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The Neighbor

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Many of life's lessons were to be learned by Mr. Walter Higgins. He was a pathetic man of fifty-seven, made crude by the failing grades thrust against him by life's entanglements.

His home stood like many of the others around it-a porch equipped with two rocking chairs, a weathered American flag dangling from a pole that clanged when the wind was ferocious like it most often was in the northern sectors of the United States. Lastly, the thing that made his residence much like everyone else's was the apple tree in the far back corner of his lot. Everyone else was given the exact same tree in the same exact position on their lot. The far corner of Walter's lot, however, backed up to Mr. and Mrs. Wasson's half-acre of land that housed a double-level home that cast thick shadows on Walter's home in the afternoon. It was because of this that few plants would grow and prosper in this section of his biologically bare yard.

Mr. and Mrs. Wasson's house was not only considerably larger than Walter's, but it was decorated more lavishly-of course, under the constraints of the average, middle-class American. This double-decker house was home to Lassie, the family's Dach Hund that was older than the house itself and was sure to be found dead on its bed any time of the day because of its age.

Zeke, Mr. and Mrs. Wasson's thirteen-year-old was the typical boy Walter neither cared for considerably nor disliked. He was a boy who spent his weekends tackling his fellow youths in the high grass of the sloppily manicured front lawn. Zeke was also a boy that understood only the restraints of his age, and was blind to the fact that the truth to life is that there are no restraints-only excuses.

Johnathan was the oldest of the two children, coming in at sixteen on life's scale of knowledge. As far as Walter was concerned, Johnathan was born into an environment that only allowed him to be shaped into the man he would certainly become by a long series of disappointments, confusion, and unfortunate cruelty by those around him in the social regards of the school yard. Johnathan-refusing to be called simply by John-spend most evenings hiding away under the cool light of his bedroom-through the windows above on the trop floor of the Wasson's home, Walter could roughly make out the shadows of the sixteen-year-old trapped in a forty-year-old's body typing away on an old Royal typewriter his grandparents had purchased for him at an auction. Walter guessed Johnathan's writings were of hopeful origins of the boy's future, but ones that always reflected the darkness of the past and present.

Mr. Wasson was home always at promptly four o'clock in the evening. His long commute to his work left him emotionally and physically disabled by the time Walter was ready to stop by, the reason why him and Walter never chatted considerably.

Mrs. Wasson was the main reason Walter stopped in for his daily-almost routine visits. It wasn't that she was wanted sexually by him at all, however, offensively Walter found her rather unattractive in her bulky hips when the truth was the rather opposite. Mrs. Wasson was heavy, nevertheless, of beautiful weight, adding to her figure like an enchanting fulfilled dress. Outside she had a pleasant smile, lips and cheeks that were usually a deep red and her eyes placed considerably in a way that the blue sparkled in every light. Her hair was bobbed and blonde with graying roots-something she hated when she looked into the mirror like her front dead tooth. Even though she hated these things no one ever noticed, for, they were too caught in the entrancement of her wonderful personality that invited souls into her heart wherever she took stride. However, Mrs. Wasson was a woman that respected the natural progression of human life, and therefore accepted the graying hair.

Human life-something Walter thought he knew all-too-well. He had recently separated from his third wife-one he had loved differently than the previous affairs. Upon finding this third relation, he had wondered, and then knew after several weeks that he had met an angel. Finally, at a News Years Eve party three years prior to their engagement they kissed under a starry-eyed sky as fireworks boomed at a street corner three paces from the end of Walter's driveway. Walter had taken her to Europe that following autumn-Ireland to be exact-an event that was just enough to have them desperately wanting their marriage hurried. Upon returning from overseas they married in a small white church in New York City with minimal witnesses, the priest being one of three.

A week after being wed, Walter had moved into the Angel's home-which was located just ten miles outside the nation's capital. The house was an old-fashioned Cape Cod that fancied itself on a steep hill overlooking a lush forest. The forest was home to frogs that ribbitted every summer night upon the sun's setting. These sounds helped soothe Walter and his love in slumber beside him to sleep.

That was undone a year and a half later when a family tragedy pulled them far enough apart. The Angel's favorite sister had said goodbye to the world, only allowing for the Angel and her aunt to be left.

The Angel grew bitter and unsettled to the point of verbal assault which thrust Walter back to where he had started four and a half years prior to his home that had been on the market as a rental. Good thing he never let it go to a permanent buyer.

