on his windshield. That night he came outside hours past midnight and rang our doorbell repeatedly, and he continued to park his car in the same place until he left for college. The futility of the previous note led us to rule out the idea of writing one to our new neighbor, and we decided not to ask him in person to move his truck, not knowing how he might react. He apparently doesn't care what we think about where he parks, but I'm not going to roll over and leave it at that. I tell my wife my plan and she agrees, and we bemoan our new neighbors together as we eat dinner and later as we watch television.

     After nightfall I back my car out of the garage, drive through the alley, and park in front of our neighbors' house. A minute or two later my wife drives her car around and parks it a few feet behind mine. I sit in my car and wait for her, not wanting to leave her alone in case he emerges with the intent of stirring up conflict. We lock our cars and go back inside, not even glancing, as we agreed, at their house. Inside, we stand at the window in our living room and stare at our cars, telling each other that if he has a right to park in front of our house then we have a right to park in front of his, and he can have no reasonable basis for objecting to where our cars are parked.  Still, we wonder what could happen next.

     The following morning, my wife is up first. She wakes me and tells me to come into the bathroom. I put on my glasses and slippers and walk to the window with her.  We look out, her fingers on the wooden slats of the shutter.  The pickup has been backed up and left inches from the front of my car, while the pickup owner's wife's car has been parked inches behind my wife's car. I can still get my wife's car out and I tell her where I'm going to move it. I dress quickly and go out the front door, hair and teeth not brushed. I maneuver my wife's car from its place and then park it in front of the pickup, leaving only a few inches between them.  I scoop up the newspaper and hurry back inside.

     We tend to our business, eat breakfast, read the paper, put the dishes in the dishwasher, talking intermittently about the parking situation. We've got him trapped, but there are disadvantages. He won't stay trapped unless we don't move our cars, which in effect traps us along with him. My wife says she's afraid to look so I head to the living-room window and gaze out. The pickup owner's wife has now parked her car two or three inches in front of my wife's car. So my wife's car is trapped and the line of parked cars is creeping toward us. I can move my car, but that would free the pickup, and unless I park in front of his wife's car he'd be able to park there, which would mean both of their vehicles would be parked in front of our house.

     We discuss options, and based on the thought that we may have achieved some communication I walk out to my car and drive it back into the garage. Our aim is to free the black pickup, leaving both of their vehicles free to move, an expression of parking good will that we hope will be reciprocated.

     Hours pass with no change in the parking pattern. Wearied by the conflict, my wife says she wants to sit on the back porch and read, but she tells me to keep her up to date on developments. I putter at my desk to distract my mind, but after an hour I want another look. At the window I see that the pickup is now parked in front of the pickup owner's wife's car, a few feet between them. Are they taking pleasure in provoking us?

     I walk straight to the garage, back my car out, drive it around to the front and park it inches in front of the black pickup. I then drive my wife's car back to the garage, extending a second hand of good will toward them, let them not ever say we did not at least attempt to make things better. Only a pair of half-wits could misinterpret this parking language.

     I lower the garage door and go to the living-room window and wait, nothing in hand to divert my attention. Time passes without movement, and I grow more and more angry at the implied defiance of the two invading vehicles, especially the massive black pickup. If these two slugs of aggression are not moved by morning, something is going to happen to them.

     I take a pill to help me sleep, and as I wake up I remember that during the night I dreamed the pickup owner drove his truck up the front walk and crashed it through our front door, high beams glaring. I get to my feet, my wife still sleeping, and make my way to the bathroom window and peek through the shutter.  The pickup is parked at the curb of its owner's house and only my car is parked in front of ours. I turn from the window, muttering a victory chant, and as I brush my teeth through a satisfied chuckle I hear the truck's engine turn over. I put down my toothbrush, return to the window, and see our neighbor drive past, kissing the tip of his middle finger before pointing it at our house.