Johnathan had helped Walter one afternoon take all his things (or most of them, anyway) back to his single-level rancher where the items seemed to ache and cry like their owner on the evenings that were accompanied by the hard liquor and whiskey. Jerimiah Weed was found in more than three cabinets throughout the house.

Walter was left to father the pieces of his life and set them back in their previous places-on the shelf, by the stove, in the medicine cabinet, and on the fireplace mantle.

The pieces may be in place-but the cracks in the puzzle were always clearly visible. Always and forever.

Nonetheless, Walter's problems would always themselves rattling on the Wasson's front door, looking desperately for the sympathy Walter seriously thought he deserved despite his own accusations or admiration on such sympathy-

"You find sympathy next to s*** and piss in every dictionary," Walter would return to anyone with a pity story.

Walter found himself, reminiscent of most afternoons, trekking through the swords of grass that pecked at his bare ankles towards the Wasson's door that sat under the shelter of a porch much like Walter's own. But theirs was considerably smaller-big enough only for several pots of plants and bushes towering over a single WELCOME mat that was in the shape of a pineapple.

Walter rattled on their door, just a few minutes after Mrs. Wasson had come home from her work at the clergy's office in town. Mr. Wasson would not be home for another hour.

There was a clanging of pots and pans within the home just before the red front door opened to the sight of Mrs. Wasson smiling.

"Hi, Walter!" she exclaimed, pulling off a convincing smile. She had wanted nothing more but to get home, run to the bathroom, and change out of her fancy clothes before dealing with Walter's poor-me marital talks.

"You just got home?" Walter didn't have to ask. He just needed to make her aware that it hadn't seem as if he had been watching, through his kitchen window that faced the side facade of the Wasson's residence as he waited for her to return home.

"I did," she returned as he entered, staggering over into the family room with a hop. He sat in a plush leather chair in a corner where three windows came together, looking out into the backyard where a tall craten myrtle tree reached past the second story, past the windows, in which Walter sat before.

Mrs. Wasson sat on the couch on the opposite side of the room. She placed a cup of coffee she had been sipping on the coffee table in the middle of the carefully-decorated room.

The television sat dead before them, its black screen reflecting their presence in the golden afternoon light.

"So?" Mrs. Wasson began, the air was breaking.

"Yeah?"

"I was just wondering what you were up to. Weren't working, I guess," Mrs. Wasson laughed, joking, obviously.

"Work? No, I don't do that," Walter retorted with a cackle that exposed his teeth that were beginning to grow moss-like substances on the sides of each white speck of exposed bone.

"What else? Anything else?" asked Mrs. Wasson.

"Francis called me today," he said nodding, and smiling-his smile seemed to appear a joyous one, however, Mrs. Wasson knew better than to take it as anything but hidden pain.

"She didn't!"

"Oh--she--now, what did I say?" he laughed.

Mrs. Wasson returned the giggle.

"Gosh," Walter continued. "No, she asked me about a towel she had found in her bathroom closet. Thought it was mine."

"A towel?" Mrs. Wasson asked, her brows raised. She wanted to laugh. "Well what the hell? Sounds like she is trying up excuses to talk to you, Walter!"

"Yeah? Nah. I can't go back to that borderline," he said shaking his head. His gazed shifted out one of the three windows behind him as if to hide tears or obvious pain. "But I went down there to get the towel," he said, his gaze returning back to Mrs. Wasson.

"Yeah?"

"Yep. She was eating cereal. I got my towel, she didn't even want to walk me out!" be beckoned.

Mrs. Wasson could only shake her head. She really didn't care.

"Her daughter was there so I guess that is why she didn't want to show my any affection," he continued, eyes wide, tongue dangling out of his mouth with excitement as he said- "I went back and took that bowl of cereal and dumped it right over her head!"

"You didn't!" Mrs. Wasson laughed, inside really maddened that a man would do such a thing to a woman who had made a mistake in dealing with her grief like we all did now and again.

We all make mistakes.

Mrs. Wasson reminded herself to bring up the matter with her husband at the dinner table.

"I said 'thanks' and I walked right on outta that place," he returned. "She only shouted--'You put cereal over my head, you put cereal over my head!'"

Mrs. Wasson only laughed over hidden disdain. He must be an a**hole to live with, she thought.

That's just how their talks went. Those were the talks that helped to heal the wounds Walter picked at--the pain and anguish that his life had given him with raw cruelty.

Ultimately, when Walter was all alone, heavily dazed in a pool of his foreboding liquor and waist-deep in empty wine bottles-those were the talks that saved his life.




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